Drag site icon to your taskbar to pin site. Learn More

More Ethanol in Gas May Damage Motorcycles

Monday, October 18, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to allow the ethanol portion of blended gasoline to be increased from the current 10 percent to 15 percent for certain vehicles, which could pose a danger for motorcycles, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

On Oct. 13, the EPA announced approval of a waiver for E15. Under the decision, E15 is now approved for use in model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. It isn't approved for use in any other gasoline-fueled engines. To see the EPA news release, go to http://tinyurl.com/US-EPA-E15.
American Motorcyclist Association

"The AMA supports the use of cleaner-burning fuels, but we are concerned that gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol could result in premature engine damage or failure while a motorcycle is being ridden," said Imre Szauter, AMA government affairs manager. "We're also concerned about any degradation in performance, fuel economy and rideability that may result from the long-term use of blended fuels with greater than 10 percent ethanol."

The EPA, in allowing more ethanol in gas, specifically said that its decision covers model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks, and no other vehicles at this time, including motorcycles.

"Motorcycle manufacturers only certify their machines to run on gasoline or a blend with up to 10 percent ethanol, which is known as E10," Szauter said. "So using the 15 percent blend in a motorcycle could void the bike's warranty."

Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying group, asked the EPA in March 2009 to allow gasoline to contain up to 15 percent ethanol. It's part of an effort to meet a congressional mandate to increase to 36 billion gallons the amount of renewable fuel available in the United States by 2022. Ethanol, made from corn and other crops, is considered a renewable fuel.

For more than three years the AMA has been on the record opposing increases in the ethanol level allowed in gasoline until studies show that an increase won't damage motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle (ATV) engines, and won't make motorcycles emit more nitrogen oxides than are allowed by the EPA.

"The message we want to deliver today is that once E15 gas is offered for sale, there are a variety of reasons not to put it in your motorcycle or ATV gas tank," Szauter said. "In fact, the EPA even says you aren't allowed to put E15 in your bike."

The EPA said a decision on the use of E15 in model year 2001 to 2006 vehicles will be made after new test results are received. The EPA is also proposing E15 pump labeling requirements so that consumers don't mistakenly put E15 in the wrong vehicles.

Bob Greco, spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, told The Wall Street Journal that by approving E15 without full testing, the EPA is putting "politics before science."

"You're going to have fuels in the marketplace that could damage engines and void warranties," Greco told the newspaper.

The AMA is a member of AllSAFE, the Alliance for a Safe Alternative Fuels Environment, a group formed to ensure that fuels containing ethanol are promoted in a thoughtful manner. AllSAFE is made up of associations that represent consumer and commercial users of ethanol blends, manufacturers of boats, vehicles, engines and equipment, and retailers who sell gasoline and ethanol-fuel blends.

Login or sign up to comment.

Vince -Scientific American Jan 2007 issue  November 9, 2010 07:47 PM
HI Guys: your local library might carry Scientific American. The January 2007 issue has an excellent article entitled "Is Ethanol for the Long Haul?".
Very informative, highly recommended. I got a lot out of it. Cheers!
Mcguire -sewer rat  October 27, 2010 02:09 AM
I know a guy that runs a old Yamaha TW200 on a 50% alcohol mixture. He ads a cup of Marvel Mystery Oil per 10 gallons to substitue for the lubrication factor gasoline has over alcohol. I never have ridden a stock TW so it hard for me to compare but I thought the bike ran well. He had to slightly increase the idle speed too.
Travis -Nay Sayer Learn to Read  October 21, 2010 03:12 PM
Seriously did you not read Vince's three points. Clearly more ethanol in gasoline has it's drawbacks like Vince suggested. You fail to make note of any of those in your post and then you just rehash the how renewable word without any facts etc. You're a piece of luggage.
bikerrandy -E15  October 20, 2010 11:09 AM
Lucky for me and my bikes/scooters, where I live no ethanol is required by the EPA, so I have had no fuel hoses, filter, mileage issues. Too bad for the rest of you.
Darrell -Ethanol and DL 1000 don't go well together.  October 20, 2010 06:26 AM
I too am old enough to remember the complaints as the U.S. switched from leaded gas to unleaded; however, the difference now is that my bike will not run right on E-85. I have to use super-unleaded from stations that are using the no ethanol in premium gas as a sales tactic. My bike started running poorly when the regular gas went away and the mix became the norm. I didn't put the two together util after lots of money was spent trying to get my bike running right again.

Strangely after buying premium gas at a station that was out of regular unleaded, the performance of the v-strom improved. After one tank of premium, my fiel mileage was better and the low rpm stumble and rough running was gone. While I'm not a rocket scientist, I can reason that the difference between my bike running correctly and it running poorly is/was the ethanol mix.
Vince -to naysayer  October 20, 2010 12:18 AM
follow the money
Nick -I Remember  October 19, 2010 12:12 PM
I am old enough to remember when the fuel companies were told to stop putting tetraethyl lead in gasoline. There was the same ridiculous snivelling from drivers and automakers about how unleaded gas was going to make everyone's engine lock up solid.

If bike manufacturers have to upgrade a few hoses and tweak their fuel injection programming, then I'm sure we'll all figure out some way to cope. Complaining about this just makes the AMA look stupid.
Nay Sayer -Antagonist  October 19, 2010 10:53 AM
So, Vince, that whole RENEWABLE resource thing doesn't seem like a positive? In case you haven't noticed, making new oil is a long complicated process.
Vince -Ethanol is not good for the planet  October 19, 2010 09:55 AM
Ethanol has been pushed onto us by fertilizer and farm lobbyists in Washington. Fertilier companies make millions if they can convince us to use ethanol. They spend $ in washington. Growning corn in the US is already highly subsidised by your tax dollars. What are the problems with ethanol?
i) it has less calories than gasoline so your mpg drop.
ii) any moisture will ruin it so it can't be delivered through pipes. It needs to be trucked from where it is distilled to the refineries.
iii) when it starts to be used as a fuel, the price of corn and rice goes up with the result being huge proportion of the planet can't afford to eat.
The 10 % was initially used as a way to stop us the oil companies using MTBE( a nasty chemical now banned in the use of fuels). Both MTBE and 10% ethanol allow the gas to burn more completely. Ten percent is sufficient in that regard. Bottom line: using more ethanol is bad for the planet.
Pavel -Want to keep riding even after oil runs out  October 19, 2010 08:55 AM
C'mon it's the planet and our economy we are talking about. I don't want E15 to damage my bike, but I don't want to damage the planet even more, so E15 wins, in my mind. We can upgrade bike parts to handle the fuel. I think it burns through hoses and other rubber parts faster, so they will need to be replaced a little sooner. Oh well -- the price of fun in these ecologically and economically uncertain times. -p
Chad Wilson -Rider  October 19, 2010 08:47 AM
Or, instead of fighting progress, how about modifying the motorcycle engines to all be flex-fuel, then this won't be a problem. As long as the pumps are visually marked as to their content, there shouldn't be a problem. If it isn't marked, don't pump it. Personally, I welcome the idea of a flex-fuel motorcycle. Motorcycles could lead the market in being green while being the funnest machines on the planet. They already get better MPG than nearly every production vehicle on the road.