Is your daily driver a race car?

February 21, 2014

During this weekend’s Daytona 500, you may see and hear a lot about how NASCAR runs on E15, a blend of gasoline with 15 percent ethanol — 50 percent more than in traditional gas. Big ethanol will try to use this as an opportunity to tout the benefits of E15 and lobby for its expanded use as an answer to the blend wall.

Unfortunately, your car’s engine likely doesn’t have a lot in common with NASCAR engines, which is where the problems arise. NASCAR teams specifically build engines to run on higher ethanol blends. Beyond that, the engines are rebuilt after every race. Unless you’re rebuilding your engine every day, you should probably take stock of the differences.

According to AAA, 95 percent of automobiles on the road today aren’t designed to run on gasoline that contains more than 10 percent ethanol.

The chart above shows where your car might shake out. If you drive a flex-fuel vehicle(FFV) or a Porsche, go ahead and fill ‘er up with E15, but beware of the lower fuel economy that comes with it.

If you don’t drive a FFV and you fill up using E15, you risk damaging your engine, which may or may not be covered by your warranty.

Luckily, E15 blends are currently only being sold at about 60 gas stations in 12 states, but the EPA has approved its sale across the country.

The simple fact is that outside of a minority of cars on the road today — supercharged NASCAR stock cars — E15 is a blend that isn’t the right fit for Americans. The EPA is currently considering making changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard, which is the right first step in creating a smarter fuel future for America. Tell Congress to take action on the RFS today.