ethanol

There has been a lot of talk as of late regarding ethanol gas. Unfortunately, there seems to be quite a bit of confusion around the issue. Like most things in life, there are both GOOD and BAD attributes about ethanol gas. But before getting into the pros and cons, let's first talk about the amount of ethanol in the market today.

 

Most gas stations sell E10 gasoline. That means that each gallon of gas contains 10% ethanol. There are groups that want to push for E15 to become the norm but for now, E10 is predominantly available.

The GOOD side of ethanol gas

  1. Ethanol is produced organically, harvested from corn crops grown specifically to create fuel. As such, using it in our fuel reduces our dependence on foreign oil. This is clearly one of the biggest political motivators in pushing for higher ethanol levels.
  2. It burns cleaner and as a result produces less pollution.  Given the environmental concerns facing our population, this can only be considered a good thing.
  3. With E10, fuel composition is almost equivalent to conventional gas - only 2% to 3% less.

Now the BAD

  1. One of the issues with ethanol gas is that it attracts water and it does break down faster than gasoline. This is not much of an issue with transportation vehicles. But with small engines and vintage cars - this can be a huge problem.   Ethanol breaks down quickly, sometimes as quickly as 3 weeks. This break down creates clumps in the gasoline mixture at some point and this may clog the filter, carburetor, fuel line, etc.  It also wreaks havoc on fuel lines not designed specifically for ethanol.
  2. Ethanol increases gasoline vapor pressure which may cause a vapor lock in the carburetor. This fuel starvation will prevent the engine from starting. This is an issue in high altitudes and in hot weather.
  3. Although I have not seen hard evidence, many industry experts claim that we use more energy to make ethanol than the ethanol will produce.  Their point is that the fuel used to plant, maintain, and harvest corn to produce ethanol is significant and often understated.
  4. Increasing the amount of ethanol in each gallon of gas will have a negative effect on fuel consumption.  For example, E20 would be 4% to 6% less efficient than straight gasoline. And if you want to use an E100 mixture (pure ethanol), it will take 1.5 gallons to equal the same amount of energy given by 1 gallon of pure gasoline.

Can Fuel Additives Remove Ethanol?

Unfortunately not. Any fuel additive that claims to actually remove ethanol from gasoline is something you should avoid.  There's no fuel additive that could do that, nor should any imply that they do.

That said, fuel additives can indeed be helpful.  A good additive can help fight against the negative effects that ethanol causes.  Since ethanol's downsides have to do with poor mileage, corrosion, solvency and water absorption, a reputable ethanol fuel treatment will talk about the things it can do to help blunt or solve those problems. It would never claim to or imply that it could actually remove ethanol from gasoline it's already blended into.

Posted in Auto Repair, Gas and Oil.