Gasoline blended with 30% ethanol (E30) is safe for long-term use in non-flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs), according to a report based on a demonstration project conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and the state of Nebraska.
A team at the UNL Engineering Department — led by Dr. Rajib Saha, assistant professor of Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering — reached its conclusion after a yearlong demonstration, permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), comparing various data points among a fleet of state-owned, non-FFVs. The majority of vehicles in the study were Dodge Avengers. The cost per mile for E15 and E30 vehicles were nearly identical, and E30 had no observable negative effect on vehicle performance, according to the report summary.
“There has been inconsistent messaging that using higher blends of ethanol reduces the fuel efficiency or wears down parts,” said Adil Alsiyabi, the primary UNL researcher of the E30 demonstration. “But what the results show is that none of that is true. By going through rigorous testing, we’ve proven higher ethanol blends do not decrease efficiency or compromise engine performance. Our goal was to find out if the vehicles on the road today can use ethanol blends up to E30 with no loss in fuel mileage and no mechanical issues.”
The demonstration captured data using On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) devices on approximately 50 vehicles through both warm and cold seasons. When the engine was started, the device captured millions of data points, giving UNL researchers an opportunity to monitor fuel efficiency, vehicle performance, emissions control systems, and many more systems. Additionally, drivers kept a log each time they filled up and provided their experience about maintenance and efficiency.
Under U.S. EPA current guidelines, only FFVs can use blends higher than E15. This demonstration confirms that today’s conventional vehicles can safely and economically use E30. Since ethanol is made locally from Nebraska corn, it is often cheaper than other gasoline options, according to the governor’s office. Ethanol also replaces toxic chemicals found in gasoline with renewable octane—making it a healthier, cleaner fuel.