You may not be aware, but the EPA recently approved the sale of E15 fuel, a gasoline blend containing up to 15 percent ethanol. It’s only available at about ten stations nationwide at the moment, but there’s a push to make it more widely available. AAA recently released a survey that found up to 95 percent of consumers have not heard of E15–a fact that’s significant because, AAA reports, many vehicles are not able to safely use it.
Because of the lack of education and the potential for damage to vehicles not approved to burn E15, AAA is urging that the sale of the fuel be stopped until the limitations are better known. The ethanol industry fired back, reporting that AAA’s research is insufficient, and that many millions of test miles have been logged with E15 without damage.
AAA’s claims of premature engine wear and fuel system damage in cars not rated for E15 are disputed, but here’s what we know. Among cars and light-duty trucks, E15 use is approved in any flex-fuel model, 2012 and newer GM products and 2013 Fords. Porsches from 2001-and up are also able to burn E15. E15 is not approved to use in older cars, motorcycles, boats and power equipment.
Perhaps more significantly, engine problems caused by the improper use of E15 may not be covered by manufacturer warranty. BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen have already stated that fuel-related claims caused by the use of E15 will not be covered. General Motors, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes and Volvo have also stated that E15 doesn’t comply with factory fuel requirements and could void warranty coverage if damage is caused.
AAA is recommending that pump labels and other educational tools be provided to consumers before E15 is made widely available. Many current gasolines contain a blend of up to ten percent ethanol which has been found to be safe for all cars.
If your local gas station is one of the first to have E15 available, check your owner’s manual to make sure that your car’s been approved to use it.