The Woodward News

December 4, 2012

AAA warns consumers that E15 fuel could cause problems

Gary Engel
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — AAA Oklahoma wants consumers to be aware of the possible damage that could be done to their vehicles through using E15 blended  fuel.

AAA Vice President-Public Affairs Chuck Mai said the gas, which has ethanol blended in it at a 15-percent rate, has recently been approved for sale by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"AAA is urging the fuel industry to stop the sale of E15 until the drivers get better protection," he said.

AAA engineers have learned that sustained use of E15 in both older and newer vehicles could result in significant problems.

"There could be accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel system damage, and false 'check engine' lights on the dashboard for any vehicle not approved by its manufacturer for use of E15," Mai said.

According to Mai, 5 manufacturers, BMW, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan and Volkswagen, are on record stating that their warranties will not cover fuel-related claims resulting from the use of E15. Several others - Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia. Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo - have said that E15 does not comply with their cars' fuel requirements specified in owners' manuals, and use of it may void warranties.

Mai said the only vehicles currently approved to use ethanol are the automakers' specific flex fuel models, 2001 or newer Porsches and GM vehicles and 2013 Ford vehicles.

"These approvals extend only to cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs," he said. "E15 is expressly prohibited in heavy-duty vehicles, boats, motorcycles, power equipment, lawnmowers and off-road vehicles."

Today, only 12 million out of the more than 240 million vehicles on the road today (about 5 percent) are approved to use the "flex fuel," with E15 in it.

"Quik Trip stores in the Tulsa area say they will stay away from ethanol fuels," said Mai. "Five stations in the Oklahoma City area, part of the OnQ chain, say they will offer E15 fuels, according to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC)."

He said there is no planning to deploy E15 in Woodward now, but AAA wants everyone to be aware of the situation.

Mai said Congress has mandated that by 2022, there will be 36 billion gallons of ethanol produced.

"There are 15 billion gallons made now," he said.

Ethanol's support by the government springs from a 2007 law which orders development of alternative fuels, in part to help provide national energy security.

Agriculture producers, who grow the corn from which most ethanol is made, have pushed the use of the substance.

"The OCC is very diligent about assuring pumps that dispense E15 have orange labels on them to signify that this fuel is contained in them," Mai said. "This will be another choice consumers will have available at the pumps, which the orange labels will help them identify."

He wasn't sure what the costs of E15 fuel will be, but he said the trend seems to indicate it will be less than non-blended gasolines.

Mai said a national survey was conducted of 1,012 men and women over age 18, and 95 percent of them said they hadn't heard of ethanol.

Contact Mai for more information at (405) 753-8040 or chuck.mai@aaaok.org.