REALITY: The oil and auto company financed study behind the headlines is unreliable. Most of the issues raised resulted from the testing design rather than actual E15 fuel.
The testing conducted by the Coordinating Research Council (CRC) neither captures nor represents the reality of the U.S. car market. More than 80% of the miles driven in the United States are on cars that are less than 10 years old, yet 7 of the 15 cars tested were past their “product useful life” of 10 years. Only one car was a late model year – a 2009 Honda Accord. It should not be surprising that a 1996 Toyota Camry, 5 years past its useful life, with a Kelley Blue Book value of $3,750, did not perform well under stringent testing conditions.
The test did not use the 15% ethanol blend (E15) that new standards call for. Instead, they used Aggressive E20. The word “aggressive” means the addition of sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid to the fuel mix (ph of 2.8). Needless to say, standard car parts were never built to withstand acid in the fuel. Moreover, ethanol in water is a slight base; hence any resulting corrosion does not resemble corrosion due to acid exposure. (Note: Off-the shelf E10 that was NOT “aggressive” was used for the control test.)
Water in the fuel is a strong abrasive. The water content of their Aggressive E20 blend was raised to the top of the legal limit. Commercially sold ethanol has about half of that water content.
The study specifies that: “The project oversight panel specified the aromatic level of the base gasoline (prior to ethanol blending) to approximately 40% volume.” In other words, per the request of non-scientist auto and oil representatives, CRC increased the percentage of octane-enhancing aromatics in the fuel to 40% – 10% more than the normal fuel aromatics content of 30%. This change, in turn, enabled CRC to use 80-octane fuel, which has less tolerance for water, despite the fact that the minimum sold in the U.S. is 84-octane. Running the test on 80-octane fuel caused the water they added to the fuel to become an even stronger abrasive.
Although Fuel Freedom Foundation is not in favor of a fuel mandate or one particular replacement fuel, in this case ethanol, we firmly believe that change and choice will only come when oil companies no longer have the power to tamper with and manipulate information that is necessary in a fair evaluation of any and ALL replacement fuel options.