Ask The Best And Brightest: Would You Pay More For Ethanol-Free Fuel?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Gasoline with up to ten percent ethanol have been approved for public sale in the US, and the ethanol industry has been pushing to increase the maximum allowed blend to 15 percent. Or 12 percent until the EPA can figure out if E15 damages engines. But with automakers turning against the e15 push, fears about E10-related engine damage (which primarily began with boat and small engine operators) are being more widely heard. So why is E10 allowed if it damages engines? For one thing, points out that

Yamaha warns that due to the fungible nature of fuels in transit from refinery to service station, some E10 fuels may actually get an extra dose of ethanol

In other words, E10 may be safe but you may not actually be getting E10. But more importantly, the market is answering the call of consumers. Over at, a site dedicated to connecting Americans with stations offering ethanol-free gasoline, the number of registered “pure gas” pumps has skyrocketed since June of last year. But, warns the site’s founder (a BMW motorcycle enthusiast),

We buy [ethanol-free gas] because we want to fuel our vehicles with it. If you want to save money on gas, this site is of no use to you – it will NOT have gasoline prices on it. They vary from day to day and this site isn’t about saving money. It’s about finding pure gasoline for your machine.

So we’re wondering: does ethanol-free gas exist near you, and if so, is it more expensive? Finally, is there a price premium you would be willing to pay for ethanol-free gas? Or would you even pick corn-free gas (and its groundwater-accumulating carcinogen MTBE) at price parity with E10?

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Carve Carve on Sep 01, 2010

    Ethanol is use the wrong way in this country. For Ethanol to really save gas, we need to take advantage of it's octane rating. My car is a high-compression turbo 335i, so it takes premium. Still, you can use regular in a pinch, but boost and timing back off so you have reduced performance. Nevertheless, regular is fine for any time your foot isn't in it. Wouldn't it be nice to have a car with a high-compression, efficient, powerful engine with a seperate ethanol tank for acceleration duties? Crusiing, you're running your 11.5:1 engine on regular (or, say, 15:1 on premium). When knock is detected (or when boost goes up, on a turbo), you start metering in 110 Octane ethanol. When you floor it, the gas shuts off and you run pure ethanol. Putting this in the intake manifold, rather than direct injection, would also keep the valves clean on DI motors. This would allow all motors to become more efficient using the same amount of ethanol we're using now. I'm actually thinking of doing something like this on my 335i, when the warranty expires. You can get a methanol injection system for under $500, and a tune to turn up the boost for about the same amount. When boost rises, a methanol/water mix is metered in, raising the octane and cooling the air, avoiding detonation as cylinder pressure and temperature rise. It won't get me any extra mpg without a compression ratio increase, but it will get me more power availability with the same efficiency.

  • Mr Carpenter Mr Carpenter on Sep 01, 2010

    I have one station somewhat near me which sells premium unleaded E0 (100% gasoline) and I use it for my small engines, my BMW "toy" and when I can, I even put it in my daily drivers (though it costs more for it than cheapo 87 octane E10). So YES would be my answer. You guys are all men (and women) after my own heart! I've been writing on here for some long while about how crap ethanol is - I didn't realize how many others knew the same thing.

  • Mopar4wd Mopar4wd on Sep 02, 2010

    I used to be an out board mechanic when e-10 hit here in CT. CT required all over the road gas be E-10 so all gas stations sell e-10 Marinas can buy non e-10 but there is a premium as the distributors only want to send out full trucks with out ethanol added. I believe it's the same in NY, MA and FL. I currently work in Marine insurance and I see a ton of claims for ethanol related damage(not covered by insurance) Fuel tanks melt, rubber hoses disintegrate and nothing stays in tune. Ethanol will attract water which means if the gas sits to long in humid conditions the ethanol can attract enough water that it separates from the gas and now you have real problems. The automotive industry started preparing for e-10 in the late 70's everybody else started in the eighties. But certain new engines already have problems as noted. Yamaha was one of the most reliable outboards in the world until E-10 after E-10 I wouldn't touch one. I have a number of friends who saltwater fish and have sworn by yamaha for years suddenly their outboards became unreliable and it was always a fuel problem. Now if you can run a Yammie without ethanol I'm sure they would be as reliable as ever, if you run e-10 beware.

  • CopperCountry CopperCountry on Sep 04, 2010

    Keep this story going! Because the fuel system damage caused by ethanol is going to get worse if/when the EPA grants the E15 waiver. For newer cars that are driven daily, and get a fresh tank of fuel every week or two, E10 is pretty inocuous ... however, run it in older cars (where the metals and elastomers in the fuel system are damaged by ethanol), or let it sit for a month or two, or run it in any 2-stroke equipment, and it's a different story. Unfortunately, we have engine and equipment manufacturers who won't admit that they have a product which can be damaged by the most common form of gasoline (E10), and we have refiners who won't admit that their product will damage the fuel system in older vehicles and small engines. Just take a look at what Shell-Australia has to say about E10: "Not suitable for use in ..."