Print 88 comment(s) - last by SoCalBoomer.. on Jul 11 at 2:56 PM

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  The proposal comes just weeks after Congress repealed the $5.6B USD federal subsidy for corn ethanol.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.


Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

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
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...

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki