E15 is shorthand for gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol. E15 fuel has been certified for sale in the United States and is showing up at gas stations. The reason it’s a big deal is that ethanol is fairly corrosive to rubber and certain metals, so it can cause damage to vital components. Ethanol also attracts and bonds with water from the air, and that water can separate out inside the tank due to phase separation. If your vehicle sits for long periods between use, the moisture settles to the bottom of the tank and can potentially clog in-tank pumps and filters. Damage is also possible in fuel lines, injectors, seals, gaskets, and valve seats as well as carburetors on older engines. I publish below the point of view and arguments of both the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) and of The Renewable Fuels Association (RFS) accusing each other of misinformation.
The Accusation From AMA
“Stop the decade of E15 misinformation. The first 10 years under the Renewable Fuel Standard, established in 2005, represent a decade of misinformation from the ethanol lobby concerning safe fuel for your motorcycle. To protect your access to safe fuel, urge your representative to cosponsor the RFS Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 704). The American Motorcyclist Association needs your help to pass this bill. You can send a prewritten email to your representative immediately by following the “Take Action” option and entering your information. The AMA encourages riders to personalize their message by drawing on their own personal riding experiences.
In an effort to prohibit the spread of E15 fuel, which contains up to 15 percent ethanol by volume, the AMA supports H.R. 704, sponsored by U.S. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Peter Welch’s (D-Vt.). The bipartisan bill would amend the Renewable Fuel Standard to recognize market conditions and realities. It also would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from allowing any station to sell gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol by volume and require those already selling it to stop. In other words, the sale of E15 will not be permitted if this legislation becomes law.
The AMA has repeatedly expressed concerns to government officials and federal lawmakers about possible damage to motorcycle and all-terrain-vehicle fuel systems and engines from the inadvertent use of E15. Allowing the higher ethanol blends to become more readily available greatly increases the chance of misfueling.
In October 2010, the EPA approved E15 for use in model year 2007 and newer light duty vehicles (cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles). In January 2011, it added model year 2001-2006 light duty vehicles to the approved list. Passing H.R. 704 will help protect the estimated 22 million motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles currently in use on America’s roads and trails that are not approved to use E15, and the riders who depend on safe fuel for their operation.
Preventing inadvertent misfuelings has been one of the AMA’s top priorities, because motorcycles and ATVs are not designed to run on ethanol blends higher than 10 percent, and many older machines favored by vintage enthusiasts have problems with any ethanol at all in the fuel. Using fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol can void the manufacturer’s warranty, potentially leaving motorcyclists with thousands of dollars in additional maintenance costs.”
The Reply From RFS
In response, The Renewable Fuels Association (RFS) has released the following statement. “Once again, the AMA is engaging in scare tactics and spreading misinformation about E15. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before,” said Robert White, RFA vice president of industry relations. “AMA’s claims that E15 will suddenly become available at every fuel station in the country and replace E10, so that there will no longer be any legal fuel for motorcycles to use, are patently false. E15 has been on the market for three years and no motorcycle has misfueled using the higher ethanol blend or has been denied a warranty claim. Plus, the AMA ignores the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that the fuel dispenser label clearly identify what vehicles can and cannot use E15. Does the AMA believe that motorcyclists can’t read?” White said that the availability for motorcycles to use E10, which is approved for use in motorcycle engines, increased last year, and that more E10 and E0 were sold last year than in the previous year.”