Three Ways to get on a Biker’s Bad Side: The Rally Against E15

July 1, 2013

On June 19th, bikers, classic car owners and other citizens from across the country gathered at the U.S. Capitol to raise awareness of the risks of E15 — a fuel blend containing 15 percent ethanol, and 85 percent regular gasoline — and call for independent testing of the fuel.

Why? It’s simple. Bikers and other gearheads love their rides, and the reckless rollout of E15 fuel put their engines at risk. Here’s what they had to say:

See? There’s no quicker way to get on a biker’s bad side than to mess with their hog. Here’s how the ethanol lobby and the EPA are doing just that:

1. Put a fuel on the road that has never been tested on bikes.

There are currently no independent studies that show E15 is safe in motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle engines. As a result, none of the approximately 22 million motorcycles and ATVs in the United States are actually approved by the EPA for E15 use. Independent testing is needed to demonstrate that E15 is in fact safe for motorcycle engines. Until then, the possibility of engine damage must be taken seriously.

Due to a higher volume of ethanol, E15 has the potential to burn hotter than regular or E10 gasoline, causing possible damage to air-cooled motors and high-performance water-cooled motors used in motorcycles and ATVs. In addition, ethanol in fuel is extremely corrosive. Ethanol absorbs water, which can lead to metal corrosion, as well as dissolving plastics and rubber. As many motorcycles are not specifically designed to be compatible with ethanol, E15 use comes at the risk of engine damage.

2. Force bikers to purchase more fuel than their tanks can carry.

Under a new rule, the EPA requires all drivers to buy a minimum of four gallons of gas from any pump that sells both E15 and other fuel, despite the fact that many bikes cannot carry four gallons. This means that many bikers would have to pay for more fuel than they can use.

This rule exists because many stations carrying E15 dispense it from the same pump as lower ethanol blends like E10. Anyone who fills up with E10 after an E15 buyer could get as much as a quart of residual E15, potentially hurting their engines and voiding warranties.

3. Make filling up their vehicle’s tank as confusing as possible.

Damage to motorcycle engines caused by E15 can be inadvertent. One cause is the use of ethanol blender pumps, which the USDA has proposed installing to meet renewable fuel goals. These fuel blender pumps make it easy for a rider to select E15 on a fuel blender pump while thinking it is E10 or ethanol-free fuel. 

In addition, the average gasoline customer is not well-informed about E15 — 95 percent of consumers have not even heard of E15, according to a recent survey. Combined with the confusion caused by fuel blender pumps, these consumers may damage their cars — and void their vehicle warranties — without even knowing it.  

Take action: Get more information about E15

Are you concerned about the damage E15 might cause your motorcycle, ATV or car? Do you worry that you may inadvertently purchase E15 at the gas station without knowing it? E15 is a product of the increase in ethanol production mandated by Congress through the Renewable Fuel Standard. To learn more, visit our “Take Action” page and join the conversation.

More photos from the rally are available here.