Auto Makers Join E15 Fuel Flap

Resistance to a US proposal that would allow the sale of gasoline containing up to 15 per cent ethanol got a major boost yesterday when a group of leading automakers warned that the move could void customer warranties.

“The proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency, which has the backing of Canadian government officials, has sparked letters from 12 automakers to US Representative James Sensenbrenner attacking the plan to sell so-called E15 fuel,” notes a report in the July 6, 2011 edition of the Toronto Star.  The letters say the fuel may damage engines and fuel supply systems in vehicles made to run on gasoline with lower ethanol content.

To whit: “While Chrysler has been a strong advocate of renewable fuels, we have concerns about the potential harmful effects of E15 in engines and fuel systems that were not designed for use of that fuel,” writes Jody Trapasso, Chrysler’s Senior VP of External Affairs.  Letters were also submitted by BMW,  Mercedes Benz, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, Volkswagen and Volvo.

Last October, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the use of E15 fuel for model year 2007 and newer vehicles in the US. In January 2011, E15 was further approved for model year 2001-2006 cars and trucks.

The recreational boating industry, led by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), has opposed  the introduction of E15 fuel from the start out of concern that its use in marine engines could lead to engine damage. In December 2010, NMMA even went as far as to file suit in the US Court of Appeals challenging the EPA’s approval of E15 fuel. NMMA continues to work with the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM) in a coalition called the Engine Products Group (EPG) in pursuing this legal challenge.

“As E15 becomes available for on-road vehicles, this greatly increases the likelihood of misfueling in boats, the large majority of which are refueled at neighborhood automotive gas stations where E15 will be sold,” said NMMA President, Thom Dammrich. “NMMA is disappointed that EPA’s only mechanism to protect consumers from confusion at the pump and consequent engine failures, emissions control failures and safety issues is a small label on the pump.”

The orange and black gas pump warning label – in English only – says that use of E15 fuel may lead to engine damage in non-approved engines. However, NMMA says the label is inadequate, and does not even meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) warning label standards that require recognizable warning symbols and icons.