The AMA has repeatedly expressed concerns to government officials and federal lawmakers about possible damage to motorcycle and ATV engines caused by the inadvertent use of a new ethanol fuel blend called E15, which is 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline by volume. None of the estimated 22 million motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles in use is approved for E15, and its use can even void manufacturer's warranties.
An article from the American Motorcyclist magazine
Late last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
approved a new gasoline formulation that contains up to 15
percent alcohol by volume, also known as E15.
Never heard of it? In the coming months you probably will,
as ethanol-based E15 will become an important issue for the
on- and off-highway motorcycling and all-terrain vehicle (ATV)
In a nutshell, E15 may appear at a fueling station near you and
you need to be careful—in fact very careful—
where you use this new fuel.
In October 2010, the EPA approved E15 for
use in model year 2007 and newer light-duty
vehicles (cars, light-duty trucks and mediumduty
passenger vehicles). In January 2011, it
added model year 2001-06 light-duty vehicles
to the approved list. Because flexible-fuel
vehicles are approved to use E85 (85 percent
ethanol and 15 percent gasoline), they may
also use E15.
More important to riders, though, are the
vehicles and engines that are not approved for
E15, which currently include all motorcycles and ATVs.
Also on the unapproved list are vehicles with heavy-duty
engines, such as school buses, transit buses and delivery trucks;
off-road vehicles, such as boats and snowmobiles; small engines,
such as lawnmowers and chain saws; and all cars older than 2001.
While the AMA applauds efforts to make our nation more
energy efficient, the problem is that E15 burns hotter than
gasoline that contains a lesser amount of ethanol. In engines
not designed to dissipate that extra heat, damage in the form of
premature wear can result.
Although this is a concern in all motorcycles, it’s particularly
problematic for air-cooled engines found in many bikes.
When you consider everything in your garage, storage shed and
basement that runs on gasoline, you may discover you have more
E15 non-approved vehicles and engines than approved ones.
To double-check whether an engine shouldn’t use E15, review
the owner’s manual for anything you own that runs on gasoline.
Check the fuel requirements—it’s likely that you’ll find a statement
that you should only use gasoline with no more than 10 percent
ethanol by volume or you’ll void the warranty.
So, what should you do?
Keep an eye out for E15, and avoid it. Here are a few pointers to
keep in mind:
• Don’t dispense E15 into unmarked containers, as you’ll likely
forget in a week what’s in the can.
• Don’t store any ethanol-blended gasoline for long periods, as
it absorbs water from the air. Make sure you use a quality gasoline
stabilizer if your vehicle or engine won’t be started for some time.
• Don’t siphon gasoline from a light-duty vehicle for use in any
other gasoline-fueled motors, as you may be introducing E15 into
an unapproved vehicle or engine.
• Do use the internet to locate and patronize fueling stations
that dispense E0—gasoline with no added ethanol. Many marinas
still sell E0, so consider bodies of water as R&R (rest and refuel)
stops when you travel. Check pure-gas.org for more information.
If you want to take it to another level, there are opportunities to
get involved in shaping the E15 issue.
• Contact the fueling stations you visit to let them know your
concerns about E15. If a retail location gets enough pushback
from customers, they may choose to keep their current fuel
offerings, instead of replacing one choice with E15.
• Follow the issue—a good consumer is an informed
consumer. Search the Web for articles on ethanol-blended
fuels, but carefully note the source of any information you read.
Some with a financial interest in ethanol are quick to say we
have nothing to worry about. Don’t take their word for it—read
and decide for yourself.
• Read the science—the Oak Ridge National Laboratory
has published “Effects of Intermediate Ethanol Blends on
Legacy Vehicles and Small Non-Road Engines, Report 1 –
Updated.” Although it’s quite technical, it’s still a good resource
on the use of ethanol-blended gasoline on older vehicles
and engines. Visit http://www.ornl.gov/sci/bioenergy/pdfs/
EffectsIntermediateEthanolBlends.pdf to download a copy.
• Ask your federal lawmakers to support H.R. 748, introduced
by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). H.R. 748 would
prohibit the EPA from allowing the sale of gasoline containing
more than 10 percent ethanol in light-duty vehicles.
• Go to AmericanMotorcyclist.com > Rights > Get Involved
to contact your federal elected officials and for additional ideas.
Sharing your personal experiences with ethanol in gasoline can
affect their position on the issue.
The bottom line on E15 for motorcyclists and ATV riders?
At this time, you shouldn’t use it in your vehicle. Even if E15 is
eventually authorized for use in newer motorcycles and ATVs, pay
careful attention to the manufacturer’s warnings.
Finally, when it comes to alcohol and motorcycling, alcohol in
our gas tank shouldn’t be our only concern. A large number of
motorcycle crashes resulting in serious injury or death reveal that
alcohol consumption was involved with riders and/or the drivers in
the other vehicles.
When it comes to alcohol and motorcycles, they just don’t mix.
Imre Szauter is the AMA government affairs manager for on highway
Alcohol And Motorcycles
And That Includes Your Gas Tank
By Imre Szauter
10 American Motorcyclist.