What Is The Purpose Of Ethanol In Gasoline?

In the United States, ethanol has a lengthy history. Henry Ford developed the first Model T to run on ethanol or gasoline over a century ago, making it the first flex-fuel vehicle. He did so because, in 1908, gasoline was not widely available, and farmers could make ethanol for a low cost and utilize it to power their cars. You could basically run your Model T on moonshine. During WWII, when gasoline was heavily rationed, ethanol made a reappearance as a fuel.

Ethanol is now found in 97 percent of gasoline sold in the United States. However, the actual amount of ethanol in the mix varies by state, and in some places, ethanol-free premium gas is available if you look for it. However, gasoline marketed in the United States typically contains roughly 10% ethanol.

Why is ethanol in our gas?

The octane rating of gasoline is increased by using fuel ethanol. Simply said, higher octane gas avoids detonation and burns instead of exploding. However, increasing the octane rating of gasoline is costly, which is why premium fuel is more expensive than ordinary. Adding ethanol to low-grade gasoline lessens the likelihood of it detonating, allowing our national fleet to run on less-than-ideal fuel.

There’s also a political component to it. Corn, crop waste, wood chips, and sugarcane are the most common sources of ethanol. Much of the biomass needed to manufacture ethanol is cultivated in states with significant political clout. Corn-based ethanol, for example, has a direct economic impact of $5 billion and 47,000 jobs in Iowa. Until this year, almost every presidential candidate who had won the Iowa caucuses since 1980 had committed to keep the ethanol requirement in place.

Less Dependence on Ethanol Crops

Because ethanol is made from agricultural products like corn, ethanol production has an impact on corn crop prices. The maize business must create more ethanol-based fuel as the number of drivers who use it grows. Using non-ethanol gas relieves pressure on the maize business and reduces our reliance on agricultural output for energy.

Improves Mileage

Drivers get higher mileage when they use pure gas. Because of the added ethanol, gas mixtures like E10 and E15 contain less free energy. Regular and premium petrol can affect your gas mileage by up to 3%, according to Mike McCarthy, a Senior Energy Researcher for Toyota, and Ford spokesman Paul Seredynski. Even if three percent seems insignificant, it adds up over time. Non-ethanol gas is better for overall mileage than normal and premium gas blends.

What effect does ethanol have on engines?

For many homeowners, getting fuel for their small engines and outdoor power equipment simply entails heading to the nearest gas station and filling up with the cheapest option. The amount of ethanol in the fuel isn’t given much concern. Long-term sailors and marina managers, on the other hand, are well aware of the dangers of high ethanol content gas, particularly in applications that will be exposed to extreme heat or humidity for extended periods of time.

Because of the oxygen in the blend, gasoline that contains a high quantity of ethanol begins to degrade. The hygroscopic nature of ethanol causes it to absorb water from the air, causing the fuel blend to separate. Ethanol can cause corrosion in small engines and high-powered sports equipment, causing the engine and fuel system to corrode. Simply put, a seemingly benign purchase of ethanol-containing fuel can cause your engine to fail. Worse yet, using a high-ethanol fuel could void a boat or power equipment owner’s warranty.

Consumers, particularly boaters, must stay vigilant while purchasing fuel due to ever-changing regulatory rules and inaccurate labeling at gas stations. The federal government recently decided to allow year-round sales of E15 gasoline (which contains 15% ethanol). Because E15 burns much hotter than other fuels, it can cause an engine to overheat. Boaters should be aware of the prospect of confusion and the risk of mistakenly filling their boat’s petrol tank with the wrong gasoline, according to experts. “Fuel containing larger levels of ethanol is not compatible with many fuel system and engine components and, if used incorrectly, could cause irreparable damage to these components, resulting in engine failure and potential safety issues,” according to Mercury Marine.

The introduction of E15 fuel at the pump could be disastrous for the 142 million boaters who fill up their tanks. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) recently launched a webpage called Protecting Boaters at the Gas Pump to increase awareness. They show photographs of many ways E15 gas is mislabeled and warn boaters about the dangers of using E15 fuel in anything other than late-model autos. With 63% of boaters believing that any fuel purchased at the pump is safe to use, it’s more critical than ever to educate people about the dangers of high-ethanol fuel.

Is it beneficial to have ethanol in gasoline?

Depending on the energy differential in the blend utilized, the influence on fuel economy varies. E85, for example, offers around 27% less energy per gallon than gasoline because it includes 83 percent ethanol (the impact to fuel economy lessens as ethanol content decreases). Gasoline cars, especially flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs), have gasoline-optimized engines. Fuel economy would presumably increase as a result of increased engine efficiency if they were designed to run on higher ethanol mixes.

Ethanol also has a higher octane rating than gasoline, resulting in more power and performance. Because of its high octane, Indianapolis 500 racers frequently utilize E98 to fuel their race cars. Several ongoing efforts, such as the Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines initiative, aim to better understand the potential for ethanol blends and other high-octane biofuels to improve engine efficiency.

What are the drawbacks of using ethanol as a source of energy?

Ethanol Fuel’s Disadvantages

  • It is necessary to have a large piece of land. Ethanol is made from maize, sugarcane, and grains, as we’ve learnt.
  • The Distillation Method is Harmful to the Environment.
  • Food Costs Have Increased.
  • Water has a special place in my heart.
  • Vaporization is difficult.

Is premium petrol better for mileage?

Is it true that higher octane fuel is more efficient? In a nutshell, no. Paying more for premium fuel does not guarantee that your car will operate better or achieve better gas mileage. Giving your automobile the fuel it needs to function smoothly and efficiently while avoiding engine damage does affect your gas mileage.

Is it true that ethanol boosts horsepower?

Ethanol’s cleaner burn not only promotes cleaner air, but it also improves engine efficiency.

In gasoline, ethanol replaces aromatic compounds, many of which are recognized carcinogens and are commonly employed to enhance octane. Aromatics are carbon-dense elements that are difficult to completely burn, but ethanol contains oxygen, which aids in complete and efficient fuel oxidation, lowering unburned hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions. Ethanol is also a good solvent for removing carbon from engine ports and combustion chambers.

A Greater Mileage Value

When a certain volume of ethanol is burned, it produces somewhat less thermal energy than when the same volume of gasoline is burned. As a result, conventional gasoline, which already contains 10% ethanol, has roughly 1.5 percent more thermal energy than a 15% ethanol blend, but the 15% ethanol blend costs 3 to 5% less per gallon. As a result, switching to the higher ethanol blend saves consumers roughly 1.5 percent each mile. Even when the financial and performance benefits of enhanced octane are not taken into account, cost savings increase as the quantity of ethanol increases.

More Octane for More Power and Greater Efficiency

Most automobiles require fuel with an octane rating of at least 87. Ethanol has an octane value of 113 and is blended with petroleum-based fuels to achieve an octane rating of at least 87 for usage in modern automobiles. Ethanol, which is clean, renewable, abundant, and inexpensive, offers the needed boost and is used in 97 percent of vehicle fuels in the United States.

Manufacturers are being pushed to make smaller, ‘boosted’ engines due to tighter fuel economy standards. Engine performance would be maintained in this case by operating at greater pressures and temperatures; however, increasing engine loading necessitates the use of higher-octane fuel. Smaller, high-compression boosted engines consume less gasoline, and the octane boost produced by higher ethanol blends would allow for size reduction without compromising performance. The ability of a fuel to self-ignite or “knock” is measured in octane. Ethanol reduces the likelihood of the engine knocking by increasing octane and lowering the charge temperature.

Commonly used octane boosters raise the price of premium 93 octane fuel by up to 30% when compared to standard 87 octane fuel; however, raising fuel octane with ethanol lowers the price. Consumers, engines, and the environment all benefit. High-octane fuels enable high-compression engines to run efficiently despite higher pressures and temperatures.

Less Wear on Your Engine and Less Moisture in Your Engine

Alcohols, such as ethanol, help to eliminate oil-based filth from surfaces, similar to dish detergents, preventing residue build-up on critical engine components.

The Department of Energy’s extensive testing has revealed that all automobiles constructed since 2001 are made with modern materials, allowing them to run on fuels containing up to 15% ethanol. Most crucially, automakers have approved E15 for use in 90% of new automobiles, and the EPA has approved it for use in 9 out of 10 vehicles now on the road. Flex Fuel vehicles have engines that can run on up to 85 percent ethanol mixes.

Ethanol also helps to keep moisture from accumulating in an engine. If water gets into a fuel tank, it won’t mix with the gasoline and will collect at the bottom. The engine will stall if that unmixed water gets into it. It’s also possible that it’ll freeze in the fuel.

Because ethanol and water are miscible, ethanol-blended fuels can absorb a small amount of water before becoming saturated and undergoing ‘phase separation.’ Alcohol is used in the majority of over-the-counter products for removing water from fuel systems. The amount of water that can be absorbed prior to phase separation increases as the ethanol concentration in the fuel rises. Ethanol, in essence, aids in keeping the gasoline dry.

Cooler Engines

The amount of energy required to transform a substance from its liquid to gaseous state is known as heat of vaporization. In engines, fuel vaporization is advantageous because it cools the incoming charge. Ethanol contains approximately three times the vaporization heat of gasoline, which means it cools the engine more effectively. The engine’s power will rise with a cooler intake charge.

What About Small and Marine Engines?

  • Almost all compact, marine, and off-road engines can run on E10 (ethanol-blend fuel) and have it specifically allowed in their owner’s manuals.
  • Small, marine, and off-road engines are not permitted for E15, which is why pumps are properly labeled to prevent consumer misfueling.
  • E10 is available at any station in the country that also sells E15. Non-oxygenated gasoline is available in several regions near heavy boating areas for small, marine, and off-road operators.

Why aren’t we using ethanol in our automobiles?

Ethanol (ethyl alcohol), which is also used in alcoholic beverages, is made by fermenting sugar solution. In the United States, this entails producing maize and utilizing the starch that is produced. “Cellulosic ethanol” can also be made from grass, wood, and agricultural waste.

ethanol in its purest form

Although 100 percent ethanol, or E100, may theoretically be used to power automobiles, it is rarely done for a variety of reasons:

  • Ethanol is ineffective for cold-starting because it burns slower than gasoline. (If you’re curious, it has a higher octane.) In the cold, pure ethanol would be useless as a fuel.
  • Because no passenger automobiles are built to handle E100 (although some racing cars are), your car’s engine may be damaged.
  • Even flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs) that may run on either gasoline or ethanol are limited to E85.
  • It’s difficult to find 100 percent ethanol. It’s technically a very strong alcoholic beverage that can be consumed. Fuel alcohols must be undrinkable and diluted to 95.5 percent according to US rules. Ethanol is also subject to liquor tax/alcohol duty unless it is blended with gasoline.

As a result, ethanol is blended with gasoline (often 85 percent ethanol to 15% petrol, or E85) to create the most prevalent biofuel in the United States. In the United States, the largest proportion of ethanol fuel sold is E85, but in sunny Brazil, it’s E95, making starting the car in cold weather less of an issue.

While some say that E10 may be utilized in conventional cars without requiring engine modifications, others argue that even modest amounts of ethanol in the fuel might cause damage to older vehicles.

Is ethanol present in premium gas?

Premium gas has the same amount of ethanol as other grades and doesn’t provide any more power or have any better additives than regular gas. It simply outperforms lower-octane gas in terms of detonation (knock). There’s nothing more to it, and there’s nothing less to it.

Although some brands use somewhat more detergent ingredient in their premium grades than in their other grades, all grades fulfill the EPA’s basic standards. What’s the bottom line? Use the octane-rated fuel recommended by the manufacturer in your owner’s manual. If your engine requires or’recommends’ 89- or 93-octane fuel, use it to get the best performance and fuel economy. There is, however, an exception to the norm.

If your automobile is designed for 87-octane gas and it knocks when you press the accelerator, try filling it with 89-octane gas to see if the knock goes away. If this is the case, continue to use 89-octane to regain power and save your engine.

Is it possible for ethanol to harm your engine?

Ethanol is added to gasoline as required by the EPA in order to reduce carbon emissions and make the operation of such engines more environmentally friendly. Untreated ethanol-blended gasoline can start “phasing.” Phase separation occurs when ethanol in the fuel absorbs too much water and separates from gasoline, which causes the ethanol and water mixture to settle to the bottom of the tank because it is heavier than gasoline. Water-ethanol solutions can harm fuel systems and engines, necessitating a system flush to avoid further damage. No additive will be able to reverse phase separation once it has occurred, and the fuel tank will need to be drained. The fuel in the tank will be useless and must be drained if the fuel and ethanol have entirely phase split. Mechanics offer ‘pump-out’ services to drain and flush the gasoline system.

Be cautious of what you hear, as there is no miraculous element that can reverse phase separation once it has occurred. The best way to avoid phase separation is to keep the tank almost full at all times, allowing for some expansion of the gasoline in warmer conditions. Moisture enters the tank through the empty space, so reducing the quantity of air in the tank will reduce the amount of water that can enter through the air. This is particularly crucial when dealing with equipment that has a “Open fuel system,” such as many tiny non-road engines and boats.

Ethanol has the potential to cause fast corrosion of fuel tanks and other fuel system components. Every time you fill the tank, make sure to add a corrosion-prevention additive; this is especially important for tiny engines, since many still employ aluminum parts, which corrode more quickly and produce oxides that look like white rust.

A third problem is that ethanol can loosen dirt that ordinarily forms in the fuel tank’s corners, resulting in clogged fuel systems. Again, using a cleaner-containing gasoline treatment will allow these dirt particles to travel through your system.

The last thing to keep in mind is that gasoline “oxidizes” when exposed to air. That is, with time, it loses its volatility and may convert to varnish. Using a fuel additive that addresses all of these difficulties will allow you to worry-free enjoy your gasoline-powered small engines and/or boat for years to come.

The good news is that E-10 has been utilized in many parts of the country for over 25 years, so there are tried-and-true methods for protecting your engines against the dangers we’ve discussed.

The following is a short list of things you can do to protect your equipment:

  • Always keep a non-alcohol fuel stabilizer and treatment in your system. Especially for engines that have been sitting for a long time.
  • The more a vehicle or piece of equipment is utilized, the less likely it is to break down.
  • Keep your tank 95 percent full if you aren’t going to use it for a time to avoid condensation while still allowing for growth. Water infiltration into your fuel system must be avoided at all costs.
  • To ensure that you are obtaining new gasoline, only purchase fuel from a reputed gas station with a high turnover of goods.
  • Rubber fuel lines that are older than the mid-to-late 1980s should be evaluated and replaced if they are incompatible with ethanol fuel.

Is non-ethanol gasoline better for automobiles?


You may have noticed a few stations selling “ethanol-free” gas while driving around the Denver metro region.

It’s pure gasoline, not the corn-based ethanol found in most gas stations around the country.

Pure gas, while less popular than ethanol mixes, may be preferable for older car engines, boats, lawn mowers, and other tools.

“In general, the more ethanol in gasoline, the poorer the fuel economy,” DeHaan explained. “If you go up to E85, for example, there’s around 20% less energy in E85 than there is in 100% gasoline, therefore you’ll get a 20% worse fuel efficiency,” says the author.

Most drivers, however, utilize E10 or E15 blends, which contain 10-15% ethanol. Only about 5% of gas mileage is lost due to the ethanol content. When you consider that ethanol-free gas can cost anywhere from 30 cents to more than a dollar more per gallon, the ethanol blend will cost you less per mile.

DeHaan also mentioned that gas stations receive government rebates for selling ethanol, which lowers the price even more. Ethanol emits fewer hazardous gases and is often seen as being better for the environment.

So, what can you do if you can’t lower your gas prices by switching fuels? Driving slowly, rolling down windows instead of using the air conditioner, checking tire pressure, and keeping your vehicle as light as possible are all suggestions made by experts.