As you top off your car’s fuel tank at certain fueling stations, you might notice a fuel option other than regular or premium: ethanol-free gas.
Since many of us drive vehicles that take regular or premium gas, we may not be familiar with this alternative or understand its purpose. So, what exactly is ethanol-free gas, and when should you use it?
To better understand ethanol-free gas, it might be useful to first explore how we wound up with ethanol in our gas to begin with.
What Is Ethanol Anyway?
Plainly put, ethanol is alcohol — the same stuff in your favorite cocktail.
It’s a natural result of biomass fermentation, a process in which yeast, bacteria or enzymes are added to a mass of plant-based material (biomass) to accelerate the chemical conversion of naturally occurring sugars and starches into ethanol. Although practically any plant source from algae to zinnias can be used for biomass fermentation, some “feedstock” crops are better suited to the process than others. In the United States, for example, corn is a widely used source of ethanol production since it offers a positive energy balance where the energy generated by the fuel is greater than the energy used to produce it.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, ethanol is useful in reducing emissions from gas-powered automobiles. By blending ethanol with gasoline, emissions can be reduced by up to 40 percent — a great benefit to the environment. Used in more exotic gasoline blends, it can also provide higher octane for high-performance engines such as those in Indianapolis 500 race cars.
So, Why Ethanol-Free?
As its name implies, ethanol-free gas is gasoline without added alcohol. Given the straightforward benefits of ethanol, why would we ever use gas without ethanol?
There are certain benefits to ethanol-free gas:
Better mileage. Ethanol-free gas increases fuel mileage by about three percent.
Less corrosive. Ethanol can corrode an engine’s fuel system over time whereas ethanol-free gas will not.
Better storage. Ethanol-free gas can be reliably stored for up to six months, while gas with ethanol is good for only about three months.
These benefits make ethanol-free gas a better fuel choice for certain kinds of engines like leaf blowers, lawnmowers and chainsaws. Also, older engines — like those in many classic cars — and certain specialized engines (such as marine engines) are not compatible with anything other than ethanol-free gasoline.
In short, if you have an engine that was not specifically designed to use an ethanol blend, you should use only ethanol-free gas in that machine.
Can Ethanol Actually Damage My Engine?
For on road vehicles built after 2011, the answer is typically no. Models after 2011 could run on blends of up to 10% ethanol (E10), and manufacturers have been producing vehicles designed for much higher percentages.
For vehicles built before 2011, the answer is yes it could. One of the peculiarities of ethanol is that it is a hydroscopic chemical compound, meaning that it will “attract” water. Once in your machine’s tank and in its fuel system, this water can corrode components vital to the performance and longevity of the engine. Using improper fuel in this way — especially over a long duration — can result in malfunctions and costly repairs.
To protect your machinery, however, it’s a good practice to only use the recommended fuel for your car.
Protect Your Stuff!
Of course, one of the best ways to protect your toys, tools and transportation is with a solid insurance policy. Contact us today to get coverage that fits your needs.
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