One of my independent Lexus Service & Repair shops (Davenport Motor Company) sent me their August, 2006 Newsletter which said: "Although we have no absolute proof that the 10% ethanol (E-10) that has been added to gas can hurt your car, we have seen an unusual number of fuel pumps fail since December 2005. This seems to be mainly in, but not limited to, older model cars, 1990-1995. We have also replaced a couple of fuel pumps in some 1998 and 2000 models. To give you an example, from January 2000 to July 2005 (5 1/2 years), we replaced 6 fuel pumps. From August 2005 to present (1 year) we have replaced 25 fuel pumps."
When I called Jimy at Davenport, he told me that besides the older rubber seals in older fuel pumps being affected, they have also replaced more corroded gas tanks in older cars. This ksda.gov FAQ's web page says about FFV's that use a more corrosive blend of E-85: "The fuel tank, fuel lines, fuel injectors, computer system, anti-siphon device, and dashboard gauges have been modified slightly." It goes on to say: "Normally, these parts include a stainless steel fuel tank, and Teflon-lined fuel hoses." So, while these new FFV, specially set up from the factory, vehicles have a special gas tank that resists the corrosive effects of E-85 ethanol, couldn't the less corrosive E-10 be causing the replacement of older fuel tanks and older fuel pumps over a longer period of time?
I am in favor of all "GREEN" things, but not at the expense of consumers who may not be able to afford the unexpected expenses (hundreds of dollars) of replacing fuel pumps and tanks. The Consumer Advocate in me has to balance out the "Green Advocate" part of me! However, here is where the "SEAL OF CONFUSION" comes in.
The National Corn Growers Association has a piece on "Consumer Myth Busters" which says that it is a myth that "E-10 Unleaded cannot be used in older cars". In explaining their position on all the "Myths", I did not see anything about "corrosive affects". However, they do say: "In some states, E-10 Unleaded advocates have offered a substantial reward to any customer who can document damage from E-10 Unleaded to his or her car—and so far, no one has ever collected." To me, this is NOT THE JOB OF "ANY CUSTOMER"! This is the job of the Federal Government agency in charge of protecting the consumer.
Another thing about E-10 that I didn't know until recently is that it causes a reduction in gas mileage. I don't mind sacrificing that in order to get the greater benefits of Ethanol, but I wish there were better disclosure about this. Right now, signs at the gas pumps say: "May contain up to 10% Ethanol", and nothing else. This Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce consumer tip on Ethanol says: "Even then, a 10% ethanol blended product will give a reduction in fuel economy of approximately 2~3% and greater mixture percentages will give even less fuel economy."
On 3/2/06 Tim Winker wrote "E10 is unhealthy to older cars and small engines" in which he says: "The ethanol industry claims that E10 works just fine in any vehicle back to the 1970s, but in the real world it can cause problems in cars built even into the 1990s. I believe that the pumps which dispense E10 should carry a warning label, something like "WARNING! This fuel contains 10% ethanol. It may cause damage to the fuel systems of small engines or to vehicles built prior to 1990. Use at your own risk!" Since the "jury is still out" on E-10's long term effects on older vehicles, I tend to agree with him.
This WNEP news station piece called "Is Ethanol Safe for Your Car?" says: "While all of them independently agreed that ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline, they said whether ethanol could damage some older vehicles remains to be seen.
They say it's because ethanol contains alcohol and alcohol can eat up rubber parts, possibly damaging any rubber seals or valves.
The mechanics said older vehicles, particularly those made before 1990 could see some damage from ethanol. But the bottom line is right now, no one really knows."
Isn't it time that someone found out for sure! I may be wrong, but I believe there are scientific tests that could speed up the aging process affects of E-10 on the kinds of rubber and brass that were used in older vehicles.
1/2/07 UPDATE - A 10/27/06 Special Federal Aviation Administration Airworthiness Information Bulletin alert about the presence of Ethanol in Automobile Gasoline used on any General Aviation Airplane. It says: "The addition of alcohol (ethanol) to automobile gasoline adversely affects the volitility of the fuel, which could cause vapor lock. Alcohol present in automobile gasoline is corrosive and not compatible with the rubber seals and other materials used in aircraft, which could lead to fuel system deterioration and malfunction." There are two more "bulleted points" about the negative affects of "water phase separation" and Ethanol's 27 % "less energy content" that can also apply to driven vehicles that the Federal Government warns about. My question is, WHY DOESN'T THE FEDERAL GOV'T ALERT AUTOMOBILE, ETC. DRIVERS ABOUT THE AFFECTS OF ETHANOL ON ALL VEHICILES?
1/2/07 UPDATE - ATL Racing Fuel Cells, UK has released an "IMPORTANT NOTICE" regarding "Unleaded Racing Fuel With Ethanol". It says: "...the switch to ethanol in racing petrol has unleashed myriad problems with fuel system rubber parts like hoses, seals, diaphragms, safety foam and even fuel cell bladder tanks. It seems, the crux of the problem in that most rubbers and elastomers resist either gasoline or alcohol, but not both. Most significant is the fact that ethanol and petrol are not miscible and can separate when left standing or exposed to water vapor. In fuel bladders, the denser ethanol (alcohol) will settle to the bottom while gasoline (hydrocarbon) floats to the top." I suggest that people don't let their vehicles stand for too long without starting and moving, which helps mix the 10% Ethanol (E-10).