Higher Ethanol Blends & Blender Pumps
Automakers currently cover up to 10% ethanol blends by warranty for standard vehicles, and ethanol blends up to 85% are for use in Flexible Fuel Vehicles. But there is great potential for using blends of ethanol between E10 and E85, and the American Coalition for Ethanol is leading efforts to attend to any technical or regulatory hurdles in the path of using mid-range ethanol blends like E20, E30, and E40.
Ethanol blender pumps are key to the retailing of these fuels of the future. Used for years to blend and dispense types of diesel fuel or grades of gasoline, blender pumps are now being used to blend gasoline and E85 to make a variety of mid-range blends such as 20%, 30%, or 40% ethanol.
E15 Blended Fuel
In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave final approval for E15 blends to be sold to consumers with vehicles 2001 and newer. The agency granted two partial waivers in 2011, that taken together allow but did not require the introduction into commerce of gasoline that contains greater than 10 volume percent (vol%) ethanol and up to 15 vol% ethanol (E15) for use in model year (MY) 2001 and newer light-duty motor vehicles, subject to certain conditions. On October 13, 2010, EPA granted the first partial waiver for E15 to be used in MY2007 and newer light-duty motor vehicles (cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles). On January 21, 2011 EPA granted the second partial waiver for E15 to be used in MY2001 - 2006 light-duty motor vehicles. Those decisions were based on test results provided and conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and other test data and information regarding the potential effect of E15 on vehicle emissions.
The EPA says that E15 may be lawfully sold by a fuel or a fuel additive manufacturer only after the manufacturer has registered E15 and met the conditions of the partial waivers, which include a misfueling mitigation plan for minimizing the potential for E15 to be used in vehicles and engines not covered by the partial waivers.
To read a list of Frequently Asked Questions about E15, click here.
To read the EPA's information on E15, click here.
Ethanol Blends Beyond 10%
In addition to anecdotal evidence from motorists who have reported successful use of blends beyond 10% ethanol in standard vehicles, scientific evidence is mounting that non-flex-fuel autos may be able to operate well on blends beyond the E10 that automakers currently certify.
In addition to a 1999 study on the use of E30 in standard autos and a 2006 ethanol fuel economy study, the "Optimal Ethanol Blend-Level Investigation" found that the vehicles tested operated well on blends beyond 10%. The "optimal blend" research also found the belief about ethanol's mileage penalty (that as the fuel's ethanol content goes up, the fuel economy would go down due to ethanol's lower BTU value) not to be true. Instead, the pilot research suggests that there is an "optimal" blend of ethanol and gasoline -- likely E20 or E30 -- at which vehicles get better mileage than predicted, and in some cases even better mileage than gasoline. E20 offered a 15% mileage improvement over gasoline in one of the four vehicles, and E30 offered a 1% mileage increase in two of the vehicles.
The State of Minnesota is conducting research on E20 to prepare for its statewide ethanol requirement to change from 10% to 20% in 2013. Its research, completed in early 2008, shows that E20 presents no materials compatibility issues for today's vehicle fleet and fuel dispensing infrastructure. No drivability concerns were raised in the year-long testing. View a press release or download the executive summary of the Minnesota research.
In 2006, Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, South Dakota conducted research on a standard, non-flex-fuel vehicle that had run almost exclusively on E85 for more than 100,000 miles. The engine of the 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe was torn down to examine the E85's long-term impact on the engine components. Not only did the engine not show any adverse effects from the use of E85, some of the engine components were in even better condition than a comparable vehicle that had run on gasoline. View a brief video outlining the research findings at www.ethanol.org/video.
Related Reading: "Exploring Ethanol Blends Beyond Ten Percent" (Ethanol Today Magazine, June 2007)
Ethanol Blender Pumps
Blender pumps are not new to the petroleum retailing industry, but they are now finding a new use in the dispensing of mid-range ethanol blends such as E20, E30, and E40. Blender pumps typically use two underground tanks -- one for E85 and one for unleaded gasoline -- and a variety of ethanol blends are made by mixing the appropriate percentages of fuel from each tank. Motorists can select their fuel blend of choice at the touch of a button, and the finished fuel is blended and dispensed for them from a regular fuel hose and nozzle.
Because automakers' certifications have not yet changed to cover the use of more than 10% ethanol in standard vehicles, any blends beyond E10 are labeled "For Flexible Fuel Vehicles Only" at the pump.
The American Coalition for Ethanol has released "Blending Better Solutions," a petroleum marketer's guide to E85, mid-range ethanol blends, and ethanol blender pumps. Download a PDF copy of this publication here.
- "Choosing Higher Blends: Ethanol Blender Pumps" Ethanol Today, July 2007
- "A Better Blend" Dakota Farmer, April 2008
Biofuels Infrastructure Assistance
*Federal and state incentive programs can be combined to help install E85 and blender pump equipment. Often, the laws will require a retailer to use E85 to create the mid-level blends.
FEDERAL BIOFUELS INFRASTRUCTURE
Tax Credit for E85 Infrastructure
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005, P.L. 109-58) created a 30 percent federal income tax credit, up to $30,000 maximum, to establish alternative fuel infrastructure. The provision permits taxpayers to claim a 30 percent credit for the cost of installing clean-fuel vehicle refueling property to be used in a trade or business of the taxpayer or installed at the principal residence of the taxpayer. Under the provision, clean fuels are any fuel at least 85 percent of the volume of which consists of ethanol, natural gas, compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, and hydrogen and any mixture of diesel fuel and biodiesel containing at least 20 percent biodiesel. The provision is effective for property placed in service after December 31, 2005 and before January 1, 2010.
Prohibition on Franchise Agreement Restrictions Related to E85 Infrastructure
Section 241 of The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140) amends the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act to prohibit for a franchisor (i.e. oil company) to restrict a franchisee from installing E85 infrastructure through a franchise agreement.
STATE BIOFUELS INFRASTRUCTURE
For a list of current state biofuels infrastructure programs, click here.
*For updates to state infrastructure programs, please contact Lacey Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org.