As E15 gasoline slowly makes its way into Oklahoma, a recent AAA survey finds a strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage as a result of E15 use. An overwhelming 95 percent of consumers surveyed have not heard of E15, a gasoline blend that contains up to 15 percent ethanol and has recently been approved for sale by the Environmental Protection Agency.
AAA is urging the industry to stop the sale of E15 until motorists are better protected. According to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, five fueling stations now sell E15 in the state, all of them in the Oklahoma City area. More are likely to enter the marketplace as the nation strives to increase its use of renewable fuels, such as ethanol, as mandated by the EPA. Oklahomans who have fuel labeling concerns or complaints should contact the Oklahoma Corporation Commission at (405) 521-2211 or online at www.occeweb.com.
Only about 12 million out of the more than 240 million light-duty vehicles on the roads today – less than five percent – are approved by manufacturers to use E15 gasoline, based on a survey conducted by AAA of auto manufacturers. AAA automotive engineering experts who have reviewed available research believe that sustained use of E15 in both newer and older vehicles could result in significant problems, such as accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage, and false “check engine” dashboard signals for any vehicle not approved by its manufacturer to use E15.
“Because so many motorists are unfamiliar with E15, there is a strong possibility that many may improperly fill up using this gasoline and damage their vehicle,” said AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai. “Bringing E15 to the market without adequate safeguards does not responsibly meet the needs of consumers.”
Although the EPA-required E15 label at the pump (attached) states that E15 is approved for use in “2001 and newer passenger vehicles,” unsuspecting drivers using E15 could end up with engine problems that might not be covered by their vehicles’ warranties. Five manufacturers (BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen) are on record saying their warranties will not cover fuel-related claims caused by the use of E15. Seven additional automakers (Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo) have stated that the use of E15 does not comply with the fuel requirements specified in their owner’s manuals and may void warranty coverage.
The only vehicles currently approved by automakers to use E15 are flex-fuel models, 2001 model-year and newer Porsches, 2012 model-year and newer GM vehicles and 2013 model-year Ford vehicles. These approvals extend only to cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs. The use of E15 is expressly prohibited in heavy-duty vehicles, boats, motorcycles, power equipment, lawn mowers and off-road vehicles.
“Oklahoma drivers need to be more aware than ever of the choices they face at the gas pump,” said Mai. “Now would be a good time to take at a look at your owner’s manual to see what blend of fuel your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends and to protect yourself from voided warranties or potential damage.”
AAA recommends additional testing be done to conclusively determine the impact of E15 use on vehicle engines and fuel system components.
The EPA in June approved the sale of E15 after receiving a waiver request from producers interested in expanding the use of corn-based ethanol. Despite objections by auto manufacturers, the EPA approved the use of E15 gasoline in flex-fuel vehicles and 2001 model year and newer cars, SUVs and light-duty pickups.
The survey findings related to consumer knowledge of E15 are from a telephone survey conducted among a national probability sample of 1,012 adults comprising 504 men and 508 women, 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental U.S.