Monday, February 14, 2011

E15 Approved for Use in 2001 and Newer Vehicles

U.S. Department of Energy Technology Bulletin

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) requires refineries and fuel blenders to sell specific volumes of biofuels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) each year. In anticipation of increased ethanol consumption, DOE started an engine test program in 2007 to determine the impacts of mid-level ethanol blends. In March 2009, EPA received a formal Air Act waiver request from the ethanol industry to raise the allowable ethanol content in regular gasoline from E10 to E15. (Note that EPA is only allowed to consider the impact on vehicle emissions and emission control systems.) EPA approved the E15 waiver request for model year (MY) 2001 and newer vehicles (see the EPA website). E10 remains the limit for vehicles older than model year (MY) 2001.

How many vehicles are 2001 and newer?
There are approximately 131 million light-duty vehicles and trucks dated MY 2001 and newer registered in the United States that would be covered by this waiver (60% of U.S. vehicle population). These are the only vehicles approved to use E15. There are more than 100 million vehicles in the United States that are estimated to be older than MY 2001. These vehicles would not be covered by the waiver.

When will E15 be available for sale?
Many federal and state laws and regulations must be updated to before E15 can be sold. The federal government needs to amend the Clean Air Act, revise the reformulated gasoline program, register E15 and meet health effects testing requirements, provide labels, and several other related steps.

There are 90 state laws and regulations currently limiting sales of E15 in 36 states. Some state restrictions that are in conflict include 10% ethanol blend cap, state biofuels mandates, technical fuel specification standards, and waivers. The map in this document highlights states with E15 restrictions.

It will take time to update laws and regulations to allow E15 sales. An exact timeframe is not known.

Can any vehicle use E15?
No. E15 is only approved for MY 2001 and newer light-duty vehicles. EPA is not considering E15 use in vehicles older than MY 2001.

What about motorcycles, small engines, and boats?
E15 is not approved for use in motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles, off-road vehicles (boats, snowmobiles, etc.), and off-road equipment (lawnmowers, chainsaws, etc.).

How will a consumer know if they are buying E15?
Labels will be affixed to any dispenser dispensing E15. The label will state what model years are allowed to use E15.

Where will older vehicles buy fuel?
Stations will continue to offer E10 and lower blends. E15 is not a mandate; some stations may offer E15 as an additional product. It is important to read labels to ensure you are using the correct fuel for your vehicle.

Will I get better fuel economy with mid-level ethanol blends?
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the American Coalition for Ethanol cofunded a study about fuel economy and tailpipe emissions impacts for mid-level ethanol blends on four conventional vehicles. This study, called the Optimal Ethanol Blend-Level Investigation, was conducted by the Energy and Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota and the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research. Some media reports have referred to this study indicating that mid-level ethanol blends provide superior fuel economy. However, the results of this study are inconclusive and showed varied vehicle fuel economy results for the four vehicles tested. Ethanol has a lower energy density than gasoline, and as more ethanol is blended the resulting fuel has less usable energy. That translates into a reduction in fuel economy compared to gasoline. Flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) typically get 20% to 30% fewer miles per gallon when fueled with E85. This fuel economy penalty is smaller for lower ethanol blends (like E20 and E30 that might be available from ethanol blender pump dispensers). The impact of different ethanol blends on different vehicles may vary. No matter what type of fuel is used, however, fuel mileage is affected by driving habits, weather, engine efficiency, weight, vehicle maintenance, and other factors.

EPA fuel economy ratings of FFVs and their gasoline counterparts can be compared side-by-side on the website.

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