cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

What you need to know about E15 fuel

Ethanol fuels are not new, but recent legislation targeting high-fuel prices has brought the biofuel back to the forefront of the conversation. What is this change and how will you be affected? It's pretty simple: Tuesday's announcement is merely an extension of a practice already in place seasonally.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/what-you-need-to-know-about-e15-fuel/
125 REPLIES 125
SAG
Technician

do you know Joe?
SAG
Technician

Ever had to service yard equipment where Ethanol destroyed the Carb internals?
MPH168
Pit Crew

Yes I have and finally gave up trying ot make my chain saw live. But I'm not sure - and I'd love for someone to prove with facts - that it was the alcohol that killed the tiny passages in my chain saw carburetor. My opinion - yes just an opinion - that it is the BETX additives - 25% of which is in all gasolines today that is causing these issues and not the ethanol. I have not yet come up with a way to prove this. But when my year-long E85 ethanol test did not attack my Holley carb parts - I begin to wonder about the additives that were not present - the BTEX additives as the real culprits. The petroleum industry does not want you to know that and will never admit there's a problem. Never. Hey - I don't hate those guys or their product - they make the fuel for my hot rods and my daily driver. All I'm looking for are answers.
dan5
Intermediate Driver

MPH 168, your tests while interesting, are not the entire answer. Go look at what an OEM does to their fuel systems to handle ETHANOL concentrations above 10%. This typically means special fuel lines, stainless steel fuel rails, special injectors and so forth. Do you think they do this just for fun? Yes, some of the challenge is due to water because ethanol absorbs it. Do you really believe there is no water in the fuel distribution network and underground tanks? There is no water in the atmosphere that fills your fuel tank as the fuel is consumed? The OEMs make these decisions based on data and what is required for the products to live in the field. I speak from direct experience, not conjecture. Even at 10%, ethanol is often a problem for many engines. If you use the fuel quickly, it's not as great an issue. For small engines, boats, and cars that may sit for months without consuming a tank of fuel - it is a problem. It can be reduced somewhat by keeping the tanks full to remove air space and by using high grade fuel stabilizer with anti corrosion additives. E15 doesn't make life better for them. My small engines ate fuel lines with regularity with E10. Since I moved to E0 Rec fuel, no problem. If you like ethanol fuel - use it, but recognize the compromises and don't force it on those who don't want it.
drhino
Technician

And this crap plays havoc to motorcycles, too!
DaveP
Intermediate Driver

Yes! It messed up my 79 GS550 carbs so bad I had to replace them - they were coated inside with what looks like baking soda. I wonder how much fuel and petroleum-based fertilizer is used to produce it. Could be a net enegry/resource waste. Fertilizer, fuel to plow, plant and harvest, etc. I say use grain for food and, if you have to make it into alcohol then at least make it into something you can drink!
BMD4800
Gearhead

While you are correct in a demand driven pricing model the cost will increase, but the widespread use of distillers grain as a protein rich feed has grown significantly since the early 2000s, so it doesn’t necessarily induce scarcity.

Ethanol production does not remove feed grains from the market, but it does foster a dual use of the feed stock.

It does however impact food from the context that sweet corn and HF corn syrup production.

The production is heavily subsidized, so without getting political, the mandate is in essence picking winners and losers. ADM, Beef and Corn producers win.

But alas, here we are. BTW, much of the Ethanol issue is due to water. Ethanol is hygroscopic and the wholesaler mix based on the destination, maybe full of water or other trash. I’ve run plenty of tests on E10 blends in Phoenix and the water content is obscene for such a dry climate.

If you can find pure gas for your classic, use it. If you have a vintage classic, the cost of a vintage grade fuel or race gas is 100% worth it.
Geok86
Instructor

Fertilizer costs have already increased…I took a part time job at the local Country Club after retirement, and our Superintendent of maintenance just told me the other day that our overdue shipment of fertilizer is costing over $700 more per ton, and we need approximately 15 tons!
AP
New Driver

Loved reading your post.  I have a 75 Chrysler I drive and will never use this E-15.  It is a nice driver.  It's family.  Gotta take care of it.  🙂

DUB6
Specialist

There is also a smaller-but-still-relevant issue, and it involves corn-growing.  When gas producers use more ethanol content, and when gas demand goes up (like with more summer driving), the demand for corn goes up also.  When the demand goes up, growers need more ground to grow more corn.  Huge tracts of wetlands, riparian areas, and fallow ground (useful for natural regeneration of nutrients) have been ripped up to plant more corn.  Not only is this bad land-planning, but the amount of fuel used to cultivate, harvest and transport this corn just to get 5% more ethanol is not insignificant.

WeisPanzer
Intermediate Driver

And with Fertilizer shortages expected, the commodities futures market is already showing many of the big farms are planning on growing less corn (which need a lot of Fertilizer) and more soybeans (which need a lot less). So once again gov't creates a problem, invents a "solution" that sounds good for that 24 hour newscycle, but turns out to create MORE problems... which, of course, will make gov't idiots think they need to invent MORE problem-causing solutions. And this is why Americans have no trust or faith in gov't. And to avoid the problem they're creating for classic car owners, we get to spend more of our own money. Brilliant. LGB!
DUB6
Specialist

I've long said that the whole ethanol thing represents "the 4 R's":

1) Rips us off at the pump

2) Robs us of power and fuel economy

3) Ruins our motors' fuel delivery systems

4) Rapes more of our land

 

Sorry Kyle, but I can't agree with your premise that this shouldn't be viewed as any big deal.

Marv48
Intermediate Driver

Ethanol should be made from switch grass instead of corn. As I understand it switch grass doesn't need to be replanted each year, just harvested. Also it can grow with little water and on very poor soil.
BMD4800
Gearhead

We should be using soybeans (for anything but food) and switch grass to let the land heal. 100%.
fueledbymetal
Advanced Driver

Virtue signaling at its worst.
Ajakeski
Detailer

Many consider 2001 and later vehicles as 'Newer' Most pre-2015 vehicles will not tolerate high precentages of ethanol without some for of fuel system damage. This is another political stunt anthing career politicians do from now until November is just to get votes, not to fix problems.
Rdo
New Driver

Hagerty - if you're going to write articles about public policy, you need to get your terminology correct. There is a very big difference between legislation (something Congress does & the term you used) and a regulatory action (something done by the Executive Branch & what the Biden Administration will have to do to accomplish this change).
XJ6
Intermediate Driver

I looked up the stations that carry 100% gasoline and drove over to look. It was $1.00 more than the 10% ethanol blend.
mpzz
Advanced Driver

Where I live it's 40 cents higher.
jello67
Intermediate Driver

When I lived in Idaho, and could buy ethanol free gas at Conrad and Bischoff, I did an informal (but long and thorough) study of the efficiency of my old carbureted car (with a distributor, not coil packs) with ethanol free gas, and with ethanol containing gas. Basically, what I found was that ethanol is what we would call "filler." In other words, if 10 gallons of non-ethanol containing gas went 300 miles, 10 gallons of 10% ethanol containing gas would go 270 miles. Then I moved to Illinois - a major corn producing state. Ethanol was required. So I no longer had a choice between gas with and without ethanol. The interesting thing was that ethanol free gas in Idaho was usually more than 10% higher cost. So from a fuel use/cost basis using the fuel with ethanol was actually an advantage. If it caused maintenance problems with your car, that would be yet another factor to consider (that I did not consider at the time).
LittleCarBigSky
Intermediate Driver

When we moved from a large city in the south to Montana, my 20-year-old 5L V8 SUV suddenly went from getting 18 mpg on the highway to 20. And that was in the mountains at 70 mph. I attribute that little-to-no ethanol in the gas here.
miata93
Advanced Driver

Don't forget that at altitude you are pushing the car through less air and that will increase your mileage a bit. If you have a closed loop EFI system your engine will use less gas at altitude to keep the air/fuel ratio constant. I am not sure about carburetors, but I believe that they also lean out.
mpzz
Advanced Driver

Wrong. Less air means less oxygen in the fuel to burn which means more gasoline burned. However, mountain driving can increase fuel economy because coasting downhill is so fuel efficient that it more than makes up for the extra fuel you use going uphill.
ChrisKennedy
Pit Crew

Question for Hagerty: Is this E15 going to be limited to 88 Octane gas? If so, it would seem you could pay a bit more and get premium and avoid the issue raised here concerning E15 if you have an older, carbureted car.

/s/ Chris Kennedy
mpzz
Advanced Driver

To me, a dollar more per gallon for premium is not "a bit more".
atat327
Pit Crew

Could have been a much shorter article:

What you need to know about E15 fuel - Don't use it.
LittleCarBigSky
Intermediate Driver

So I might save 10-cents at the pump, but will be losing 20-cents worth of MPG on the road. Thanks, Joe!

Picture an America in some parallel universe: The oil industry announces that it is mixing 10% or more of Ethanol into the gasoline supply. Immediately, America's already most hated industry is attacked from all quarters for attempting to literally water down American's fuel to rip off consumers. Ralph Nader would be filing class action lawsuits on behalf of all consumers for the losses related to reduced fuel economy and damage to internal combustion engines, and Al Gore would go on a rampage about the increased net carbon footprint and other environmental damage because of the resource intensive nature of producing Ethanol. There'd be food riots in the 3rd world, because of the diversion of food crops to produce Ethanol, and vast amounts of rain forest would be cut down for crop land needed to make up the difference.

Oh wait. The last part actually has happened in our universe too.

At least the America in that universe retains some degree of sanity. Ours clearly does not. Ethanol is a complete scam. The government bought into it after the phony energy crisis of the '70s believing that it could replace oil from the Middle East. Agribusiness bought into it for obvious reasons. The environmental movement bought in because they thought it would be a low-carbon alternative, even though it literally takes a gallon of oil-based products (gasoline, diesel, and fertilizer) to produce a gallon of Ethanol, which actually has lower heat content than the fuel it's replacing. Getting lower mileage these days? That's probably why. Never mind the damage that may be happening to your engines.

Ethanol subsidies are a perfect example of the destructive feedback loops that are created when the government starts subsidizing. Producers receiving the subsidy get comfortable, then dependent on the subsidy. A percentage of the subsidy is then fed back to the politicians to keep the subsidy in place or to expand it. The last thing any of these people want is for the subsidy to ever end. Meanwhile, alternatives that are more viable and would not require subsidies never get a chance because they can't compete with the subsidized product, so they never happen.

Even Al Gore himself now admits that supporting Ethanol was a mistake, and that he did so only because he had to buy much needed votes from the farm states.

I have every expectation that in 100 years when all transport is fueled by something other than carbon-based energy, that we'll still be subsidizing Ethanol, just like the city of Detroit still subsidizes a horseshoe changer.
dan5
Intermediate Driver

There is one additional factor in the alcohol story. In the late 90's and early 2000's there was significant research being done into ethanol from cellulose materials. There were industrial processes in development that would use the cornstalks (and other waste materials) rather than the corn. It was a wonderful possibility to run our vehicles from waste. That is when the E85 flex fuel vehicles were developed and ethanol was subsidized in part to support the E85 vehicles while the cellulose based fuels were brought to market. Unfortunately those new processes appear to have not been commercially successful and we are back to corn based ethanol.
mpzz
Advanced Driver

Using cornstalks is not the answer. They need to be left in the field to leave their remnant nutrients in the soil and to create new black soil.
VistaSkinnyMan
Pit Crew

Two things - neither of which are small - IMHO. 1) going from 10% to 15% is a 50% increase in the amount of ethanol. Fuel mileage has already been addressed. SUPPLY CHAIN - is the supply chain ready to produce 50% more ethanol? 2) In early “news” stories, I read that this increase in ethanol percentage can only be pumped at 2,300 stations, mostly in the farm belt. There are approximately 111,000 gas stations in the U.S. So 2,300 stations are less than 2% of all gas stations. In my opinion, this announcement along with draining off a significant portion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve are nothing more than political Kabuki Theatre.
Zephyr
Instructor

Don't know if it's still true, but you used to be able to buy 110 octane ethanol-free gas at small airports because that's what private planes use. Would have to bring your own gas can though.
PabloDee
Pit Crew

Zeph- It's 100 octane with lead, and it includes aviation fund taxes vs. highway taxes, therefore is not legal for autos. A new unleaded fuel will be available soon for many piston-powered aircraft.
BMD4800
Gearhead

So, using vintage leaded fuel from a can not a pump in a vintage car means I’m not paying road taxes and is illegal?

Snitches get stitches.
Air_and_Water
Instructor

Octane is measured differently for aviation, as those are very conservatively built engines with lower piston speeds, so that "110" is not the same as 110 pump gas. It's *considerably* lower in octane. If memory serves there's something else about it that makes it inferior to pump gas for automotive use.
Grumpyoldcoot
Intermediate Driver

Does the new E15 apply to premium fuels, or just the "regular" gasoline? I have been using nothing except Premium for the LS6 engine in my resto-mod, but if E15 will also be added to Premium gasoline, I'll change to the non-ethanol gasoline offered at some Maverick stations.
dan5
Intermediate Driver

I would be extremely careful with the statement that "the vast majority of vehicles produced after 2001 are E15-tolerant". If you want to run E15, check your owner's manual. If it doesn't allow for E15, I wouldn't use it. I worked for an OEM and our engines that ran >E10 typically had upgraded materials in the fuel system and various engine components. Those engines were usually tested in various ways to verify that they really would work and would be durable with the permitted fuel blends.
In my personal experience, the issues with E10 on older cars, boat engines, and small engines can be significant. These can be mitigated somewhat with additives and careful practices to minimize condensation in the fuel system. I wouldn't run E15 in any of my above equipment under any circumstance.
woodenu2
Pit Crew

I feel that there is more than enough fuel now. But that no one whats to answer the question, why are we exporting more oil than we import? ( US Free Export News) Just stop the export. I'm sure that it is all about the money and what can be made in the pockets of the oil Cos.
FloridaMarty
Instructor

Wow, So many thoughts on this. So the government decided to put alcohol in our gas, to save gas, but it reduces mpg, so is there really a net savings? Increasing alcohol content further to again reduce dependence on gas, but further eroding mpg. Not to mention the damage to our classic cars. One thing we must remember, not all old cars being driven are being used as a "classic", some old cars are daily drivers for people that either can't afford newer, or have other personal reasons. I see both sides, but in the end, other than making our farmers bank accounts fatter, is there really a net benefit? I guess the answer would depend on who you ask. Remember when buying gas was a no brainer? When cost and contents were of little concern. I miss those days.

Maestro1
Technician

Very intelligent responses here today and thanks for the article. I'm not selling my 41 year
old truck. I don't care what incompetent politicians do to solve an impossible supply problem to which the solution is to start drilling for our own fuel which will excite all
the Greenies in the room.
I'm not saying I like that idea but we're at least two decades away from a fully developed electric car with good supply lines to it. There are several million cars on American roads
today. They are 99% gas powered. We need to drill for our own product. And grow up.
Lightning1
Advanced Driver

So this is Resident Biden’s answer to high fuel prices, running bad, burn more fuel and damage to the fuel system. My answer is to pump more oil, build refineries and get the pipelines built. Unfortunately the average American believes this. Then you have Budigig saying “Let then buy electric, just not from that evil Musk guy only from Government Motors”.
The only answer Pump, Refine and Deliver.
Patrician
Detailer

E15 voids most new car warrantees as well as Briggs and Stratton's warranty. My state uses ethanol and every year I suck all the gas out of the tanks before I lay my cars up for the winter. The E10-15 eats and corrodes the carburetor casting. I wonder where Biden gets the gas to run his Corvette with the 327 , 365 horsepower high compression engine? You know Biden the big environmentalist who drives a car that would choke you to death if you stood behind it for 5 minutes. That Corvette he has is probably one of the biggest cars ever made for emitting Nitrous oxides and hydrocarbons. A good gesture on his part if he is serious about clean air would be to crush the car.
BMD4800
Gearhead

He gets his gas where you all should too. A can, from a reputable supplier, that is sealed and not vented to allow water abosrbtion by the ethanol.
Tinkerah
Engineer

I've been reading that ethanol blended fuels damages rubber parts. But I didn't think natural rubber has been used for fuel for decades. In the '70's I experienced gasoline dissolving a rubber squeeze bulb right in my hand and none of us had even heard of ethanol yet. Hasn't it been neoprene or some synthetic compound for a long time now?
GForce
Pit Crew

Thank You for saying this about gas mileage. I'll copy and post as most people said I was crazy. Even when I pointed to the fact even manufacturers show as much as a 50% reduction in mileage for a E85 vehicle using E85 fuel.

So, the Federal government is imposing tighter CAFE standards, at the same time they pushing E15 fuel which will reduce the mileage estimates.
oldscool
Pit Crew

It stretches credulity that diverting agriculture towards fuel won't result in higher food prices. And that increasing production and supply chains (pipelines) while flooding the world market supply won't result in lower prices. Economics 101.
V12
New Driver

I have had difficulty starting my ‘38 Chevy after it is hot. Tried everything. Asked my trusted Packard mechanic for advice. Stated to get away from ethanol in gasoline. When the engine is hot the ethanol gas vaporizes at a lower temp than gasoline. I have now switched to regular gasoline and my Chevy starts when hot.
DaveT
Pit Crew

Living in Wisconsin in 2015, driving an E85 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 pickup, I figured that I would have to save .50 per gallon of gas to offset the difference between regular 87 octane gas with E10 vs the E85. I measured and calculated this several times to ensure that it was correct.
DaveZ
New Driver

Too bad we can’t run cars on the hot air that’s blasting about. There’s always going to be an issue if we insist on a single person riding around in a 3 ton vehicle.
Personally I’ve run my classics on E15 from time to time and it doesn’t do much but lessen the mpg.
Thanks Kyle for trying to shed some light on the subject.
Inline8OD
Technician

Amen squared and cubed. Thanks. The real problem is Americans long spoilt by living on what they see as inexhaustible cornucopia, wanting to "have it all;" drive around in three-ton pigboats gnawing on burgers, guzzling milkshakes while cursing "thuh politicians."

Per my previous second of MPH168's attempt to add to Kyle's effort.

You're right as rain about ethanol not harming our old cars, but as with modern, vastly superior motor oils and DOT 5 silicone brake fluid, too many down homers want a convenient whipping boy for slipshod work or lax maintenance.

GoFaster
Intermediate Driver

I lived in South Dakota for 23 years. The ethanol game is a boondoggle. Companies like Poet make a boatload of money on this low-Btu fuel filler. It is a joke. And, for those who claim that ethanol causes no damage, please give me your email address and I will gladly send you my repair bills on my lawnmower, weedeater, and 69 Dodge SuperBee. Thankfully I am now able to purchase ethanol-free gasoline at a location about 20 miles from home, and ever since I switched, the problems have gone away and fuel economy has improved.