Fuelling-up with ethanol

What is ethanol?

Report by Staff Writer
Ethanol is a clean-burning, high-octane motor fuel that is produced by the fermentation of plant sugars.  Because it is produced in Zimbabwe, ethanol will help reduce our dependence upon foreign sources of energy.
As an added benefit, ethanol is made from renewable energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 90%.

 
In the transportation industry, ethanol is either used as a vehicle fuel by itself, blended with petrol, or as a petrol octane enhancer and oxygenate.

 

How long has ethanol been in use?
Ethanol has been used by humans since pre-historic times, mainly as the intoxicating ingredient in alcoholic beverages.  Ethanol was first prepared synthetically in 1826.  It has been used as lamp fuel in the United States as early as 1840.

 
From 1908 onward, Ford Model T automobiles were adapted to run on alcohol.

 

Oil price hikes
The fact that oil is a non-sustainable energy source, and oil stocks are rapidly depleting has given momentum to the use of ethanol as fuel over the past 10 years.

 

Are there different types of ethanol?
Ethanol fuel can be hydrous (wet) or anhydrous (dry). Hydrous ethanol is the most concentrated grade of ethanol that can be produced by simple distillation without the further dehydration step necessary to produce anhydrous ethanol.

 

Hydrous ethanol contains 4% water and 96% ethanol.

 
Anhydrous ethanol is an ethyl alcohol that is free of water, has a purity of at least 99,6%, and is produced using the latest distillation technology.

 
Anhydrous ethanol is the highest quality ethanol available for fuel, with excellent performance benefits.   The “fuel grade” ethanol used in Europe is anhydrous and is usually blended with lower percentages of petrol , as it mixes better than hydrous ethanol.

 

What is Green Fuel ethanol?
Green Fuel produces anhydrous ethanol.  This grade of fuel is taken through an additional distillation process, so that it has virtually no water content, and blends better than hydrous ethanol.   Anhydrous ethanol offers a higher quality ethanol fuel, and the modern technology available to remove traces of water results in a more efficient and reliable fuel. Green Fuel is consistent with the quality of ethanol specified by European Commission standards.

 

Is ethanol safe to use?
As a clean-burning and renewable fuel, ethanol is non-toxic and 100% biodegradable.

 

Can ethanol be used in any vehicle and is it covered under my warranty?
All cars can use a 10% ethanol blend without conversion, from Porsches and Ferraris to SUVs, minivans, pick-ups and sedans.   Approval of ethanol blends can be found in the owner’s manual under references to refueling or petrol.  General Motors Corporation, for example, states in its owner’s manual they recommend the use of fuel oxygenates, such as ethanol, when and where available.

 
Most modern cars can handle up to a 20% ethanol blend.  There have been many research and testing reports published on this subject, and all of them have conclusively confirmed that there are no disadvantages.

 
The European Union has issued a mandatory directive stating that the maximum bio-ethanol percentage for non-flexfuel or converted petrol cars is 20% ethanol and 80% petrol.

 

Will ethanol damage my vehicle?
Ethanol will not damage your vehicle.  Ethanol blended fuel ensures that your fuel system is clean for optimal performance, as it does not leave sticky deposits or residue.  Petrol generally results in greater deposits through the fuel system.

 
Anhydrous ethanol, produced by Green Fuel, can be considered new generation ethanol.   With a water content of less than 0,04%, there is no damage and vehicle performance will, in fact, be greatly enhanced as ethanol has a higher octane rating.

 

What are ethanol blends?
Ethanol blends are the amount of ethanol as a percentage mixed with petrol.  For example, E10 is 10% ethanol blended with 90% petrol.  The most common blends are E10, E20, and E85.

 
What is E85?
E85 is fuel that contains 85% ethanol and 15% petrol.  E85 offers superior performance characteristics and burns cleaner than petrol, together with being competitively priced.  It is the most popular blend of ethanol fuel used in the USA, Brazil and Sweden.

 

Can my vehicle be converted to use high ethanol blends?
It is possible to convert a vehicle to run on any blend (ethanol 20% upwards) or even 100% ethanol with a flex fuel conversion kit.  An adjustment is made to the injection system to allow your vehicle to use various combinations of petrol and ethanol.  E85 has a 105 + octane rating right from the pump.

 

Is ethanol-blended fuel bad for fuel injectors?  
Ethanol or ethanol-blends have never contributed to burning or fouling of port fuel injectors.  Some components in petrol, such as olefins, have been identified as causing deposits that can foul injectors.

 
Since ethanol burns 100% and leaves no residue, it cannot contribute to the formation of deposits.

 
Ethanol blends actually keep fuel injectors cleaner — helping improve engine performance. Ethanol does not increase corrosion, nor will it harm any seals or valves.

 

Will ethanol-blended fuel cause vapour lock?
All major auto manufacturers now have in-tank fuel pumps, which are not subject to vapor lock like the older in-line fuel pumps.

 

Will ethanol blends make engines run hotter?
Ethanol actually helps keep your engine cooler, since the ethanol in the fuel combusts at a lower temperature.

 
In fact, many high-powered racing engines use pure alcohol for that very reason. The IndyCar Series® converted to using 100% ethanol beginning in 2007.

 

Will ethanol-blended fuel plug fuel lines?  
Occurrences of plugged fuel filters are virtually non-existent now. The “cleansing” nature of ethanol blended fuels can actually keep your fuel system cleaner and lead to improved performance.

 
In the case of dirty fuel systems, contaminants and residues that have been deposited by petrol can be loosened. That residue can get caught in the fuel filter.

 

Can ethanol blends be used in older cars?
The formulation of petrol has changed dramatically over the past few years without affecting the performance of older cars.

 
Many older cars were designed to run on leaded petrol, with the lead providing necessary octane performance — and the lead oxides that were formed during combustion provided a cushion that reduced wear on non-case-hardened valve seats.

When lead was phased out of petrol, oil companies added toxic chemicals to raise the octane rating — and other additives to replace the “lubrication” value of lead.

 
Ethanol added to petrol increases the octane level of the final fuel by three points — and it does so using a natural, renewable additive that works well in older engines.

 
Can ethanol blended fuels be used in small engines like Motorboats?
Ethanol blended fuel is perfectly acceptable in lawn mowers, boat motors and other small engines. Ethanol blends may be used anywhere that unleaded gasoline is used—from ATVs to chainsaws, from lawn mowers to personal watercraft.  Virtually every small engine manufacturer, including Briggs & Stratton, Honda, Kawasaki, Mercury Marine, Pleasurecraft, Tigershark, Tacker, Yamaha, Kohler, and Snapper, allow the use of ethanol-blended fuel in their products.

 
Ethanol fuel has clean air and water benefits and therefore benefits small engine users.  Tests have shown that these ethanol offers improved performance, due to higher octane ratings.

 
How much will ethanol cost?
Ethanol fuel blends are cheaper than 100% petrol, and savings are also achieved through various other factors, such as importation costs, and carbon taxes. In ethanol, only the proportion of petrol in the blend is affected by the major price variations for raw oil.   Ethanol has lower energy content than petrol and a lower price on higher blends such as E85 will compensate for this.
When added to petrol, ethanol is a key factor to keep fuel prices competitive and more affordable.  Used as an additive, ethanol is not only an effective fuel extender which makes gasoline supplies last longer, but also an octane booster.
How do higher blends affect mileage?

 

Ethanol has a lower energy content than petrol, which means that cars running E85 have a higher consumption than when running exclusively on petrol, depending on the make of the car.  The pricing of ethanol fuel will compensate for this.  Consumption increase is negligible on blends lower than 20%.

 

How does Ethanol affect performance?

Running the engine on ethanol leads to better performance than using petrol.  With an octane rating of 105, ethanol is the highest performance fuel on the market and ensures that today’s high compression engines run smoothly.
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