Global automakers are at war with the US Environmental Protection Agency over the introduction of higher ethanol content in gasoline. The issue relates to the question of who knows more about the capability of auto engines – the manufacturer or a government regulator.

Currently Canada, the US  and many other countries mandate that all motor fuels have a minimum renewable fuel content so as to reduce CO2 emissions.   To meet this mandate, these countries have chosen ethanol as the biofuel to be blended with gasoline in internal combustion engines.  Ethanol is made from sugars and converted starches contained in corn, grains and other agricultural feedstocks.

By 2010 several states in the US and the Province of Ontario were mandating E10 in gasoline.  E10 is a mixture of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline that can be used in most modern cars and light-duty trucks without need for any modification on the engine or fuel system.

Earlier this year the US Environmental Protection Agency allowed the use of E15 in all cars dated 2001 or later.  This was immediately opposed by the major automakers who are concerned about damage to their engines.  As the Daily Tech reports:

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.

The concerned auto manufacturers are Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, Volkswagen, and Volvo (owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group).  GM is absent from the group as it was the main supporter of ethanol fuel vehicles.  Most of its lineup consists of FlexFuel vehicles, which can run on ethanol or gasoline.

Some manufacturers are saying they will not honour warranties for vehicles that use E15.

Motor Magazine examines the E15 debate in more detail here including the impact on vehicles older than 2001.  It concludes, irrespective of the dispute between the automakers and the EPA, “…it will be the realities that show up in service and repair shops that will prove out whatever final rule the EPA implements.”

w/t to Fred for suggestion

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