Rider group calls to stop ethanol fuel push

Caberg Duke flip-up helmet ethanol fuel

Governments are continuing to push ethanol fuel on the market, despite the fact that it can damage motorcycle engines.

In Australia, Queensland and NSW force service stations to supply a certain percentage of E10 (10% ethanol blend) fuel.

In the US, there are moves to push that blend from 10% to 15%.

The American Motorcyclist Association has backed a bipartisan move to prohibit the US Environmental Protection Agency from allowing the introduction of fuel blends with more than 10% ethanol by volume.

More should also be done by Australian rider representative groups to resist this growing government push for ethanol fuel.

According to the Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, only post-1986 bikes and ATVs made by BMW, Harley, Polaris and Victory can safely use E10.

No Japanese bikes and no Piaggio products can use it. The FCAI doesn’t mention other brands, but it can be assumed ethanol blends are not suitable.

Ethanol doesn’t work with carburettors or mechanical fuel injection. It is also a solvent which attacks metallic and rubber-based fuel lines, and has an affinity to water that can cause steel fuel tanks to rust.

Inadvertent fuellingAvoid filling your motorcycle tank with ethanol fuel

The big concern is that many riders are unaware that their motorcycle could be damaged by using ethanol-blended fuels and are inadvertently using E10.

Some riders are being fooled by the higher octane rating of E10 fuels, usually 95 compared with ULP at 89 or 91 and PULP at 95 or 98.

They have the misconception that the 95 octane rating is suitable for modern engines yet cheaper than PULP.

However, RACQ executive manager technical and safety policy, Steve Spalding, warns that ethanol-blended, higher-octane fuels may not necessarily meet the correct fuel requirements for a vehicle designated to run on PULP.

While the RON may be high enough, there is another property in fuel, called Motor Octane Number (MON), which is rarely specified on the bowser.

MON is usually about 10 numbers lower than RON, so a MON of 85 would be ok for a bike rated at 95 RON.

However, ethanol fuels have much lower MON numbers than their RON which could be too low for your bike.

Riders are also confused and attracted by the fact that E10 is usually a few cents cheaper than ULP and much cheaper than 95 or 98 RON.

However, there is about 3% less energy content in a litre of E10 compared with unleaded fuel which means your engine performance and fuel economy will be 3% worse, or to put it another way, your range will be limited by 3%.

The price of E10 would need to be at least 3% less than ULP for riders to even break even on the fill.

Fuelling advice

Either ask the service/gas station for the MON rating or fill up non-ethanol premium unleaded fuel of 95 RON or higher.

It is always best to have a higher octane rating than a lower one even though modern engine management systems have knock sensors that can handle lower octane.

If there is no choice but to fill up with ethanol fuel, make sure your next fill is with a high-octane fuel.

There are plenty of signs and advertising around promoting ethanol, but nothing warning motorcyclists about the potential engine damage!

AMA action

AMA wants to stop E15 in American gas stations Ethanol fuel
AMA wants to stop E15 in American gas stations

Meanwhile, the AMA is calling on American riders to send a message to their representatives by clicking here on their Take Action page and entering your information.

The AMA encourages riders to adjust their messages by drawing on personal riding experiences.

Further reading

Motorbike Writer has published several articles on ethanol fuel in motorcycles.

Check out the articles below under “More stories you may also like”.

12 Comments

  1. My BA ute would also shit itself if I was stupid enough to put ethanol in it. My Harley is meant to be able to take it,but judging from the terrible performance and backfiring the time I got stuck and had no choice I doubt that claim. Also dropped 100km of my range.

  2. We’re not alone with our bike engines. Car engines are in the same boat … oh wait … then there are the boat engines … … |:-|

    I’ll add more later, BUT …

    – here in Queensland, IMHO, the so-called ‘ethanol fuel industry’ is driven in the Qld parliment by a combination of left-wing ideology and far-right wing redneck-ology, c/- Katter juniour, and his cane farmer constituents.

    Not a single one of these ‘individuals’ have a single ‘motoring’ bone in their body. Their big turn-on is to sit around in back room meetings with the party apparatchik, and devise absurd new laws around their banal ‘twisting’ of the logic of our everyday life. Me??? Cynical? Nawwww.

    Anyway – when the benefits of our local, environmentally friendly, ethanol industry – is analysed at it’s small scale production levels – the energy balance (production energy in vs ethanol energy out), is negative.

    Meaning, that we spend more energy to make the stuff than what save by using the stuff, compared to the use of petrol.

    Yep – Queensland – The Smart State. (Just don’t look too deeply).

  3. “Either ask the service/gas station for the MON rating or fill up non-ethanol premium unleaded fuel of 95 RON or higher.”

    Yes, I remember the days when you could get service station attendants that knew something about fuel…

  4. Things must be different in the city (I assume you live in a city). Here in Northern NSW and the bush areas we ride in all over the country, virtually all ethanol-blended fuel is 91 octane. I have just lately seen 94 octane ethanol-blended fuel in one or two places, but have never once seen 95 octane E10 as per your article. Personally I always fill my motorcycle tank with 98, unless that is not available in which case I get 95 or in the worst case 91 that doesn’t contain ethanol.

    Your assertion that PULP is ALWAYS better is not quite correct. Higher octane fuel burns too slowly for some low-compression engines, such as 2-strokes with compression ratio of 6:1 that I have owned in the past. To use high octane fuels in such an engine results in un-burnt fuel going out through the exhaust valve. For modern high-compression engines you would be mostly correct.

    1. I agree Graeme, PULP isn’t always better. You should always run the lowest octane possible in your vehicle before knocking/pinging occurs for best performance.

      High octane doesn’t require just high compression. My 600RR is 12:1 compression and only requires 91. Running higher octane is a waste as the bike cannot adjust the timing etc for the octane rating. Which means more carbon deposits and unburnt fuel out the exhaust.

      Read the owners manual, and use what is recommended. Runnning a higher octane “just because it’s better” is just a waste.

  5. “No Japanese bikes (and no Piaggio products) can use it.”

    The owner manuals for SUZUKI DR650SE, DR-Z400S and DL650 (MY2015) clearly state that up to 10% ethanol can be used in these models. ( I own all 3)
    Honda seems to allow up to 10%. ( I checked 2 manuals)
    Kawasaki and Yamaha make no mention. ( I checked 2 manuals each)
    You’re right about Piaggio.

    I once bought a ’94 BMW K75S in not working condition and it turned out that the rubber mount for the fuel pump inside the tank was dissolved and the black goo clogged up the pump. The bike was last registered in QLD. My theory is: ethanol damage.

  6. The dangers of alcohol blended fuels
    The ron and mon ratings can vary sharply with age, you may fill up with 95 ron but leave your vehicle sit for a few weeks and discover that the ethanol that made cheap ulp 95 ron has either evaporated out or soaked up water and is sitting at the bottom of the tank. This is very dangerous for the engine as it can cause knocking in pre computerised vehicles or hydrolock or simply stall the engine.
    Various plastic fuel components can become brittle or erode away and cause a fuel leak and possible fire, the ethanol can combine with water contaminants and products of corrosion to form a horrible jelly that clogs and gums up the fuel system. Ethanol can burn hotter especially in a lean condition which is the most likely circumstance in a carburetted engine or mechanical fuel injection. this can result in valves burning out.

    E10 is good on occasion to clean out a fuel system if you suspect water in the tank just don’t let it sit for more that a day before running it dry and filling up with the good stuff.

    1. Hi Todd,
      Why?
      With so many people starving in the world, why should more fields of corn be devoted to running internal combustion engines?
      The future of transport is electric power via renewable generating sources, not old, inefficient fuels such as ethanol.
      Cheers,
      Mark

      1. Ethanol and other biofuels don’t have to be made out of plants that take up valuable growing space it’s just unfortunate that it is often so much cheaper and more profitable for a would be fuel company to buy up land or the production of a farm than use the sources that are essentially free.
        Every week tonnes of biomass goes straight into landfill when it could go into fuel production. An example of this kind of short sighted waste is when a certain QLD council had the opportunity to choose between an Australian developed power plant fuelled by the local garbage collection or a landfill owned by an American conglomerate. Guess which one they choose.

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