Auto repair costs for consumers could rise due to adverse
effects of fuel containing 15% ethanol blends (E15), according
to new results from a two-year study on engine durability.
The study was conducted by FEV, a longtime consultant to the
US Environmental Protection Agency, on behalf of the
Coordinating Research Council (CRC).
The CRC study showed adverse results from E15 use in certain
popular, high-volume models of cars (Table 1),
its authors said.
Problems included damaged valves and valve seats, which can
lead to loss of compression and power; diminished vehicle
performance; misfires; engine damage; poor fuel economy and
Clearly, many vehicles on the road today are at risk
of harm from E15. The unknowns concern us greatly, since only a
fraction of vehicles have been tested to determine their
tolerance to E15, said Mitch Bainwol, CEO of the Auto
Alliance trade group.
Automakers did not build these vehicles to handle the
more corrosive E15 fuel. Thats why we urged EPA to wait
for the results of further testing.
The potential costs to consumers are significant, the study
says. The most likely repair would be cylinder head
replacement, which costs from $2,000-$4,000 for single cylinder
head engines and twice as much for V-type engines.
Our goal is to ensure that new alternative fuels are
not placed into retail until it has been proven they are safe
and do not cause harm to vehicles, consumers or the
environment, said Mike Stanton, CEO of the Global
Automakers trade group. The EPA should have waited until
all the studies on the potential impacts of E15 on the current
fleet were completed.
Automakers believe that renewable fuels are an
important component of our national energy security, but it is
not in the longer term interest of the government, vehicle
manufacturers, fuel distributors or the ethanol industry itself
to find out after the fact that equipment or performance
problems are occurring from rushing a new fuel into the
national marketplace, added Bainwol.
Growth Energy, an ethanol industry trade group, petitioned
the EPA in March 2009 to raise the limit on ethanol in gasoline
from 10% to 15%.
In June 2008, EPA outlined testing needed for the agency to
approve a waiver, and EPA requirements were consistent with
test plans developed by the auto and oil industries.
The CRC, composed of engineers from the auto and oil
industries, was working with EPA and US Department of Energy
(DOE) on a multi-year suite of tests on the effects of higher
blends of ethanol, according to the trade groups.
This testing included more than $14.5 million of research
sponsored by the auto and oil industries, and $40 million of
testing sponsored by the federal government.
Before those tests were completedin October 2010 and
January 2011the EPA granted partial waivers
to allow the introduction of E15 into the marketplace for use
in model year 2001 and later vehicles.
EPAs decision was based largely on a DOE study of the
effects of E15 on durability of catalytic converters, the
primary pollution control system in a vehicle
EPA did not undertake or wait to consider the results of
this engine durability test, or for other E15 related research
still underway, the groups allege.
The CRC study took duplicates of eight different vehicle
model engines spanning the 20012009 model years. All 16
vehicles were tested over a 500-hour durability cycle
corresponding to about 100,000 miles of vehicle usage, the
A range of engine operating parameters was monitored during
the test, including cylinder compression, valve wear, valve
leakage, emissions and emissions control system
Two of the engines tested on E15 were said to have
mechanical damage. Another engine showed increased tailpipe
emissions beyond the allowable limit.