President Trump E15 fuel pledge riles riders

Fuel service station helmet motorcycle tank ethanol Trump e15

President Donald Trump says his is “getting very close” to approving a waiver to allow 15% ethanol fuel blends (E15) to be sold year-round.

The American Motorcyclist Association is furious. It says it is illegal to use fuel containing more than 10% ethanol in motorcycles and ATVs. They say ethanol can damage fuel systems and engine components and may void a manufacturer’s warranty.

In Australia, Queensland and NSW force service stations to supply a certain percentage of E10. However, if Trump is successful, it could embolden politicians here and around the world to increase the ethanol content in fuels.

The Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries advises 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.

In the USA, E15 cannot be sold during summer without an Environmental Protection Agency waiver because of the fuel’s high volatility.

American farmers want Trump to force the EPA to grant the waiver year-round.

This would lead to an increase in the number of stations selling E15, placing riders in greater jeopardy of misfueling, says AMA spokesman Wayne Allard.

“The AMA also fears that higher-ethanol blends, such as E15, will begin to push ethanol-free and E10 fuel out of the marketplace, much the way E10 has marginalised E0, the fuel required for older and vintage machines,” he says.

Wayne points out that most consumers shop for fuel by price, rather than ethanol content, and ethanol costs less.

Fooled by E10 and E15 fuelFuel service station helmet e15

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

Some Australian riders may be 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.

RACQ technical executive manager Steve Spalding warns that higher-octane E10 may not meet the fuel requirements for bikes 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.

Cheaper fuel

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, ethanol has about 30% less energy than regular unleaded fuel. So a litre of E10 has about 3% less energy. That means your engine performance, fuel economy and range will be 3% worse.

The price of E10 needs to be at least 3% less than ULP for riders to break even on the fill.Fuel service station helmet e15

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!

8 Comments

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octane_rating#Research_Octane_Number_(RON)

    Anti-Knock Index (AKI) or (R+M)/2
    In most countries in Europe (also in Australia and New Zealand) the “headline” octane rating shown on the pump is the RON, but in Canada, the United States, Brazil, and some other countries, the headline number is the average of the RON and the MON, called the Anti-Knock Index (AKI), and often written on pumps as (R+M)/2. It may also sometimes be called the Posted Octane Number (PON).

    Difference between RON, MON, and AKI
    Because of the 8 to 12 octane number difference between RON and MON noted above, the AKI shown in Canada and the United States is 4 to 6 octane numbers lower than elsewhere in the world for the same fuel. This difference between RON and MON is known as the fuel’s Sensitivity,[5] and is not typically published for those countries that use the Anti-Knock Index labelling system.

    See the table in the following section for a comparison.

  2. Okay here’s a list of the bits affected by blended fuels.
    Seals and O rings made of rubber and some plastics
    Hoses and the diaphragm in some types of pumps and regulators
    The float in the fuel bowl if made out of some plastics
    The seal in the needle and seat.
    Bits to replace them with.
    PTFE lined fuel hoses
    Metal instead of plastic for some parts like the float and T pieces.
    Plastics and rubber components certified for ethanol fuel blends.
    Unless you are riding some classic bike they don’t make parts for anymore most suppliers should have ethanol safe replacement parts.
    Any bike rated for unleaded fuel that still has parts made for it should have all those parts replaced as a service item anyway.

    Problems running a non ethanol engine on ethanol.
    If it has a computer and oxygen sensor it may not pump enough fuel through the injectors and cause the engine to run lean, a chip or reprogram may be required.
    If it has a carburettor you may need to change the jets.
    Water and stale fuel are also major concerns as mentioned before.

  3. Most of this is hyped up scare tactics.
    The fuel is safe in almost every engine and fuel system.
    The problems are,
    It eats away at the old style rubber fuel components causing leaks,
    It can evaporate out of fuel leaving low octane fuel behind which can damage the engine,
    It absorbs water and if enough water is absorbed fall out of solution with fuel and that can damage the engine.
    Generally if you are on a ride you could fill up several times with the stuff without harming your bike as long as the last tank full or two is straight juice .
    Don’t ever leave the stuff to sit for more than a week.
    The performance on blended fuel can actually be better but the economy will be lower.

    1. Ethanol has a lower energy density that petrol so I don’t see how performance can improve with blended fiels. It’s an established and proven fact that blended fuels give lower fuel economy (you need to burn more to get the same result).

      1. Obviously performance and economy do not got hand in hand when talking engines.
        The higher the octane rating the higher the compression ratio or the more boost an engine can take and thus the more performance you get out of it.
        Ethanol being less dense and slightly less energy dense than straight petroleum needs a little bit more volume to do the same amount of work as a fuel of the same octane rating
        But in the comparison between a low octane straight fuel and an ethanol blend of higher octane the ethanol blend will win in both performance and economy because the engine can perform at its maximum but with a lower octane fuel the motor is detuned to prevent damage from pinging and knocking.
        The question then becomes is the cost reduction of blended fuel enough to cover the larger amount of fuel needed?

  4. I think the article is a bit mistaken regarding RON & MON and the problems with Ethanol in fuels (are you the author Mark?). This line in particular:

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

    MON and RON both measure the same thing – the ability of a fuel to be compressed before it spontaneously ignites (called knocking or pinging). The scales of RON & MON may be different but they measure the same thing – the fuel will either resist pinging in your bike or it will not. The above quote implies that the RON might be high enough but the MON might not be, which does not make sense.

    The problem with Ethanol is that it is corrosive, and more ethanol is more corrosive. Every single element of the fuel line / system must be able to resist the corrosive effects or disaster strikes.

    E15 has 50% more corrosive ethanol than E10 – that’s the problem! Parts that may be resistant to E10 fuel (and thus safe to use) may not withstand the extra 50% in E15.

  5. For those honestly concerned, E15 has been available since 2012. You know what has experienced growth in availability and sales? E0 or ethanol-free. That is right. As the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) calls for more ethanol, we are selling more E0. How is this possible, it is due to the flexibility of the RFS. As more people use E15 and E85, that allows more E0 to be sold, since it is a total volume, not a mandate or a percentage of the fuel blend.

    E15 can be sold year round already in 30% of the marketplace, and the rest it is curtailed from June 1 – September 15.

    All motorcycles are approved for E10, some even for E15 (check your Indian owner’s manual).

    Sturgis is just a few days away, and for those going, you will be able to see ethanol’s value first-hand. The Buffalo Chip Campground sells 93 octane E10 at a significantly lower price than the local gas stations offer 91 octane E0. Why? The price differential between ethanol and gasoline is substantial, and passed on through the fuel dispenser.

    The AMA continues their flame thrower, woe is us, rhetoric causing confusion and misinformation. The waiver from President Trump will do little instantly, but over time will allow more E15. E15 will always be a choice, as it is not approved for all engines. How could a fuel retailer turn away that business?!

  6. Good luck finding anyone in an Australian petrol station that knows the MON of the fuels coming out of the bowsers.
    Does any Australian fuel retailer’s website even show the MON of their petrols?

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