E15 Approved for Use in 2001 and Newer Vehicles
February 11, 2011
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) requires refineries and fuel blenders to sell specific volumes of biofuels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) each year. In anticipation of increased ethanol consumption, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) started an engine and passenger vehicle test program in 2007 to determine the impacts of mid-level ethanol blends. In March 2009, EPA received a formal Clean Air Act (CAA) waiver request from the ethanol industry to raise the allowable ethanol content in gasoline for passenger vehicles from 10% (E10) to 15% (E15). EPA approved the E15 waiver request, but only for 2001 vehicle model years and newer (EPA information). E10 remains the limit for passenger vehicles older than the 2001 model year and for other engines and vehicles that use gasoline, such as lawn mowers, motorcycles, and boats.
How many vehicles are 2001 and newer?
There are approximately 130 million light-duty cars and trucks, model year 2001 and newer in use in the United States as of January 2011 (approximately 60% of U.S. vehicle population). These are the only vehicles approved to use E15. There are currently more than 100 million passenger vehicles in the U.S. older than 2001 and hundreds of millions of other gasoline-powered equipment (lawnmowers, chainsaws, leaf blowers, snowmobiles, boats, motorcycles, and similar), which are explicitly forbidden to use E15.
When will E15 be available for sale?
Many federal and state laws and regulations must be updated to before E15 can be sold. EPA needs to revise aspects of the reformulated gasoline program. Other necessary steps include completion of registration of E15 by demonstrating that it causes no adverse health effects in accordance with the relevant provisions of the CAA and to develop and make available labels for fuel dispensers.
There are more than 90 state laws and regulations currently limiting sales of E15 in 36 states. Some state restrictions that are in conflict include 10% ethanol blend cap, state biofuels mandates, technical fuel specification standards, waivers, and similar. The map on this page highlights states with E15 restrictions.
It will take time to update laws and regulations to allow E15 sales. An exact timeframe is not known. The diffusion of E15 across geographic areas is likely to be uneven.
Can any vehicle use E15?
No. E15 is only approved for 2001 and newer passenger vehicles. EPA is not considering E15 use in vehicles older than model year 2001.
What about motorcycles, small engines, and boats?
E15 is not approved for use in motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles, off-road vehicles (boats, snowmobiles, etc.), and off-road equipment (lawnmowers, chainsaws, etc.)
How will a consumer know if they are buying E15?
Labels will be affixed to any dispenser dispensing E15. The label will state what model years are allowed to use E15.
Where will older vehicles buy fuel?
It is assumed that some fueling stations will continue to offer E10 and lower blends even after E15 becomes widespread. E15 is not a mandate; some stations may offer E15 as an additional product. It is important to read labels to ensure you are using the correct fuel for your vehicle.
Will I get better fuel economy with mid-level ethanol blends?
A DOE study measured fuel economy drops for mid-level ethanol blends. The average measured fuel economy drop (decrease in miles per gallon) was 3.7% with E10, 5.3% with E15, and 7.7% with E20 when compared with gasoline.[i] An Oak Ridge National Laboratory report found flexible fuel vehicles using E85 experienced a 27% drop in fuel economy when compared with conventional gasoline.[ii]