Ethanol in Motorcycles – The Challenge Continues

Ethanol and Motorcycles - The Challenge Continues | AMA Takes ActionThis week, the American Motorcyclist Association told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it should stop increasing the amount of required ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply. The AMA continued and proposed that the EPA lower the Renewable Volume Obligations for 2017.

Many in the powersports world find ethanol to be a hot-button issue and that claim is supported by the 18,162 signatures collected from motorcyclists, ATV and other motor sports enthusiasts. The concern is that with increased ethanol levels, it will void warranties, and damage various components.

There is validity to the claims – ethanol based fuels, for example, can react poorly with composite type gas tanks and cause irreparable damage. The same damaging reactions can occur to other components throughout a machine, thus causing quite a bit of alarm throughout the community. There is also evidence that higher-ethanol fuel mixtures sap performance and could increase the risk of misfueling.

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The source of all the despair surrounding fuel is due to the EPA’s proposed Renewable Volume Obligations, which are part of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard. This standard calls for 18.8 billion gallons of biofuel for 2017, up from the 18.11 billion gallons this year. In 2015, the obligations were at 16.93 billion gallons.

“The current proposed volumes would greatly increase the risk of inadvertent misfueling for motorcyclists and ATV owners by forcing the widespread availability of higher-ethanol fuel blends that are unsafe for these vehicles, such as E15,” said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president of government relations. “And the EPA has proposed the increases, despite its acknowledgement that the market can’t absorb the higher ethanol production rates.”

The proposed percentage standards call for renewable fuel to compose 10.44 percent of the transportation fuel pool in 2017. What is most commonly found at the pump in the US is E10, an ethanol based fuel that has 10% ethanol by volume.

In order to meet the standards that it has set forth, the EPA is pushing for E15, which has an ethanol concentration of 15% by volume, to be used in model year 2001 and newer vehicles, as well as expanded use of the E85 in flex-fuel vehicles. When designed, manufacturers did not intend the nearly 22 million motorcycles and ATV’s in the US to make use of E15 or higher ethanol blends. Those of you who are familiar with performance tuning know that this could create many adverse conditions – none bode well for an engine.

“The AMA is fighting to ensure a safe fuel supply for motorcyclists, ATV riders and users of other small engines,” Allard said. “As the volume obligations continue to rise, even as fuel consumption declines or remains the same, the risk of inadvertent misfueling increases dramatically. The EPA has made it illegal for motorcyclists and ATV riders to use E15 fuel, yet shows little interest in the misfueling issue.”

The AMA states that, “The least the EPA could do is initiate a public information campaign on the dangers of misfueling, what fuel blend to select at the pump and what to do if a higher-ethanol blend gets into the vehicle tank.” If the E15 proposal succeeds, this could cause damage to millions of vehicles out on the consumer market, and cost owners when trying to repair or update their machines to use these fuel mixtures effectively.

Congress is being encouraged to address the situation with a long-term fix to the situation. All individuals, regardless of their political leanings, are being urged to visit the  AMA Action Center and find out how to contact their state representatives about this issue.