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Is Ethanol Free Gas Good For Your Car

Updated on September 19, 2018
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Chris has a love for learning and often this comes from verifying statements and claims from other consumers, news, and/or individuals.

Modern Vehicles

Most cars that were manufactured in the United States after 1986 are compatible with E10, a lot of foreign vehicles are as well. Verify in the vehicle hand book to make sure about compatibility with your vehicle though. Since 2008, almost every automobile and light duty vehicle manufactured can operate on E85 with no ill effects to the vehicle. Most older vehicles with carburetors should not use ethanol in their fuel at all.

If our vehicles are made to have the ability to run on ethanol gas, why is there such an issue about the ethanol gas? The main issues with ethanol are green house gas emissions, fuel efficiency, market competitions, and fuel effects on equipment with carburetors.

Ethanol Gas Fuel

The main stream fuel in the United States is E10 fuel. This is an ethanol gasoline mixture it can have up to 10% ethanol and there are several issues with ethanol in gas some of the problems are:

  • ethanol attracts moisture leading to phase separation
  • contaminants into engine
  • should drive fuel prices down but does not

Phase separation.
Phase separation.

Moisture Collection

Ethanol is hygroscopic, which means that it attracts water. Ethanol and gas will mix and create a solution that a modern vehicle can use as fuel. When the water is absorbed into this solution, the water will collect until there is a certain ratio of water in the ethanol gas. Then phase separation occurs which is when the gasoline, ethanol, and water all separate. With the separation of fluids there is a layering that occurs: water will be on the bottom, with the ethanol floating on top of it, and the gasoline will float on top of that. Several issues with this would be that:

  1. Few race cars are designed to run on 100% ethanol. It would damage your engine if you tried and with separation you have a layer of 100% ethanol.
  2. The gas pick up is on the bottom of the tank, so water would be the liquid drawn out of the gas tank and into the engine first, damaging the engine.
  3. Under ideal conditions, ethanol has a shelf life of 90 to 100 days before this phase separation begins to occur.

Contamination

With the phase separation and absorption of water into the solution, this leads to deterioration within the engine. Damage can occur in the injectors, valves, valve seats, etc. This is a rarity and was more prominent during the first couple of years of the ethanol push - 2008 and 2009. Auto Alliance also had a study that showed 1 in 16 ethanol fuel cars failing the emission compliance standards. Minerals and other contaminates can enter the engine through the water. Creating build up in lines, fouling, and other damaging effects to the engine.

With engineering, we do have engines that are better designed to handle ethanol. But we still do not have many advances in preventing phase separation with ethanol gas blends. There are additives sold to stabilize ethanol blends, but this appears to be more propaganda than actual help. If there were additives that solved this issue, it would be a boon for the industry to add it before delivery to prevent this from harming the reputation of ethanol gas blends.

Because of the use of ethanol we have developed an industry of additives into gas and increasing the amount of additives that run through our engines. Engines that were not designed for these additives. These gas additives will reach the engine and may damage the engine because of burn off, burning too hot, breaking build up off and letting debris into the cylinders, or any number of other issues.

Bring Gas Prices Down

Ethanol should bring gas prices down because of the reduction in other additives in gasoline and how cheap ethanol is, but that doesn't appear to be happening even with a larger ethanol supply. Ethanol is put into gas to bring emissions down. There are additives that gasoline previously received to oxygenate the gas before combustion to reduce harmful emissions. The hype about ethanol is that it reduces these harmful emissions even more, keeps money in the United States, and reduces dependency on oil. And some will say, but the price has been dropping!

I would agree to a degree that gas prices did drop for several years, but not in 2017 or 2018. What happen was the war in Afghanistan ended and there was an oil glut that drove prices down for a couple of years. But since these additives are not needed in gasoline to oxygenate it any longer and ethanol has replaced it and is such a cheap product that the price shouldn't have started going up in 2017 and continue to go up in 2018. This would be the industry price gauging consumers.

Is Ethanol Free Gas Safe

Ethanol has not removed oil dependency from the United States. The reduced emissions aren't actually reduced by much because ethanol is less efficient than gasoline and you need to burn more to go the same distance. Ethanol does keep money in the United States, but drives up the price of meat, milk, and other products for consumers because the corn prices have gone up with feed corn and fuel corn being in competition with each other.

The overall answer, is that your vehicle would probably be better off using ethanol free gas than an ethanol gas blend. The emissions from planting to final ethanol production are not reduced from gasoline, so burning it in your car may help in that one aspect but not across the board for the life cycle to create ethanol. What happens is you help drive competitive markets up on basic food commodities and spend more money on fuel to drive your vehicle. I would say that ethanol free gas is great for your vehicle.

Edmunds did an interesting study comparing gasoline and E85. They drove both 677 miles to discover the difference. E85 ethanol gas blend created 703.1 pounds of carbon dioxide while true gasoline had 706.5 pounds of carbon dioxide. Not the difference that one would expect with all the reductions that are stated.

E10 ethanol blend is the average blend in the United States and only has 97% of the energy output that straight gasoline has. Slightly lower cost for an ethanol blend for less mileage but with lower emissions. I would prefer to stick with an ethanol free gasoline, but I am afraid those days are over because by subsidizing this sector until 2012 we created an issue that won't go away.

So again, I will say that ethanol free gasoline is safe for your vehicle as long as you have a gas fueled vehicle. I think the world would be a little better off without ethanol fuel as well. For more information on ethanol fuels, read a more in depth article here.

© 2018 Chris Andrews

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