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Ford, Toyota, and other automakers say that using E15 can void warranties and lead to early engine death.  (Source: Team BHP)

GM is the only major U.S. automaker to support the plan.  (Source: AP Photo)
New proposal would allow up to 15 percent ethanol in fuel

Corn ethanol is dead, long live corn ethanol.  That's the message that the United States Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson seemingly sent when her agency proposed allowing blends of up to 15 percent ethanol at the pump.  The proposal comes just weeks after Congress repealed the $5.6B USD federal subsidy for corn ethanol.

I. E15: Killing Your Autos, One Engine at a Time

Automakers are outraged at the proposal.  Ford Motor Company (F) and Toyota Motor Company (TYO:7203) led the coalition of the unwilling.

In letters to House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming's ranking Republican member, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (Milwaukee - Wisc.), the automakers rip the plan, which they say will likely void vehicle owners' warranties.

While the EPA promises to use a special orange and black label at the pumps where E15 fuel is being vended, officials at Ford and Toyota fear that won't be enough warning for customers.  They point out that most gasoline engines aren’t designed to use ethanol, which can cause excessive engine wear and engine failure.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally has criticized the U.S. government's financial support of corn ethanol.  Mr. Mulally indicates that he would like to see the government instead exclusively support electrified vehicles.

Chrysler LLC also opposed the plan to allow E15 at the pump.  Writes Jody Trapasso, Chrysler external affairs SVP, "While Chrysler has been a strong advocate of renewable fuels, we have concerns about the potential harmful effects of E15 in engines and fuel systems that were not designed for use of that fuel."

In response to the letters, Rep. Sensenbrenner has fired off a letter of his own to Ms. Jackson at the EPA, warning about the engine damage and telling her, "In difficult economic times, consumers need to get more miles from a gallon of gas and extend the lives of their cars."

II. EPA: Problem? What Problem?

The EPA defended the proposal claiming that research by the U.S. Department of Energy showed E15 to be safe to run on engines produced after 2001.  They claim the DOE extensively verified "any increase would not have an adverse impact."

The statement continues, "The administration will continue to take steps, guided by science and the law, to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and increase our use of home-grown fuels."

Clearly the two sides don't see eye to eye here.  The automakers, who actually engineered the cars, say E15 will destroy engines of vehicles produced since 2001.  But the EPA and DOE claim to have secret insight that the automakers don't, arguing the vehicles will be just fine.

Besides Ford, Toyota, and Chrysler, the other dissenting parties included Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (ETR:BMW); Daimler AG (ETR:DAI)’s Mercedes Benz; Honda Motor Comp., Ltd. (TYO:7267); Hyundai Motor Comp. (SEO:005380); Kia Motors Corp. (SEO:000270); Mazda Motor Corp. (TYO:7261); Nissan Motor Comp., Ltd. (TYO:7201); Volkswagen AG (ETR:VOW); and Volvo Car Corp., owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Comp.

Noticeably absent among the protesters is General Motors Comp. (GM).  GM was the chief supporter of ethanol fuel vehicles.  Most of its lineup consists of FlexFuel vehicles, which can run on ethanol or gasoline.

The EPA may bend to the will of the industry -- after all, just weeks ago it cut the mandatory amount of ethanol in fuel blends to the lowest level in three years.

 



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RE: To be clear
By Iaiken on 7/6/2011 10:45:51 AM , Rating: -1
Ethanol will corrode any aluminum part and the damage that it can do to an aluminum valve-train in a high compression engine often leads to complete failure over time. In most cases, this requires a replacement valve-train.

The other most common victim is the high pressure fuel pump. Using 15% ethanol, BMW internal testing determined that most of their existing fuel pumps would fail after an average 17,000km. Sure enough, some BMW drivers in the US were going through 2-4 fuel pumps a year and BMW had to go back to the drawing board for a replacement.

Interestingly enough, when the German government mandated all fuel grades contain 15% ethanol, BMW group made a public announcement that the use of such fuel in any engine that required 91+ octane would invalidate the warranty. They gave instructions to the dealerships to send away fuel samples from suspect cars for testing and that anything above 8% would result in the warranty claim being denied.

The German people politely revolted by riding bikes, or taking the bus/train and left hundreds of millions of liters of 91-94 octane fuels sitting unwanted at every gas station in the country until the government backed down.

Americans could just as easily do the same, but they are too uninformed to get upset about this or too lazy to do anything about it even if they are. Indolent masses are the best kind to scam!


RE: To be clear
By tng on 7/6/2011 11:51:20 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Americans could just as easily do the same, but they are too uninformed to get upset about this or too lazy....
And you would be the expert why? Have I met you before and you know my work ethic or those of my neighbors?

Again you come from the world that I see everyday, a large metro area. It shows that you really think that riding the bus or the train is something that everybody could do instead of driving. Not the case in the US.

I find most of your posts informing, but on this one you hit the bottom. One of the most moronic posts ever.


RE: To be clear
By Iaiken on 7/6/2011 2:38:25 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Again you come from the world that I see everyday, a large metro area.


It depends largely on the city, Toronto is easy, and in most cases, it is faster to drive just to the GO train or Subway, park for free and then boot around town that way. Same when I am in NYC. Houston and LA are interesting in that they have public transit, but it is so horrible that even a miserable drive through insane traffic is better than riding the bus.

Maybe it's not possible for most people, but if nobody even bothers to try, then it's certainly not.


RE: To be clear
By tng on 7/6/2011 3:06:45 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Maybe it's not possible for most people, but if nobody even bothers to try, then it's certainly not.
I understand, but unlike the North East US, there are vast areas in the West where things have spread out to the point that it becomes very hard to bike to work or even have mass public transport.

The problem as I see it is that as you get closer to the center of a urban area where the jobs are, the prices for housing rises to the point where driving is cheaper than housing.


RE: To be clear
By Nfarce on 7/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: To be clear
By Ghost42 on 7/6/2011 12:26:57 PM , Rating: 2
I dunno about your car, but mine doesn't have any fuel in the "valve train" area. Also 99% of valve train components on the road today are pretty much all steel as the only aluminum valve train components are rocker arms, which are usually aftermarket items that people have had installed.

Ethanol's main issues are that it's hygroscopic, and the more ethanol in the fuel the more water there is as well. That leads to galvanic corrosion and causes issue with not just aluminum but steel as well. Also it doesn't play nice with plastics and rubbers used as lines or seals in older vehicles not designed for it creating the potential for leaks.

Never mind the fact that it's 1.5x less efficient, and when looking at higher concentrations such as E85, does not ignite well if it is -1c(30f) or lower.


RE: To be clear
By YashBudini on 7/6/2011 12:36:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Also it doesn't play nice with plastics and rubbers used as lines or seals in older vehicles not designed for it creating the potential for leaks.

Which is why it can end up in places it doesn't belong, like valve trains and crankcases.


RE: To be clear
By Maroon on 7/6/2011 2:00:46 PM , Rating: 2
My car has an aluminum head from the factory. I'm pretty sure the ethanol will come in contact with it. You know, that thing called a combustion chamber.


RE: To be clear
By Ghost42 on 7/7/2011 1:17:07 AM , Rating: 2
That's not the "valve train" though.


RE: To be clear
By Iaiken on 7/6/2011 2:22:37 PM , Rating: 2
My car has an all aluminum head and the only part of my valve train that is not aluminum is the cam shaft itself and the valve springs.

I've seen a head from another Cooper S that was run on ethanol blend for about 90,000km before they sent it back to BMW to be examined. It had penetrated virtually everywhere and had even gotten into the oil via the crank case and then into the superchargers oil supply. The valves themselves also had wicked scaring on them from the corrosion. It was not pretty... :(

I don't know about your car, but I plan to keep this one even after I buy my next daily driver...


RE: To be clear
By Shinobisan on 7/6/2011 12:28:24 PM , Rating: 2
You seem to be quoting real facts... but they just don't hold up to reality. 15% Ethanol will destroy an aluminum engine in 17,000 km? (and why are we talking km? this is an american law isn't it?) 17,000 km = 10,563 miles.
And they destroy fuel pumps at a rate of 2/year?
Ask yourself... have I - or do I know ANYONE - that has replaced a fuel pump in the last year? Let alone 2 pump EACH year?
Every drop of gasoline in Minnesota contains 10% Ethanol. Do the motorists in Minnesota buy 50 times more fuel pumps? Nope.
Why are you trying to scare us? With all these dumb "facts"? Really. I'm not buying it.


RE: To be clear
By Iaiken on 7/6/2011 2:09:55 PM , Rating: 3
You seem to be mixing up the facts I am quoting for a specific test by BMW for a specific fuel pump and trying to expand it to ALL fuel pumps. Don't be retarded.

BMW research showed that the High Pressure Fuel pump used in in the N54 would reliably fail after an average 17,000 km under the use of 91 octane that was 15% ethanol. As such, they responded by offering a warranty extension to 190,000km in the US/Canada. They have since recalled the old pumps to replace them with a new one that was redesigned in early 2011.

quote:
and why are we talking km? this is an american law isn't it


Because the findings by BMW were in German, they use KM and I was too lazy to bother converting them. If you can't do mile-km or vice versa in your head by now then you're a bloody idiot.

quote:
Why are you trying to scare us?


I am not trying to scare you, I am demonstrating that it is an established fact that ethanol blended fuel does significant damage to cars that were not designed for it.


RE: To be clear
By Reclaimer77 on 7/6/2011 1:19:46 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Americans could just as easily do the same, but they are too uninformed to get upset about this or too lazy to do anything about it even if they are. Indolent masses are the best kind to scam!


The arrogant prick from Canada strikes again. Might wanna look at a map and compare Germany to the U.S. Notice something? We're way too big to rely on bikes, trains, or buses.

Couldn't you have made a point without calling us all lazy and uninformed? You aren't even close to being accurate, but you probably don't care. Just one more excuse to be snide and condescending.


RE: To be clear
By Iaiken on 7/6/2011 2:10:39 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The arrogant prick from Canada strikes again.


Love you too claimy. :P


RE: To be clear
By croc on 7/7/2011 1:53:58 AM , Rating: 2
"We're way too big to rely on bikes, trains, or buses."

Type II diabetes IS a valid concern in the US of (fat)A(sses)...


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