Vehicles & Small Engines
Because higher ethanol fuel blends (like E15 and E85) have less energy content than regular gasoline, they deliver lower fuel economy and cost consumers more money at the pump. They are also corrosive when used in most automobiles, meaning they can harm engines and compromise vehicle performance. Even so, our government is mandating increased ethanol in our fuels, putting biofuels mandates ahead of the safety and convenience of American consumers and manufacturers.
Decreased Fuel Economy
Ethanol contains 33 percent less energy per gallon than gasoline, and vehicles fueled with ethanol cover fewer miles per gallon than those running on conventional gasoline. The higher the ethanol blend, the lower the fuel economy, meaning consumers must fill up at the pump more frequently.
Damage to Vehicles and Performance
Beyond the damage to your wallet, ethanol can also damage vehicles and affect performance—corroding metals, causing rubber to swell and causing engines to break down more quickly. Some ethanol blends should not be used on certain engines and motors at all. EPA’s E15 waiver covers only 2001 and newer motor vehicles. E15 is not appropriate for heavy-duty vehicles or vehicles built before 2000, nor is it fit for boats and small motors, including those in lawnmowers and chainsaws.
Higher ethanol blends may also damage newer automobiles. A study from the Coordinating Research Council, commissioned by U.S. automakers and oil companies, found that 25 percent of cars approved by the EPA to run on E15 experienced engine damage—and even failure. The study estimates that at least 5 million cars currently on the road have similar characteristics to the cars that failed as part of the study.
Automakers, aware of the damage ethanol can cause, are now advising new owners not to fill up on E15. For newer vehicles still under warranty, use of E15 may constitute a violation of warranty terms, leaving customers on the hook for costly repair bills. Toyota and Lexus have even placed warning labels on gas caps, along with instructions in the owner’s manual not to use E15.
Intermediate blends may also cause some non-road engines and motors to run at higher temperatures and experience unintentional clutch engagement, according to a Government Accountability Office report.