• Mar 4, 2011
1997 Pontiac Grand Prix fuel tank

Last October, the EPA approved the use of E15 (a fuel consisting of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline) in 2007 and newer vehicles. Then, this January, the Agency deemed that the biofuel could be safely used in model year 2001-2006 vehicles. However, the EPA's testing did not include vehicles made between 1994 and 2000, so it's probably risky to fill up older cars and trucks with the blended fuel. Right?

Well, Ricardo, an automotive engineering firm, tested E15 in older vehicles and presented its findings recently at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and the short version is that E15 is likely fine. Ricardo's Rod Beazley claims that older vehicles can burn E15 without suffering any measurable damage. In fact, the firm points out that vital fuel system components (i.e. gas tanks, fuel filters and fuel lines) are more likely to corrode from the outside than from the E15 found within.

Ricardo's presentation, titled "Technical Assesment of E15 Use in 1994-2000 Model Year Vehicles" concludes with this clear statement:
The adoption and use of E15 would not adversely affect fuel system components in properly engineered vehicles, nor would it cause them to perform in a sub-optimal manner, when compared to the use of E10.
Interested in finding out more? Click here (pdf) to view a slideshow of Ricardo's presentation.

[Source: Domestic Fuel, Ricardo (pdf)]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 17 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      Quoting a study in support of ethanol use by a company that depends heavily on the adoption of ethanol for its business model is like quoting a study by the Reynolds tobacco company in support of cigarette smoking. See http://www.google.com/search?q=ricardo+ethanol

      Engineering is very complex. The engine and its supporting air pollution and fuel systems are optimized around the fuel it will use. Change that fuel a little and you get little problems, change it a lot and you will get a lot of problems. E10 causes a loss of mileage. E15 just makes that worse and increases the odds of longer term problems, E25 even more, and E85 will make your car unsafe to drive, if it runs at all and putting biodiesel a car designed to burn gasoline will stop it dead as soon as it hits the injectors. Putting E15 in a car not designed for it compromises that engine’s performance, and risks long term damage to other components.

      Why doesn’t Ricardo sell E15 damage insurance if they are so confident–put their money where their mouth is?

      Compromised engine performance is just one of many issues with corn ethanol, and not the biggest one at that. Corn ethanol as a fuel is a bad idea even if it were somehow magically compatible with engine systems designed for a different fuel.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ricardo is not an independent reviewer. Ricardo makes car parts. If cars break, Ricardo gets more business. They have every incentive to slant the results. An independent reviewer would be a university study or an independent laboratory like the Southwest Research Institute or Underwriters Laboratories or other laboratory paid only to do independent testing.

      Why would the ethanol industry choose a car parts maker to do the testing instead of an independent laboratory? I am not saying the test is invalid, just that the whole arrangement reeks of conflict of interest.
        • 3 Years Ago
        As joeviocoe pointed out, it is impossible even for an independent organization to produce a study that is unbiased, due to their financial interest in providing a study that is favorable to those who commissioned it.

        I'm not sure how we can ever believe any study:

        Study by concerned/connected industry = biased *for*
        Study by independent company funded by industry = biased *for*
        Study by outside observers (ie different industry so no pro-bias) = biased *against*

        Science is broken, if we believe everyone is biased to the degree that no study can be reliably trusted. Perhaps if we group the findings of numerous studies, and see what trends exist.

        More studies needed!

        (oh wait, that means the studies are performed by self-interested researchers, who simply create conflicting studies merely to ensure that more studies need to be done, ensuring their own livelihoods)
        • 3 Years Ago
        "Ricardo is not an independent reviewer. Ricardo makes car parts. If cars break, Ricardo gets more business. They have every incentive to slant the results. An independent reviewer would be a university study or an independent laboratory like the Southwest Research Institute or Underwriters Laboratories or other laboratory paid only to do independent testing."

        They are more of a engineering consulting company than OEM supplier.
      • 3 Years Ago
      So they did a salt spray test on the outside, and were amazed that the ethanol hadn't eaten a hole in the tank ?
      • 3 Years Ago
      What happened to the electorate having a say in this instead of our friggin' government being run by lobbies and bureaucrats ???

      SIMPLE: I see no friggin' benefit of ethanol, and I don't want it.

      And how about those food prices ?
      If you deny we've had massive inflation in food prices in the past 3 years, you haven't been to the grocery store. Yes, there's a connection to ethanol.
        • 3 Years Ago
        All food prices have gone up due to increase in oil not just corn products.
      • 3 Years Ago
      No surprises here. Been burning E10 and E15 in my 1998 for much of it's life. Never a fuel related problem. Same goes for my lawn mower, lawn tractor, and snow blower.

      Anecdotal of course, so take it as that.
      • 3 Years Ago
      If Ricardo says it then it must be true!
      Yep thats good enough for me.
      It was age that took out my caravan and c2500,my lawnmower and weedwacker at a measly 10% concentration.
      Meanwhile I'm tickled to death that 10 corporate farms receive the lionshare of subsidies for corn grown for ethanol.
      Did I mention that three of the 10 corporate farms are owned through fronts by politicians allied with the Koch brothers and Freedomworks Teaparty? or that they pay no taxes but rather are paid by You and Me thanks to the latest round of corporate welfare,known as the Bush/Obama tax cuts?
      I smell a rat and yes I doth protest too much but hypocrisy cuts everything it touches and repeating the same mantra does not make a lie into truth no matter what Goebbels espoused.
        • 3 Years Ago
        "Paranoid Nut job"
        Right and the Government is out to take away your rights by hobbling big business with pesky laws that protect the people from predation by the privileged few.
        Glen Beck much? Buy Gold,now!
        If free enterprise is the end-all-be-all of capitalism,why does the ethanol industry need lobbyist's and subsidies(quid pro quo)to be profitable?
        If You find the fellow who is responsible for my ruined equipment then run his name and address by me here,i have a bill to give him.
        Oh and Koch Brothers?
        Yeah I used to rebuild the heating elements of their asphalt cookers so I do know what a bunch of over-zealous and hypocritical self-patriotic,pious,unctuous douche bags they really are in person.
        In the mean time there is this:
        http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-koch-brothers-20110206,0,7986328,print.story



        • 3 Years Ago
        "I guarantee that there are guys on the right saying that Soros is behind E15 too."

        Darn straight. Those nutty soy farmers, for sure:

        "Billionaire financier George Soros expects ethanol to grow as an alternative energy source, he told Brazilian financial newspaper Valor Economico.

        "I think that the ethanol is a very attractive alternative and, as an investor, I believe I am one of the biggest ethanol producers in Brazil," Soros said in the interview."

        http://www.soyatech.com/news_story.php?id=1852

        "Oil giant BP and George Soros' investment firm are putting millions of dollars into a company that has isolated a microbe that can create ethanol.

        Qteros, formerly called SunEthanol, on Tuesday announced the $25 million series B round of funding, which was led by venture capital firm Venrock and Battery Ventures. Other investors were BP, Soros Fund Management, and first-round investors Long River Ventures and Camros Capital. "

        http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-10101176-54.html

        "In Argentina, George Soros’s Adecoagro group of sugar and ethanol interests is aiming to increase production by 129 percent by 20116 and may pursue an IPO."

        http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/blog2/2010/02/03/all-growing-hfc-23s-emissions-carbon-fraud-soros-ethanol-ambitions-malaysian-palm-production/


        George Soros stands to make a bundle from ethanol.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Paranoid nutjob. Koch brothers under every bed and behind every tree.

        I guarantee that there are guys on the right saying that Soros is behind E15 too.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Does ethanol content cause any problem to old car motors? Of course. It's the same problem we used to face here in Brazil back in the 70 and 80's when our program started. It differs in some chemical characteristics: the mix is colder than gasoline, so it requires some "warm up" to run properly. Another point is that it require the engines to be engineered to operate at higher compression rates. But problably the worst problem we used to face was its corrosion proneness to all metalic parts. This problem was solved by substituting the old metal gas tank (and all parts havind direct contact with the combustible) for one made of a special plastic. The "flex" electronic wizardry components develop in the latest years definetely buried those boring problems associated with the propelent.
      • 3 Years Ago
      There was very recent BMW & Mercedes announcement that based on their testing ethanol-diluted gasolines introduce water in oil systems ruining it in long run. That means more oil changes even in newer cars.

      Biofuels in general are huge and enormous natural disaster in making, much much bigger than crude oil pumped from the ground. They produce biofuels by cutting down rainforests. Rainforests are Earth lungs. Without oxygen it doesn't matter what the CO2 levels are, we die. We all die. I just hope that this insanity gets under control before it is too late.
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Ricardo is not an independent reviewer. Ricardo makes car parts. If cars break, Ricardo gets more business. They have every incentive to slant the results. An independent reviewer would be a university study or an independent laboratory like the Southwest Research Institute or Underwriters Laboratories or other laboratory paid only to do independent testing. "

      They're more of a engineering consulting company than OEM supplier.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Looks like the study was funded by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.
      An independent study would be more interesting.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Although Ricardo might be considered "independent".... consulting/research firms tend to interpret data favorable to the party they report to... even if the funding is neutral.

        This is because, reports that are favorable will be published more often... and the resulting advertisement brings in future business.
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