Yes ethanol is corrosive, but not very much. Petrol is corrosive too. Ethanol is biodegradable in water. So it has a tendency to contain and attract water. It is not the corrosive properties of ethanol that can cause damage to your vehicle; it is the water which can rust a vehicle’s fuel system from the inside out. Today’s vehicles (since mid 1980s) have fuel systems which are made to withstand corrosive motor fuels and rust from water. Also today’s distilling processes are superior to way back when. We now have better techniques for drying out ethanol or reducing the water content.
On a side note, petrol contains water too. Ever hear of dry petrol?
2. If I put E85 in my gas tank, it will eat it away.
If your car was built in the old days, it had a lead coated, steel tank. The water in ethanol would cause the tank to rust from the inside out. In the USA, the government mandated that all petrol contain 10% ethanol to help reduce tail pipe emissions, Australia has brought in similar legislation too. In the 1980s, automakers made vehicles with fuel systems to be ethanol and rust tolerant. Petrol tanks began to contain polymers and Teflon which are extremely durable.
3. If I put E85 ethanol in my non-Flex Fuel vehicle, it will ruin it.
One tank won’t hurt. Some dealers are spreading rumours and charging $300-$3000 for one tank of accidental E85 use. This use may cause misfiring and a rough ride. Your 'check engine' light will come on. If you should accidentally (or on purpose) put E85 in your vehicle, drain the tank, put in regular petrol and all will be well. If you use E85 without a conversion kit or in a non-Flex Fuel capable vehicle for an extended period, you can damage your engine.
4. Ethanol will burn up my engine.
Ethanol has a lower ignition point than petrol. Ethanol has about 115 octane and E85 has 105 octane. It burns cooler and will extend engine life by preventing the burning of engine valves and preventing the build-up of olefins in fuel injectors, keeping the fuel system cleaner.
5. Ethanol will ruin gaskets, seals, rings and more.
Running 100% ethanol or alcohol in an engine can cause damage to cork products.
The rubber neoprene used in the last 20 + years is resistant to the drying effect that ethanol may have.
Today's vehicles are built to withstand the corrosive effects of water in ethanol and petrol. Any vehicle built since 1985 will have no ethanol related issues. Older vehicles, that used more steel in the fuel systems or cork gaskets, may have issues from long term exposure to water.
Vehicles in Brazil have been using ethanol for 30 years, and they are completely free from using any foreign oil.
6. E85 will eat my rubber fuel lines.
This is another myth from the old days. Rubber technology has significantly advanced, so the concerns of a car (20 years old or newer) having issues like this are extremely rare. Plus the 15% unleaded will help keep lines lubricated.
7. E85 will destroy my fuel pump.
E85 won’t destroy your fuel pump. If you convert a high mileage vehicle to Flex Fuel, the E85 will cause the sediment in the petrol tank to dissolve and then get sucked up by the fuel pump. It is believed that this sediment may shorten the life of the pump of your higher mileage vehicle (100,000+). We have had no reports from customers with damaged fuel pumps.
8. It takes more than a gallon of energy to make a gallon of E85.
This was true at one point in time. Today’s advanced technology and distilling processes actually create considerably more units of ethanol than units of energy used. The processes continue to advance and the ratio will continue to increase.
9. E85 Ethanol is worse for the environment than petrol.
There have been some people who have published reports stating that E85 is worse than petrol for the environment. They have yet to show any scientific proof or case studies that support their claims. Because E85 is cleaner than conventional unleaded petrol, it emits less hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and hydrogen. E85 reduces carbon monoxide emissions by as much as 70 percent — and less carbon monoxide helps reduce ozone formation and greenhouse gas levels. According to EPA, petrol is the largest source of manmade carcinogens. Ethanol reduces overall toxic pollution by diluting harmful compounds found in petrol such as benzene and other aromatics.
10. Using E85 ethanol will get 50% less mileage per tank.
There are some stories floating around about 50% reduction in mileage or twice as much ethanol is needed. Some of the automakers who introduced Flex vehicles did a terrible job with the fuel management systems, so that mileage did decrease as much as 50%. After some trial and error however, the automakers have significantly improved their Flex systems and mileage conservation is within reasonable losses such as 5-15%. Conversion Kits like the Flex Fuel Kit have been around for over 20 years. Realistic losses range from 5-15% as well.
11. Vehicles need more E85 ethanol, so there is less power.
It is true that a vehicle does require more E85 than regular unleaded since the amount of energy per unit of ethanol is less than that of petrol. Ethanol has a lower ignition temperature so the engine overall will run cooler -- increasing power. It also burns slower: so instead of just burning out in one violent explosion forcing the piston down, it continues to burn the entire length of the piston stroke expanding gases more evenly and smoothly. So running E85 will give any engine more power over any pump petrol. Also E85 is 105 octane. Petrol comes in 85, 89 and 91 octane. The 105 octane of E85 will help to eliminate knocks and pings. All of these benefits will make an engine run smoother and quieter.
12. Won't E85 production deplete human and animal food supplies?
No, actually the production of ethanol from corn uses only the starch of the corn kernel: all of the valuable protein, minerals and nutrients remain. One bushel of corn produces about 2.7 gallons of ethanol AND 11.4 pounds of gluten feed (20% protein) AND 3 pounds of gluten meal (60% protein) AND 1.6 pounds of corn oil.
In Australia, the majority of ethanol is produced from suger cane waste: not from crops suitable for human consumption.
View all articles by Richard Ballinger