Fact Check

E15 Gasoline

Will the use of E15 gasoline damage engines and/or void warranties of many types of cars?

Published Jan. 14, 2014


Claim:   The use of E15 gasoline will damage engines and/or void warranties of many types of cars.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, December 2012]

Pass this on to ALL your friends. This E15 will seriously damage your engine, Even if you pump other grades of gas from a single hose pump that dispenses it because there is always some left in the hose. If the customer before you pumped E15 you WLL get some in your tank. If the customer before you pumped E15 you WLL get some in your tank. Please boycott gas stations selling this lethal mixture and tell your friends!

If the customer before you pumped E15 you WLL get some in your tank. If your CAR IS OLDER THAN 2012 you need to AVOID THE NEW E15 GAS that is just starting to show up at gas stations. Most car companies will not honor the warranty on your car if you use this new gas.


Origins:   In June 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the sale of E15 gasoline, a mixture of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gas. (A lower ethanol mixture containing 10 percent ethanol, E10, was already widely being sold in the U.S.) The E15 fuel blend has been touted as a method of reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and the United States' dependence on foreign oil, and the EPA has asserted (based on a 2011 study by the Department of Energy) that virtually all vehicles built in 2001 or later can safely run on E15.

However, several automakers and the American Automobile Association (AAA) have disputed the EPA's claims, maintaining that E15 could damage fuel lines and void vehicle owners' warranties in many cars, particularly vehicles manufactured prior to 2012:

Only 12 million of the more than 240 million light-duty vehicles in the United States are approved by manufacturers to use the gasoline, according to AAA. Automotive engineering experts believe that sustained use of the gas, both in newer and older vehicles, could cause accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage and false "check engine" lights for vehicles not approved by manufacturers to use E15, according to AAA.

The EPA recommends the use of E15 only in flexible-fuel vehicles and those built in 2001 or later, but critics maintain that even if E15 is safe for most or all cars in that class, many vehicles still on the road (up to 45% in some areas) do not fall within that class, and the newness of E15 means that many drivers could end up filling their tanks with the gasoline, not knowing it's not approved for all vehicles:

"It is clear that millions of Americans are unfamiliar with E15, which means there is a strong possibility that many may improperly fill up using this gasoline and damage their vehicle," AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet said. "Bringing E15 to the market without adequate safeguards does not responsibly meet the needs of consumers."

BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and VW have said their warranties will not cover fuel-related claims caused by E15. Ford, Honda, Kia, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo have said E15 use will void warranties, says Darbelnet, citing potential corrosive damage to fuel lines, gaskets and other engine components.

The AAA says the sale and use of E15 should be stopped until there is more extensive testing, better pump labels to safeguard consumers and more consumer education about potential hazards.

Proponents of E15 maintain that just because auto manufacturers assert their warranties will not cover cars fueled with E15 doesn't mean use of the E15 blend actually poses a danger to those vehicles, that the potential for damage to fuel lines and engine components is overstated:

Bob Dinneen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, says E15 is safe for virtually all post-2001 vehicles, based on extensive government-sponsored testing. "We think the (EPA) warning label should be sufficient to notify consumers," Dinneen said. "There are no corrosive issues with E15. If there's an issue with E15 (damaging vehicles) we're going to know about it, and the EPA is going to know about it."

Some critics have maintained that because most gas stations don't want to go to the expense of putting in new tanks just for E15 and will instead likely install blender pumps (which mix the ethanol and gasoline together in the right proportion for the selected fuel type), the possibility exists that an E10 customer who uses a pump directly after an E15 customer might receive as much as a third of a gallon of E15 from residual fuel remaining in the fueling hose, to adverse effect. It is unlikely that such a relatively small amount of residual E15 mixed into a gas tank of E10 could cause problems for standard automobiles, but it may potentially be an issue for gasoline-powered

vehicles and equipment with smaller fuel tanks, such as motorcycles, ATVs, chain saws, and lawn mowers. The EPA initially considered heading off this potential issue by imposing a requirement that E10 customers purchase a minimum of four gallons of gas at stations using blender pumps that dispense E10 and E15 through the same hose, but that proposal has since been dropped in favor of requiring labeling on blender pumps stating that such pumps are solely for passenger cars and trucks.

At the end of 2013, the EPA announced it was reducing the amount of ethanol that must be blended into gasoline in 2014 (in part because the overall demand for gasoline in the U.S. has dropped), requiring transportation fuel companies to blend 15.21 billion gallons of ethanol into the nation's fuel supply in 2014, down from 16.55 billion gallons in 2013. Critics of the EPA's blending requirements pointed out that the announcement came just four days after the Associated Press published a lengthy investigative article documenting substantial environmental harms caused by ethanol which concluded that "The ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than government admits today":

Ethanol mandates have spurred farmers to grow corn on relatively unproductive land that remained undeveloped prior to the mandate, the Associated Press observed.

“Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama's watch. Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil. Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can't survive," the Associated Press reported.

“The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact."

Last updated:   14 January 2014


    Cappiello, Dina and Matt Apuzzo.   "The Secret Environmental Cost of U.S. Ethanol Policy."

    Associated Press.   12 November 2013.

    Drum, Kevin.   "What's Behind the EPA's New 4-Gallon Minimum Purchase Mandate?"

    Mother Jones.   18 September 2012.

    Kersey, Lori.   "Concerns Raised Over Increased Ethanol Content in Gas."

    The Charleston Gazette.   8 December 2012.

    Podkul, Cezary.   "Lawsuits Likely as EPA Declares US Ethanol Blend Wall a 'Reality.'"

    Reuters.   11 October 2013.

    Strauss, Gary.   "AAA Warns E15 Gasoline Could Cause Car Damage."

    USA Today.   30 November 2012.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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