MotorbikeWriter has frequently suggested riders steer clear of using ethanol fuel in their motorcycles and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agrees that it can damage motorcycle engines.
The US agency says ethanol-blended fuels increase exhaust temperatures which can cause component failure. It has proposed a cutback in its availability.
Ethanol is a type of alcohol produced by fermentation of sugarcane or grain. In Australia, ethanol content in unleaded fuel is limited to 10% (E10), the US it’s 15% but some countries use 85% or even higher.
E10 is becoming more prevalent throughout Australian service stations and NSW service stations even have to stock a minimum requirement of the fuel which means that there is no alternative at some NSW servos.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries lists the following motorcycles, scooters and ATVs for ethanol suitability:
|E5 Suitable||E10 Suitable|
|Aprilia||All motorcycles and scooters||√||√|
|BMW||All motorcycles post 1986||√||√|
|Can-Am||All ATVs & SSVs||√||√|
|Harley Davidson||All motorcycles post 1986||√||√|
|Honda||All motorcycles and All Terrain Vehicles||x||x|
|Kawasaki||All motorcycles and All Terrain Vehicles with the exception of the list below||x||x|
|Kawasaki||KLX110A/C/D (KLX110/L) 2006-2012 models, KL250J (Stockman) 2006-2012 models, KLX250T (KLX250S) 2009-2012 models, KLX250W (KLX250SF) 2010-2012 models, KL650E (KLR650) 2008-2012 models, KLE650A (Versys) 2008-2009 models, KLE650D (Versys ABS*) 2010-2012 models, ER650A (ER-6n) 2006-2008 models, ER650C (ER-6n) 2009 model, ER650D (ER-6n ABS*) 2009-2011 models, EX650A (ER-6f) 2006-2008 models, EX650C (Ninja 650R) 2009 model, EX650D (Ninja 650R ABS*) 2010-2011 models, ZR750L (Z750) 2007-2012 models, EJ800A (W800) 2011 2012 models, VN900B ( Vulcan 900 Classic) 2006-2011 models, VN900C (Vulcan 900 Custom) 2006-2011 models* E10 fuel is approved for use in these LAMS variants models||√||√|
|Moto Guzzi||All fuel-injected motorcycles
|Suzuki||All motorcycles and All Terrain Vehicles except the two stroke range||√||√|
|Yamaha||All motorcycle and All Terrain Vehicles|
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.
For some time the American Motorcyclist Association has been fighting the distribution of E15 fuel blends in an effort to protect motorcycle and all-terrain vehicles from the damage that ethanol causes. It has applauded the EPA’s decision to roll back the requirement for wider distribution and use of E15 under its Renewable Fuel Standard.
According to the EPA, ethanol makes engines run leaner (with a higher air to fuel ratio) which can lead to increased exhaust gas temperatures. It ays that could gradually destroy emission control hardware and performance, possibly causing catalyst failure. Ethanol can also cause “materials compatibility issues”, which may lead to other component failures.
Riders should also be aware that the higher octane rating on some ethanol fuels may be misleading. For more information, read this.