Common ethanol fuel mixtures

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Summary of the main ethanol blends used around the world Common ethanol fuel mixtures.png
Summary of the main ethanol blends used around the world

Several common ethanol fuel mixtures are in use around the world. The use of pure hydrous or anhydrous ethanol in internal combustion engines (ICEs) is only possible if the engines are designed or modified for that purpose, and used only in automobiles, light-duty trucks and motorcycles. Anhydrous ethanol can be blended with gasoline (petrol) for use in gasoline engines, but with high ethanol content only after minor engine modifications.


Ethanol fuel mixtures have "E" numbers which describe the percentage of ethanol fuel in the mixture by volume, for example, E85 is 85% anhydrous ethanol and 15% gasoline. Low-ethanol blends, from E5 to E25, although internationally the most common use of the term refers to the E10 blend.

Blends of E10 or less are used in more than 20 countries around the world, led by the United States, where ethanol represented 10% of the U.S. gasoline fuel supply in 2011. [1] Blends from E20 to E25 have been used in Brazil since the late 1970s. E85 is commonly used in the U.S. and Europe for flexible-fuel vehicles. Hydrous ethanol or E100 is used in Brazilian neat ethanol vehicles and flex-fuel light vehicles and hydrous E15 called hE15 for modern petrol cars in the Netherlands. [2]

E10 or less

E10, a fuel mixture of 10% anhydrous ethanol and 90% gasoline sometimes called gasohol, can be used in the internal combustion engines of most modern automobiles and light-duty vehicles without need for any modification on the engine or fuel system. E10 blends are typically rated as being 2 to 3 octane numbers higher than regular gasoline and are approved for use in all new U.S. automobiles, and mandated in some areas for emissions and other reasons. [3] The E10 blend and lower ethanol content mixtures have been used in several countries, and its use has been primarily driven by the several world energy shortages that have taken place since the 1973 oil crisis.

Typical warning placed in the fuel filler of U.S. vehicles regarding the capability of using up to E10 and warning against the use of blends between E20 and E85. E10 warning 475 DC.JPG
Typical warning placed in the fuel filler of U.S. vehicles regarding the capability of using up to E10 and warning against the use of blends between E20 and E85.

Other common blends include E5 and E7. These concentrations are generally safe for recent engines that should run on pure gasoline. As of 2006, mandates for blending bioethanol into vehicle fuels had been enacted in at least 36 states/provinces and 17 countries at the national level, with most mandates requiring a blend of 10 to 15% ethanol with gasoline. [4]

One measure of alternative fuels in the U.S. is the "gasoline-equivalent gallon" (GEG). In 2002, the U.S. used as motor fuel, ethanol equal to 137,000 terajoules (TJ), the energy equivalent of 1.13 billion U.S. gallons (4.3 billion liters) of gasoline. This was less than 1% of the total fuel used that year. [5]

E10 and other blends of ethanol are considered to be useful in decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and can reduce carbon monoxide (CO) emissions by 20 to 30% under the right conditions. [6] Although E10 does decrease emissions of CO and greenhouse gases such as CO2 by an estimated 2% over regular gasoline, it can cause increases in evaporative emissions and some pollutants depending on factors such as the age of the vehicle and weather conditions. [7] According to the Philippine Department of Energy, the use of up to 10% ethanol-gasoline mixture is not harmful to cars' fuel systems. [8] Generally, automobile gasoline containing alcohol (ethanol or methanol) is not recommended to be used in aircraft. [9]


E10 Logo required on Delaware fuel dispensers Delaware State Required E10 Logo.jpg
E10 Logo required on Delaware fuel dispensers
Low ethanol blends used around the world (E5 to E25)
Legal useCountryEthanol
Legal useCountryEthanol
Legal useStateEthanol
Countries with mandatory blends or available for optional useFlag of Europe.svg  European Union Flag of the United States.svg  United States
(states where mandatory only) [n 1]
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina [22]
Mandated [n 2] Flag of Malawi.svg  Malawi [16]
Mandated [n 3] Flag of Austria.svg  Austria [23]
OptionalFlag of Florida.svg  Florida
Flag of Minnesota.svg  Minnesota
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia [24]
OptionalFlag of Mexico.svg  Mexico [19]
Mandated [n 4] Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark [23]
OptionalFlag of Hawaii.svg  Hawaii
Flag of Missouri.svg  Missouri
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil [26]
MandatedFlag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand [27]
OptionalFlag of Finland.svg  Finland [28]
MandatedFlag of Iowa.svg  Iowa
Flag of Montana.svg  Montana
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada [29]
Mandated [n 5] Flag of Pakistan.svg  Pakistan [30]
OptionalFlag of France.svg  France [31] [32]
OptionalFlag of Kansas.svg  Kansas
Flag of Oregon.svg  Oregon
E10 [n 6]
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China [34]
Nine provincesFlag of Paraguay.svg  Paraguay [35]
MandatedFlag of Germany.svg  Germany [36]
Optional [n 7] Flag of Louisiana.svg  Louisiana
Flag of Washington.svg  Washington
Flag of Colombia.svg  Colombia [37]
Mandated [n 8] Flag of Peru.svg  Peru [39]
Mandated [n 9] Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland [41]
MandatedFlag of California.svg  California [42]
Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica [43] [44]
Mandated [n 10] Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines [47]
MandatedFlag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands
Flag of India.svg  India [48]
MandatedFlag of Thailand.svg  Thailand [49] E10/E20MandatedFlag of Romania.svg  Romania [50]
Flag of Jamaica.svg  Jamaica [51]
Mandated [n 11] Flag of Vietnam.svg  Vietnam E5OptionalFlag of Sweden.svg  Sweden [23]
See the country notes at the end of the article

A 2011 study conducted by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland found practically no difference in fuel consumption in normal driving conditions between commercial gasoline grades 95E10 and 98E5 sold in Finland, despite the public perception that fuel consumption is significantly higher with 95E10. VTT performed the comparison test under controlled laboratory conditions and their measurements showed the cars tested used an average of 10.30 liters (2.27 imp gal; 2.72 U.S. gal) of 95E10 per 100 km (62 mi), as opposed to 10.23 liters (2.25 imp gal; 2.70 U.S. gal) of 98E5 per 100 km (62 mi). The difference was 0.07 in favor of 98E5 on average, meaning that using 95E10 gasoline, which has a higher ethanol content, increases consumption by 0.7%. When the measurements are normalized, the difference becomes 1.0%, a result that is highly consistent with an estimation of calorific values based on approximate fuel composition, which came out at 1.1% in favour of E5. [52]


Typical manufacturer's statement in the car owner's manual regarding the vehicle's capability of using up to E10. Car owner manual 10%25 ethanol blend covers & zoom in.jpg
Typical manufacturer's statement in the car owner's manual regarding the vehicle's capability of using up to E10.

E15 contains 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. This is generally the highest ratio of ethanol to gasoline that is possible to use in vehicles recommended by some auto manufacturers to run on E10 in the US. [53] [54] This is due to ethanol's hydrophilia and solvent power.

As a result of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which mandates an increase in renewable fuels for the transport sector, the U.S. Department of Energy began assessments for the feasibility of using intermediate ethanol blends in the existing vehicle fleet as a way to allow higher consumption of ethanol fuel. [55] The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted tests to evaluate the potential impacts of intermediate ethanol blends on legacy vehicles and other engines. [55] [56] In a preliminary report released in October 2008, the NREL presented the results of the first evaluations of the effects of E10, E15 and E20 gasoline blends on tailpipe and evaporative emissions, catalyst and engine durability, vehicle driveability, engine operability, and vehicle and engine materials. [55] [56] This preliminary report found none of the vehicles displayed a malfunction indicator light as a result of the ethanol blend used; no fuel filter plugging symptoms were observed; no cold start problems were observed at 24  °C (75  °F ) and 10  °C (50  °F ) laboratory conditions; and as expected, computer technology available in newer model vehicles adapts to the higher octane causing lower emissions with greater horsepower and in some cases greater fuel economy. [55]

In March 2009, a lobbying group from the ethanol industry, Growth Energy, formally requested the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow the ethanol content in gasoline to be increased to 15% from 10%. Organizations doing such studies included the Energy Department, the State of Minnesota, the Renewable Fuels Association, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research, and Stockholm University in Sweden. [57]

EPA's E15 label required to be displayed in all E15 fuel dispensers in the U.S. EPA E15 warning label.jpg
EPA's E15 label required to be displayed in all E15 fuel dispensers in the U.S.

In October 2010, the EPA granted a waiver to allow up to 15% of ethanol blended with gasoline to be sold only for cars and light pickup trucks with a model year of 2007 or later, representing about 15% of vehicles on U.S. roads. [58] [59] [60] In January 2011, the waiver was expanded to authorize use of E15 to include model year 2001 through 2006 passenger vehicles. The EPA also decided not to grant any waiver for E15 use in any motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles, or nonroad engines because current testing data do not support such a waiver. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the E15 waivers now cover 62% of vehicles on the road in the US, and the ethanol group estimates if all 2001 and newer cars and pickups were to use E15, the theoretical blend wall for ethanol use would be approximately 17.5 billion gallons (66.2 billion liters) per year. The EPA was still studying if older cars can withstand a 15% ethanol blend. [61] [62]

The EPA waiver authorizes sale of E15 only from Sep 15 to May 31 out of a black hose and a yellow hose to flex fuel vehicles only from June 1 to Sep 14. Retailers have shunned building infrastructure due to the costly regulatory requirements which have created a practical barrier to the commercialization of the higher blend. Most fuel stations do not have enough pumps to offer the new blend, few existing pumps are certified to dispense E15, and no dedicated tanks are readily available to store E15. Also, some state and federal regulations would have to change before E15 can be legally sold. [58] [59] The National Association of Convenience Stores, which represents most gasoline retailers, considers the potential for actual E15 demand is small, "because the auto industry is not embracing the fuel and is not adjusting their warranties or recommendations for the fuel type." One possible solution to the infrastructure barriers is the introduction of blender pumps that allow consumers to turn a dial to select the level of ethanol, which would also allow owners of flexible-fuel cars to buy E85 fuel. [62]

In June 2011 EPA, in cooperation with the Federal Trade Commission, issued its final ruling regarding the E15 warning label required to be displayed in all E15 fuel dispensers in the U.S. to inform consumers about what vehicles can, and what vehicles and equipment cannot, use the E15 blend. Both the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association complained that relying solely on this warning label is not enough to protect consumers from misfueling. [63] [64] In July 2012, a fueling station in Lawrence, Kansas became the first in the U.S. to sell the E15 blend. The fuel is sold through a blender pump that allows customers to choose between E10, E15, E30 or E85, with the latter blends sold only to flexible-fuel vehicles. [65] As of June 2013, there are about 24 fueling stations selling E15 out of 180,000 stations across the U.S. [66]

Blender fuel pump in East Lansing, Michigan selling E15 together with the standard gasoline (E10), and the higher blends E30 and E85. Blender fuels pump - East Lansing, MI.JPG
Blender fuel pump in East Lansing, Michigan selling E15 together with the standard gasoline (E10), and the higher blends E30 and E85.

In December 2010, several groups, including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, filed suit against the EPA in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The plaintiffs argued the EPA does not have the authority to issue a “partial waiver” that covers some cars and not others. Among other arguments, the groups argued that the higher ethanol blend is not only a problem for cars, but also for fuel pumps and underground tanks not designed for the E15 mixture. It was also argued that the rise in ethanol has contributed to the big jump in corn prices in recent years. [67] [68] In August 2012, the federal appeals court rejected the suit against the EPA. The case was thrown out on a technical reason, as the court ruled the groups did not have legal standing to challenge EPA's decision to issue the waiver for E15. [68] [69] In June 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from industry groups opposed to the EPA ruling about E15, and let the 2012 federal appeals court ruling stand. [66]

2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid fuel filler cap showing warning regarding the maximum ethanol blend allowed by the carmaker, up to E10 gasoline. The warning label indicates that ethanol blends between E15 to E85 shall not be used in this vehicle. 2012 Camry fuel filler cap 04 2014 141619.jpg
2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid fuel filler cap showing warning regarding the maximum ethanol blend allowed by the carmaker, up to E10 gasoline. The warning label indicates that ethanol blends between E15 to E85 shall not be used in this vehicle.

As of November 2012, sales of E15 are not authorized in California, and according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the blend is still awaiting approval, and in a public statement the agency said that "it would take several years to complete the vehicle testing and rule development necessary to introduce a new transportation fuel into California's market." [70]

According to a survey conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) in 2012, only about 12 million out of the more than 240 million light-duty vehicles on the U.S. roads in 2012 are approved by manufacturers are fully compliant with E15 gasoline. According with the Association, BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen warned that their warranties will not cover E15-related damage. [71] Despite the controversy, in order to adjust to EPA regulations, 2012 and 2013 model year vehicles manufactured by General Motors can use fuel containing up to 15 percent ethanol, as indicated in the vehicle owners' manuals. However, the carmaker warned that for model year 2011 or earlier vehicles, they "strongly recommend that GM customers refer to their owners manuals for the proper fuel designation for their vehicles." Ford Motor Company also is manufacturing all of its 2013 vehicles E15 compatible, including hybrid electrics and vehicles with Ecoboost engines. [72] Also Porsches built since 2001 are approved by its manufacturer to use E15. [71] Volkswagen announced that for the 2014 model year, its entire lineup will be E15 capable. [73] Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced in August 2015 that all 2016 model year Chrysler/Fiat, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles will be E15 compatible. [74]

In November 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency opened for public comment its proposal to reduce the amount of ethanol required in the U.S. gasoline supply as mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The agency cited problems with increasing the blend of ethanol above 10%. This limit, known as the "blend wall," refers to the practical difficulty in incorporating increasing amounts of ethanol into the transportation fuel supply at volumes exceeding those achieved by the sale of nearly all gasoline as E10. [75] [76]


Example of public gas station with hE15 next to diesel and regular gasoline in the Netherlands. HE15-pump.jpg
Example of public gas station with hE15 next to diesel and regular gasoline in the Netherlands.

A 15% hydrous ethanol and 85% gasoline blend, hE15, has been introduced at public gas stations in the Netherlands since 2008. Ethanol fuel specifications worldwide traditionally dictate use of anhydrous ethanol (less than 1% water) for gasoline blending. This results in additional costs, energy usage and environmental impacts associated with the extra processing step required to dehydrate the hydrous ethanol produced via distillation (3.5-4.9 vol.% water) to meet the current anhydrous ethanol specifications. A patented discovery reveals hydrous ethanol can be effectively used in most ethanol/gasoline blending applications. [77] [78]

According to the Brazilian ANP specification, hydrous ethanol contains up to 4.9 vol.% water. In hE15, this would be up to 0.74 vol.% water in the overall mixture. Japanese and German scientific evidence revealed the water is an inhibitor for corrosion by ethanol. [79]

The experiments show that water in fuel ethanol inhibits dry corrosion. At 10,000 ppm water in the E50 experiments by JARI and 3,500 ppm water in the E20 experiments by TU Darmstadt the alcoholate/alkoxide corrosion stopped. In the fuel ethanol this resembles 20,000 ppm or 2 volume% in the case of JARI and 5 x 3500 = 17,500 ppm of 1.75 volume% in the case of TU Darmstadt. The observations are in line with the fact that hydrous ethanol is known for being less corrosive than anhydrous ethanol. The reaction mechanism will be the same at lower-mid blends. When enough water is present in the fuel, the aluminum will react preferably with water to produce aluminum oxide, repairing the protective aluminum oxide layer, which is why the corrosion stops. The aluminum alcoholate/alkoxide does not make a tight oxide layer, which is why the corrosion continues. In other words, water is essential to repair the holes in the oxide layer. Based on the Japanese/German results, a minimum of 2 vol.% or 2.52% m/m water is currently proposed in the revision of the hydrous ethanol specification for blending in petrol at E10+ levels. Water injection has additional positive effects on the engine performance (thermodynamic efficiency) and reduces overall CO2 emissions.[ citation needed ]

hE15 promotion Amsterdam HE15 Promotion Amsterdam.jpg
hE15 promotion Amsterdam

Overall, a transition from anhydrous to hydrous ethanol for gasoline blending is expected to make a significant contribution to ethanol's cost-competitiveness, fuel cycle net energy balance, air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions. [80]

The level of blending above 10% (V/V) is chosen both from a technical (safety) perspective and to distinguish the product in Europe from regular unleaded petrol for reasons of taxes and customer clarity. Small-scale tests have shown many vehicles with modern engine types can run smoothly on this hydrous ethanol blend. Mixed tanking scenarios with anhydrous ethanol blends at 5% or 10% level do not induce phase separation. As avoiding mixing with E0, in particular at extremely low temperatures, in logistic systems and engines is not recommended, a separate specification for controlled usage is presented in a Netherlands Technical Agreement NTA 8115. The NTA 8115 is written for a worldwide application in trading and fuel blending. [81]

E20, E25

Historical evolution
of ethanol blends used in Brazil
19312010 (Selected years only)
1987-88E222008 [82] E25
1993-98E222009 [82] E25
2000E202010 [83] E20-25
2001E222011 [84] E18-E25
Source: 1937–2007, J.A. Puerto Rico (2007), Table 3.8, pp. 81–82 [85]
Note: The 2010 reduction from E25 to E20 was temporary and took
place between February and April. [83] The lower limit was reduced
from 20% to 18% in April 2011. [84] [86]

E20 contains 20% ethanol and 80% gasoline, while E25 contains 25% ethanol. These blends have been widely used in Brazil since the late 1970s. [85] As a response to the 1973 oil crisis, the Brazilian government made mandatory the blend of ethanol fuel with gasoline, fluctuating between 10% to 22% from 1976 until 1992. [85] Due to this mandatory minimum gasoline blend, pure gasoline (E0) is no longer sold in Brazil. A federal law was passed in October 1993 establishing a mandatory blend of 22% anhydrous ethanol (E22) in the entire country. This law also authorized the Executive to set different percentages of ethanol within pre-established boundaries, and since 2003, these limits were fixed at a maximum of 25% (E25) and a minimum of 20% (E20) by volume. [26] [85] Since then, the government has set the percentage on the ethanol blend according to the results of the sugarcane harvest and ethanol production from sugarcane, resulting in blend variations even within the same year. [85]

Since July 1, 2007, the mandatory blend was set at 25% of anhydrous ethanol (E25) by executive decree, [82] and this has been the standard gasoline blend sold throughout Brazil most of the time as of 2011. [87] However, as a result of a supply shortage and the resulting high ethanol fuel prices, in 2010, the government mandated a temporary 90-day blend reduction from E25 to E20 beginning February 1, 2010. [83] [88] As prices rose abruptly again due to supply shortages that took place again between the 2010 and 2011 harvest seasons, some ethanol had to be imported from the United States, and in April 2011, the government reduced the minimum mandatory blend to 18%, leaving the mandatory blend range between E18 and E25. [84] [86]

A blender pump is a multifuel blend dispenser that allows customers to choose between E20, E30, E85, or any other preselected blend. Biofuel dispenser for several ethanol and biodiesel blends WAS 2010 8953.jpg
A blender pump is a multifuel blend dispenser that allows customers to choose between E20, E30, E85, or any other preselected blend.

All Brazilian automakers have adapted their gasoline engines to run smoothly with this range of mixtures, thus, all gasoline vehicles are built to run with blends from E20 to E25, defined by local law as "common gasoline type C". [89] [90] Some vehicles might work properly with lower concentrations of ethanol, but with a few exceptions, they are unable to run smoothly with pure gasoline, which causes engine knocking, as vehicles traveling to neighboring South American countries have demonstrated. [91] Flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on any type of gasoline E20-E25 up to 100% hydrous ethanol (E100 or hydrated ethanol) ratios, [92] were first available in mid-2003. In July 2008, 86% of all new light vehicles sold in Brazil were flexible-fuel, and only two carmakers build models with a flex-fuel engine optimized to operate with pure gasoline (E0): Renault with the models Clio, [91] [93] Symbol, Logan, Sandero and Mégane, and Fiat with the Siena Tetrafuel. [94] [95]

Thailand introduced E20 in 2008, [96] but shortages in ethanol supplies by mid-2008 caused a delay in the expansion of the E20 fueling station network in the country. [97] By mid-2010, 161 fueling stations were selling E20, and sales have risen 80% since April 2009. [98] The rapid growth in E20 demand is because most vehicle models launched since 2009 were E20-compatible, and sales of E20 are expected to grow faster once more local automakers start producing small, E20-compatible, fuel-efficient cars. The Thai government is promoting ethanol usage through subsidies, as ethanol costs four baht a litre more than gasoline. [98]

A state law approved in Minnesota in 2005 mandated that ethanol comprise 20% of all gasoline sold in this American state beginning in 2013. Successful tests have been conducted to determine the performance under E20 by current vehicles and fuel dispensing equipment designed for E10. [99] However, this mandate was later delayed to 2015, and has never taken effect because the federal EPA has yet to authorize the use of E20 as a replacement for gasoline.

A study commissioned by BP and published in September 2013, concluded that the use of advanced biofuels in the UK, and particularly E20 cellulosic ethanol, is a more cost-effective way of reducing emissions than using plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in the timeframe to 2030. The study also found that the use of higher blends of biofuels is complementary to hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) can deliver strong CO2 savings with a decarbonised electric grid, but are expected to have significantly higher costs than internal combustion engine vehicles and hybrid cars to 2030, as the latter are expected to be the most popular models by 2030. According to the study, in 2030 an E20 blend in an HEV can achieve a 10% emission savings compared to an HEV running on E5, for an annual fuel cost premium of GB£13 compared to an annual cost of GB£195 for an all-electric car. [100] [101]

E70, E75

When the vapor pressure in the ethanol blend drops below 45 kPa, fuel ignition cannot be guaranteed on cold winter days, limiting the maximum ethanol blend percentage during the winter months to E75. Vapor ethanol mixtures Fig 4.3.jpg
When the vapor pressure in the ethanol blend drops below 45 kPa, fuel ignition cannot be guaranteed on cold winter days, limiting the maximum ethanol blend percentage during the winter months to E75.

E70 contains 70% ethanol and 30% gasoline, while E75 contains 75% ethanol. These winter blends are used in the United States and Sweden for E85 flexible-fuel vehicles during the cold weather, but still sold at the pump labeled as E85. [103] The seasonal reduction of the ethanol content to an E85 winter blend is mandated to avoid cold starting problems at low temperatures. [103] [104]

In the US, this seasonal reduction of the ethanol content to E70 applies only in cold regions, where temperatures fall below 32  °F (0  °C ) during the winter. [105] [106] In Wyoming for example, E70 is sold as E85 from October to May. [103] [107] In Sweden, all E85 flexible-fuel vehicles use an E75 winter blend. [104] This blend was introduced since the winter 2006-07 and E75 is used from November until March. [108]

For temperatures below −15  °C (5  °F ), all E85 flex vehicles require an engine block heater to avoid cold starting problems. [108] The use of this device is also recommended for gasoline vehicles when temperatures drop below −23  °C (−9  °F ). [109] Another option when extreme cold weather is expected is to add more pure gasoline in the tank, thus reducing the ethanol content below the E70 winter blend, or simply not to use E85 during extreme low temperature spells. [108] [109]


Typical yellow cap used for the fuel filler cap of U.S. vehicles built to use the E85 blend Typical FlexFuel Yellow Cap 01 MIA 12 2008.jpg
Typical yellow cap used for the fuel filler cap of U.S. vehicles built to use the E85 blend

E85, a mixture of 85% ethanol and ~15% gasoline, is generally the highest ethanol fuel mixture found in the United States and several European countries, particularly in Sweden, as this blend is the standard fuel for flexible-fuel vehicles. This mixture has an octane rating of 108, however, the Ethanol molecule also carries with it an oxygen atom, where-as gasoline does not, effectively requiring the internal combustion engine to ingest less air per unit-volume by its own accord, which reduces pumping losses, and further increases the exo-thermic chemical reaction. Ethanol fuel is considered – although not widely known as – a form of "chemical supercharging", similar to that of Nitrous Oxide (N2O) & Nitromethane (CH3NO2).

Logo used in the United States for E85 fuel E85 fuel.svg
Logo used in the United States for E85 fuel

The 85% limit in the ethanol content was set to reduce ethanol emissions at low temperatures and to avoid cold starting problems during cold weather, at temperatures lower than 11 °C (52 °F). [105] A further reduction in the ethanol content is used during the winter in regions where temperatures fall below 0 °C (32 °F) [106] and this blend is called Winter E85, as the fuel is still sold under the E85 label. A winter blend of E70 is mandated in some regions in the US, [103] [107] while Sweden mandates E75. [104] [108] Some regions in the United States now allow E51 (51% ethanol, 49% gasoline) to be sold as E85 in the winter months.

As of October 2010, nearly 3,000 E85 fuel pumps were in Europe, led by Sweden with 1,699 filling stations. [110] [111] The United States had 3,354 public E85 fuel pumps located in 2,154 cities by August 2014, mostly concentrated in the Midwest. [112]

Thailand introduced E85 fuel by the end of 2008, and by mid-2010, only four E85 filling stations were available, with plans to expand to 15 stations by 2012. [98]

A major restriction hampering sales of E85 flex vehicles or fuelling with E85, is the limited infrastructure available to sell E85 to the public, as by 2014 only 2 percent of motor fuel stations offered E85, [113] up from about 1 percent in 2011. [114] As of November 2015, there were only 3,218 gasoline fueling stations selling E85 to the public in the entire U.S., [115] while about 156,000 retail motor fuel outlets do not offer the E85 blend. [113] The number of E85 grew from 1,229 in 2007 to 2,442 in 2011, but only increased by 7% from 2011 to 2013, when the total reached 2,625. [113] There is a great concentration of E85 stations in the Corn Belt states, and as of November 2015, the leading state is Minnesota with 274 stations, followed by Michigan with 231, Illinois with 225, Iowa with 204, Indiana with 188, Texas with 181, Wisconsin with 152, and Ohio with 126. Only eight states do not have E85 available to the public, Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. [116] The main constraint for a more rapid expansion of E85 availability is that it requires dedicated storage tanks at filling stations, [109] at an estimated cost of US$60,000 for each dedicated ethanol tank. [117] A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy concluded that every service station in America could be converted to handle E85 at a cost of $3.4 billion to $10.1 billion.


ED95 designates a blend of 95% ethanol and 5% ignition improver; it is used in modified diesel engines where high compression is used to ignite the fuel, [118] as opposed to the operation of gasoline engines, where spark plugs are used. This fuel was developed by Swedish ethanol producer SEKAB. [118] Because of the high ignition temperatures of pure ethanol, the addition of ignition improver is necessary for successful diesel engine operation. A diesel engine running on ethanol also has a higher compression ratio and an adapted fuel system.

ED95 bus in Sweden running on a modified diesel engine E85bus.jpg
ED95 bus in Sweden running on a modified diesel engine

This fuel has been used with success in many Swedish Scania buses since 1985, which has produced around 700 ethanol buses, more than 600 of them to Swedish cities, and more recently has also delivered ethanol buses for commercial service in Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Norway. [119] As of June 2010 Stockholm has the largest ethanol ED95 bus fleet in the world. [119] [120]

As of 2010, the Swedish ED95 engine is in its third generation and already has complied with Euro 5 emission standards, without any kind of post-treatment of the exhaust gases. The ethanol-powered engine is also being certified as environmentally enhanced vehicle (EEV) in the Stockholm municipality. The EEV rule still has no date to enter into force in Europe and is stricter than the Euro 5 standard. [121]

Nottingham became the first city in England to operate a regular bus service with ethanol-fueled vehicles. Three ED95 single-deck buses entered regular service in the city in March 2008. Soon after, Reading also introduced ED95 double-deck buses. [122]

Under the auspices of the BioEthanol for Sustainable Transport project, more than 138 bioethanol ED95 buses were part of demonstration trial at four cities, three in Europe, and one in Brazil, between 2006 and 2009. [2] [123] [124] A total of 127 ED95 buses operated in Stockholm, five buses operated in Madrid, three in La Spezia, and one in Brazil. [2] In Brazil, the first Scania ED95 bus with a modified diesel engine was introduced as a trial in São Paulo city in December 2007, and since November 2009, two ED95 buses were in regular service. [124] [125] [126] [127] The Brazilian trial project ran for three years and performance and emissions were monitored by the National Reference Center on Biomass (CENBIO- Portuguese : Centro Nacional de Referência em Biomassa) at the Universidade de São Paulo. [128]

In November 2010, the municipal government of São Paulo city signed an agreement with UNICA, Cosan, Scania and Viação Metropolitana, a local bus operator, to introduced a fleet of 50 ethanol-powered ED95 buses by May 2011. Scania manufactures the bus engine and chassis in its plant located in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, using the same technology and fuel as the ED95 buses already operating in Stockholm. The bus body is a Brazilian CAIO. [129] [130] The first ethanol-powered buses were delivered in May 2011, and the 50 buses will start regular service in June 2011 in the southern region of São Paulo. [128] The 50 ED95 buses had a cost of R$ 20 million (US$12.3 million) and due to the higher cost of the ED95 fuel and the lower energy content of ethanol as compared to diesel, one of the firms participating in the cooperation agreement, Raísen (a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Cosan), supplies the fuel to the municipality at 70% of the market price of regular diesel. [128] [131]


Typical Brazilian flexible-fuel engine with secondary gasoline reservoir for cold starting the engine at temperatures below 15 degC (59 degF) Tanquinho Celta GM FlexPower 02 SAO 10 2008.jpg
Typical Brazilian flexible-fuel engine with secondary gasoline reservoir for cold starting the engine at temperatures below 15 °C (59 °F)
The Brazilian 2008 Honda Civic flex-fuel has outside access to the secondary reservoir gasoline tank in the front right side shown by the arrow. Brazilian Honda Civic Flex car 09 2008 logo & secondary gas tank.jpg
The Brazilian 2008 Honda Civic flex-fuel has outside access to the secondary reservoir gasoline tank in the front right side shown by the arrow.

E100 is pure ethanol fuel. Straight hydrous ethanol as an automotive fuel has been widely used in Brazil since the late 1970s for neat ethanol vehicles [85] [132] and more recently for flexible-fuel vehicles. [133] [134] The ethanol fuel used in Brazil is distilled close to the azeotrope mixture of 95.63% ethanol and 4.37% water (by weight) which is approximately 3.5% water by volume. [135] The azeotrope is the highest concentration of ethanol that can be achieved by simple fractional distillation. The maximum water concentration according to the ANP specification is 4.9 vol.% (approximately 6.1 weight%) [136] The E nomenclature is not adopted in Brazil, but hydrated ethanol can be tagged as E100, meaning it does not have any gasoline, because the water content is not an additive, but rather a residue from the distillation process. However, straight hydrous ethanol is also called E95 by some authors. [137] [138]

The first commercial vehicle capable of running on pure ethanol was the Ford Model T, produced from 1908 through 1927. It was fitted with a carburetor with adjustable jetting, allowing use of gasoline or ethanol, or a combination of both. [109] [139] [140] [141] At that time, other car manufacturers also provided engines for ethanol fuel use. [109] Thereafter, and as a response to the 1973 and 1979 energy crises, the first modern vehicle capable of running with pure hydrous ethanol (E100) was launched in the Brazilian market, the Fiat 147, [142] after testing with several prototypes developed by the Brazilian subsidiaries of Fiat, Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford. [132] As of September 2012, there were 1.1 million neat ethanol vehicles still in use in Brazil. [143] Since 2003, Brazilian newer flex-fuel vehicles are capable of running on pure hydrous ethanol (E100) or blended with any combination of E20 to E27.5 gasoline [133] [134] (a mixture made with anhydrous ethanol), the national mandatory blend. [26] [82] As of September 2012, there were 17.1 million flexible-fuel vehicles running on Brazilian roads. [143]

E100 imposes a limitation on normal vehicle operation, as ethanol's lower evaporative pressure (as compared to gasoline) causes problems when cold starting the engine at temperatures below 15  °C (59  °F ). [144] For this reason, both pure ethanol and E100 flex-fuel vehicles are built with an additional small gasoline reservoir inside the engine compartment to help in starting the engine when cold by initially injecting gasoline. Once started, the engine is then switched back to ethanol. [144] An improved flex-fuel engine generation was developed to eliminate the need for the secondary gas tank by warming the ethanol fuel during starting, [145] [146] and allowing them to start at temperatures as low as −5  °C (23  °F ), [147] the lowest temperature expected anywhere in the Brazilian territory. [148] The Polo E-Flex, launched in March 2009, was the first flex-fuel model without an auxiliary tank for cold start. The warming system, called Flex Start, was developed by Robert Bosch GmbH. [149] [150]

Swedish carmakers have developed ethanol-only capable engines for the new Saab Aero X BioPower 100 Concept E100, with a V6 engine which is fuelled entirely by E100 bioethanol, [151] [152] and the limited edition of the Koenigsegg CCXR, a version of the CCX converted to use E85 or E100, as well as standard 98-octane gasoline, and currently the fastest and most powerful flex-fuel vehicle with its twin-supercharged V8 producing 1018 hp when running on biofuel, as compared to 806 hp on 91-octane unleaded gasoline. [153] [154]

The higher fuel efficiency of E100 (compared to methanol) in high performance race cars resulted in Indianapolis 500 races in 2007 and 2008 being run on 100% fuel-grade ethanol. [155]

Use limitations

Modifications to engines

The use of ethanol blends in conventional gasoline vehicles is restricted to low mixtures, as ethanol is corrosive and can degrade some of the materials in the engine and fuel system. Also, the engine has to be adjusted for a higher compression ratio as compared to a pure gasoline engine to take advantage of ethanol's higher oxygen content, thus allowing an improvement in fuel efficiency and a reduction of tailpipe emissions. [102] The following table shows the required modifications to gasoline engines to run smoothly and without degrading any materials. This information is based on the modifications made by the Brazilian automotive industry at the beginning of the ethanol program in that country in the late 1970s, and reflects the experience of Volkswagen do Brasil. [156]

Disadvantages to ethanol fuel blends when used in engines designed exclusively for gasoline include lowered fuel mileage, metal corrosion, deterioration of plastic and rubber fuel system components, clogged fuel systems, fuel injectors, and carburetors, delamination of composite fuel tanks, varnish buildup on engine parts, damaged or destroyed internal engine components, water absorption, fuel phase separation, and shortened fuel storage life. [157] [158] [159] Many major auto, marine, motorcycle, lawn equipment, generator, and other internal combustion engine manufacturers have issued warnings and precautions about the use of ethanol-blended gasolines of any type in their engines, [160] and the Federal Aviation Administration and major aviation engine manufacturers have prohibited the use of automotive gasolines blended with ethanol in light aircraft due to safety issues from fuel system and engine damage. [157] [158] [159] [161]

Required adjustments to gasoline engines to cope with different blends of ethanol fuel
Carburetor Fuel Injection Fuel pump Fuel
Fuel filter Ignition system Evaporative
Catalytic converter Basic
Motor oil Intake
Exhaust system Cold
≤ 5%Modifications not necessary for any vehicle
E5 to E10Modifications not necessary for vehicles since about 1987-92
E10 to E25Specially designed vehicles
E25 to E85Specially designed vehicles
E85 to E100Specially designed vehicles
Modifications not necessary
Modifications probably necessary
Source: Joseph (2007) in The Royal Society (2008), "Sustainable biofuels: prospects and challenges, pp. 35-36". [102]

Other disadvantages

See also


  1. Though mandated only in 10 states, ethanol blends in the U.S. are available in other states as optional or added without any labeling, making E blends present in two-thirds of the U.S. gasoline supply. [20] [21]
  2. Actual blend is subject to ethanol availability. Blend for 2010 was 2.7% and expected to reach 4.5% in 2011 [22]
  3. Actual blend is subject to ethanol availability
  4. Started in late 2011 in Guadalajara. Scheduled for Monterrey and Mexico City in 2012. [25]
  5. Starting on December 15, 2010. [29]
  6. The State of Oregon exempted premium unleaded gasoline (91octane or higher) from the 10% ethanol mandate for road use since January 2010. [33]
  7. E5 is scheduled to be phased out in 2013
  8. In Colombia mandatory blend was enforced only in cities with more than 500.000 inhabitants. [38]
  9. Actual blend is 7.8% ethanol (E8) and mandatory only in certain regions. Sales of E8 began in April 2010 in nine regions in northern Peru, and in July 2011 in the Lima-Callao metropolitan area. [40]
  10. Mandatory blend scheduled for 2009 was postponed. Sales of E7 continue in the original trial region in the Guanacaste Province and six municipalities in the Puntarenas Province. [45] Nationwide availability rescheduled to begin in June 2012. [46]
  11. Since November 1, 2008 became available in some cities and will become mandatory in May 2009.

Related Research Articles

Ethanol fuel One type of biofuel

Ethanol fuel is ethyl alcohol, the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, used as fuel. It is most often used as a motor fuel, mainly as a biofuel additive for gasoline. The first production car running entirely on ethanol was the Fiat 147, introduced in 1978 in Brazil by Fiat. Ethanol is commonly made from biomass such as corn or sugarcane. World ethanol production for transport fuel tripled between 2000 and 2007 from 17×109 liters (4.5×109 U.S. gal; 3.7×109 imp gal) to more than 52×109 liters (1.4×1010 U.S. gal; 1.1×1010 imp gal). From 2007 to 2008, the share of ethanol in global gasoline type fuel use increased from 3.7% to 5.4%. In 2011 worldwide ethanol fuel production reached 8.46×1010 liters (2.23×1010 U.S. gal; 1.86×1010 imp gal) with the United States of America and Brazil being the top producers, accounting for 62.2% and 25% of global production, respectively. US ethanol production reached 57.54×109 liters (1.520×1010 U.S. gal; 1.266×1010 imp gal) in 2017–04.


E85 is an abbreviation typically referring to an ethanol fuel blend of 85% ethanol fuel and 15% gasoline or other hydrocarbon by volume.

Flexible-fuel vehicle Vehicle that runs on multiple fuels

A flexible-fuel vehicle (FFV) or dual-fuel vehicle is an alternative fuel vehicle with an internal combustion engine designed to run on more than one fuel, usually gasoline blended with either ethanol or methanol fuel, and both fuels are stored in the same common tank. Modern flex-fuel engines are capable of burning any proportion of the resulting blend in the combustion chamber as fuel injection and spark timing are adjusted automatically according to the actual blend detected by a fuel composition sensor. Flex-fuel vehicles are distinguished from bi-fuel vehicles, where two fuels are stored in separate tanks and the engine runs on one fuel at a time, for example, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), or hydrogen.

Alcohol fuel

Various alcohols are used as fuel for internal combustion engines. The first four aliphatic alcohols are of interest as fuels because they can be synthesized chemically or biologically, and they have characteristics which allow them to be used in internal combustion engines. The general chemical formula for alcohol fuel is CnH2n+1OH.

Ethanol fuel in Brazil

Brazil is the world's second largest producer of ethanol fuel. Brazil and the United States have led the industrial production of ethanol fuel for several years, together accounting for 85 percent of the world's production in 2017. Brazil produced 26.72 billion liters, representing 26.1 percent of the world's total ethanol used as fuel in 2017.

Ethanol fuel in the United States

The United States became the world's largest producer of ethanol fuel in 2005. The U.S. produced 15.8 billion U.S. liquid gallons of ethanol fuel in 2019, and 13.9 billion U.S. liquid gallons in 2011, an increase from 13.2 billion U.S. liquid gallons in 2010, and up from 1.63 billion gallons in 2000. Brazil and U.S. production accounted for 87.1% of global production in 2011. In the U.S, ethanol fuel is mainly used as an oxygenate in gasoline in the form of low-level blends up to 10 percent, and to an increasing extent, as E85 fuel for flex-fuel vehicles.

The United States produces mainly biodiesel and ethanol fuel, which uses corn as the main feedstock. The US is the world's largest producer of ethanol, having produced nearly 16 billion gallons in 2017 alone. The United States, together with Brazil accounted for 85 percent of all ethanol production, with total world production of 27.05 billion gallons. Biodiesel is commercially available in most oilseed-producing states. As of 2005, it was somewhat more expensive than fossil diesel, though it is still commonly produced in relatively small quantities.

E85 is an abbreviation for an ethanol fuel blend of between 51% and 83% denatured ethanol fuel and gasoline or other hydrocarbon (HC) by volume.

Butanol fuel Fuel for internal combustion engines

Butanol may be used as a fuel in an internal combustion engine. It is more similar to gasoline than it is to ethanol. A C4-hydrocarbon, butanol is a drop-in fuel and thus works in vehicles designed for use with gasoline without modification. Both n-butanol and isobutanol have been studied as possible fuels. Both can be produced from biomass as well as from fossil fuels. The chemical properties.depend on the isomer, not on the production method.

Alternative fuel vehicle Type of vehicle

An alternative fuel vehicle is a motor vehicle that runs on alternative fuel, an energy other than traditional petroleum fuels ; and also refers to any technology of powering an engine that does not involve solely petroleum. Because of a combination of factors, such as environmental concerns, high oil prices and the potential for peak oil, development of cleaner alternative fuels and advanced power systems for vehicles has become a high priority for many governments and vehicle manufacturers around the world.

Corn ethanol

Corn ethanol is ethanol produced from corn biomass and is the main source of ethanol fuel in the United States. Corn ethanol is produced by ethanol fermentation and distillation. It is debatable whether the production and use of corn ethanol results in lower greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline. Approximately 25% of U.S. corn croplands are used for ethanol production.

Biofuel in Sweden Use of renewable fuels from living organisms in Sweden

Biofuels are renewable fuels that are produced by living organisms (biomass). Biofuels can be solid, gaseous or liquid, which comes in two forms: ethanol and biodiesel and often replace fossil fuels. Many countries now use biofuels as energy sources, including Sweden. Sweden has one of the highest usages of biofuel in all of Europe, at 32%, primarily due to the wide-spread commitment to E85, bioheating and bioelectricity.

Sustainable biofuel

Sustainable biofuel is biofuel produced in a sustainable manner. It is not based on petroleum or other fossil fuels. It includes not using plants that are used for food stuff to produce the fuel thus disrupting the worlds food supply.

The Renewable Fuel Standard(RFS) is an American federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels. It originated with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and was expanded and extended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Research published by the U.S. GAO in November, 2016 found the program unlikely to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions due to limited current and expected future production of advanced biofuels.

BioEthanol for Sustainable Transport

BioEthanol for Sustainable Transport (BEST) was a four-year project financially supported by the European Union for promoting the introduction and market penetration of bioethanol as a vehicle fuel, and the introduction and wider use of flexible-fuel vehicles and ethanol-powered vehicles on the world market. The project began in January 2006 and continued until the end of 2009, and had nine participating regions or cities in Europe, Brazil, and China.

History of ethanol fuel in Brazil

The history of ethanol fuel in Brazil dates from the 1970s and relates to Brazil's sugarcane-based ethanol fuel program, which allowed the country to become the world's second largest producer of ethanol, and the world's largest exporter. Several important political and technological developments led Brazil to become the world leader in the sustainable use of bioethanol, and a policy model for other developing countries in the tropical zone of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa. Government policies and technological advances also allowed the country to achieve a landmark in ethanol consumption, when ethanol retail sales surpassed 50% market share of the gasoline-powered vehicle fleet in early 2008. This level of ethanol fuel consumption had only been reached in Brazil once before, at the peak of the Pró-Álcool Program near the end of the 1980s.

Low-carbon fuel standard Rule to reduce carbon intensity of transportation fuels

A low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) is a rule enacted to reduce carbon intensity in transportation fuels as compared to conventional petroleum fuels, such as gasoline and diesel. The most common low-carbon fuels are alternative fuels and cleaner fossil fuels, such as natural gas. The main purpose of a low-carbon fuel standard is to decrease carbon dioxide emissions associated with vehicles powered by various types of internal combustion engines while also considering the entire life cycle, in order to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation.

Flexible-fuel vehicles in Brazil Overview of the role of flexible-fuel vehicles in Brazil

The fleet of flexible-fuel vehicles in Brazil is the largest in the world. Since their inception in 2003, a total of 30.5 million flex fuel cars and light-duty trucks were registered in the country, and over 6 million flexible-fuel motorcycles, both by March 2018. The market share of flex-fuel autos and light commercial trucks represented 88.6% of all light-duty registrations in 2017. There were over 80 flex car and light truck models available in the market manufactured by 14 major carmakers, and five flex-fuel motorcycles models available as of December 2012.

The fleet of flexible-fuel vehicles in the United States is the second largest in the world after Brazil, and there were more than 21 million 85 flex-fuel vehicles registered in the country by the end of 2017. Despite the growing fleet of E85 flex-fuel vehicles, actual use of ethanol fuel is limited due to the lack of E85 refueling infrastructure and also because many American flex-fuel car owners were not aware they owned an E85 flex-fuel vehicle. Flex-fuel vehicles are common in the Midwest, where corn is a major crop and is the primary feedstock for ethanol fuel production. Also the U.S. government has been using flex-fuel vehicles for many years.

Ethanol fuel by country

The world's top ethanol fuel producers in 2011 were the United States with 13.9 billion U.S. liquid gallons (bg) and Brazil with 5.6 bg, accounting together for 87.1% of world production of 22.36 billion US gallons. Strong incentives, coupled with other industry development initiatives, are giving rise to fledgling ethanol industries in countries such as Germany, Spain, France, Sweden, China, Thailand, Canada, Colombia, India, Australia, and some Central American countries.


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