Frugal Foo

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E10 vs Unleaded

Unleaded petrol containing up to 10% ethanol (E10) is becoming widely available as an alternative to regular unleaded petrol (ULP). In NSW it has replaced ULP at petrol stations. In states where there is still a choice at most petrol stations, E10 is cheaper per litre than ULP and most modern cars designed for ULP can safely use E10.

However, there are a few matters worth considering for the money and time conscious. Ethanol fuel has a lower energy value, so your engine will burn more fuel all things being equal. The extra fuel consumption will neutralise the cost per litre benefit you thought you were gaining. So E10 is not really cheaper despite the lower price tag. Also, over time you’ll be filling up more often so wasting time and fuel when interrupting your journey for a pit stop.

" E10 is not really cheaper despite the lower price tag."

Secondly, not all cars are designed to be compatible with as much as 10% ethanol in the fuel. Ethanol is a solvent and corrosion issues are possible. Check the FCAI website for cars which cannot use Ethanol.

Finally if your car is designed to use a high octane fuel, E10 is not suitable.  Your vehicles handbook will clearly state a minimum RON 95 or greater. Continue to fill with the recommended premium unleaded petrol.

So, given the minefield of potential compatibility problems, and the questionable economics of ethanol blended petrol, why ever would you use E10? The compelling reason is that it’s going to help save the planet.

Burning ethanol as a fuel is said to be better for the environment because of its potential to be made from green waste. In Australia ethanol is made from wheat crop and sugar cane waste. The carbon released from our exhaust pipes is offset by the carbon taken out of the air by the plant as it grows.

Personally I am happy to accept this justification, so long as the ethanol we use continues to be produced from green waste. If we start using ethanol made from crops grown specifically for ethanol production, this will only add to pressure on global food production resulting in worsening starvation and require larger amounts of land to be cleared for crops.

However if you’re not convinced by the green agenda which also gave us the Toyota Prius Hybrid, is responsible for three different rubbish bin collections and made Peter Garrett mad enough to join mainstream politics, then best stick with good old (very old in fact) fossil fuels to save your time and money.

Related Posts about Cars
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Anonymous said...

average fuel usage for new 2.7L Dodge Journey:
0.139L/KM E10
0.124L/KM unleaded
total travel in 1 year: 11581KM
it would save me $152 if all used Unleaded

8 July 2011 at 13:39

Unknown said...

Great example anonymous. Most drivers wouldn't accurately know their consumption for each type of fuel but it's worth finding out and doing a simple calculation as you have done. Then ask ourselves, is the environmental benefit worth the extra time and money?

10 July 2011 at 11:05

Anonymous said...

For the record we recently replaced our vehicle to be E10 compatible, since 91RON without ethanol is being phased out. We outperform our car's rated fuel economy, even on E10.

Why bash anything Eco-Friendly like that?

You won't be sticking with fossil fuels much longer, since we are using them so much faster than they are being produced and we are nearly out of them!!!

Fossil Fuels are renewable, but the production rate is so slow.

I am worried about the cost benefit, and to that end I found this posting looking for info on a Prius running E10.

We are evaluating a Prius as we do so many Kms it actually will pay for itself when you work out the figures on E10, this may turn out to be false due to the need to run Premium in the Prius to get the economy.

Any petrol price rises will result in the Prius being a definite winner on cost for us.

For the Australian average driver, the current prius is not cost effective, the new Prius C may be. There are other hybrids that are cost effective, but we require a car with decent legroom, and the Prius is great for legroom.

I can't wait to get to the plug-in stage, as I really resent paying so much for petrol, when there are much cheaper ways to power a car.

I look forward to sticking solar panels on the roof and plugging in a car and stop paying corporations to keep me hooked on their product that they get cheap.

PS: I am currently doing extensive analysis of car fuel economy and driving technique.

I am doing similar analysis for our electricity use.

21 November 2011 at 17:32

Unknown said...

I want to believe that things we assume are Eco-friendly such as the Prius, recycling and former activist-of-everything-rock-star now mainstream politician Peter Garrett, really are good for the planet. I come across a little cynical about such things because time and time again, the otherwise noble cause of Eco friendliness is hijacked by those who seek profit or fame, resulting in Eco-gimmicks. Often we like to believe that helping the environment is as simple as buying a product. But if I’m paying more money, or making extra effort, I want to be sure that all things have been properly taken into account and what I am doing returns true value to the planet.

Specifically in the case of a Prius, Toyota are cagey about explaining the total lifetime energy cost of the car, the manufacturing process and all the extra hardware loaded into the vehicle. I have driven one and didn’t like it. I found it to be under powered to the point of being a hazard on freeway entrances. I’ve seen reports of people achieving similar fuel consumption from regular cars with similar low powered combustion engines.

Recycling is a good thing. Sometimes I just wonder if we are moving in the right direction each time we add another garbage collection and more bins to our nature strips. We are we expanding our appetite for rubbish and now it’s more convenient than ever to use and dispose of plastic pop-tops, paper printed material and all manner of grocery packaging.

E10 is potentially Eco-friendly, just not as wallet friendly as some might think from reading the prices at petrol stations. Again when looking at the big picture and taking all things into account, how much benefit is the world gaining when people are replacing their cars to run with E10 and there is a risk of displacement of food crops, and land being cleared for ethanol producing crops. It’s not likely in this country, but we are part of a global economy, and in increase local demand for ethanol could place pressure on food producing resources globally unless properly regulated. It seems that if we want to eat, and drive, something must give. It’s a contentious area and people need to make up their own mind about the eco-friendly value of bio-fuels. It can’t be assumed to be eco-friendly when car manufacturers and farming and fuel corporations have so much to gain from it. Then when short-sighted politicians get involved and start forcing us to use it, I become even more cynical I’m afraid.

Don’t get me started about Peter Garrett. Enough eco-friendly bashing for one day.

25 November 2011 at 09:49

Anonymous said...

As someone who has owned a Prius since 2001, I can confidently say that anyone who believes that there is any issue in getting onto a freeway with this vehicle is an incompetent driver.

If I want to, I can leave most other small and medium cars at the traffic lights as their crappy automatic transmissions jerk around while the CVT assisted by the electric motor smoothly powers my vehicle away.

25 January 2012 at 15:58

Anonymous said...

Ethanol is a by product of Sugercane to Sugar. Other plant or food like soy and corn to produce ethanol must stop. Let just use the by product of Sugar production

26 July 2012 at 17:21

Anonymous said...

yeah ethanol fuel is bad it attracts water into the gasoline

16 August 2012 at 12:40

Anonymous said...

E10 as an eco-friendly alternative is just an outright lie. Yes, 1 litre of E10 will produce less carbon "polution" than 1 litre of fossil juice but that is hardly the full story.

Forget that you will be visiting the bowser more often as your car needs more fuel to take you the same distance.

Forget that ethanol is corrosive to engines, potentially reducing their lifespan. Translate this into more broken cars heading for the land fill.

Forget all the diesel powered farm machinery used to plant, tend and harvest the crop.

Forget the sheer amount of land required to be cleared (i.e. carbon sucking trees chopped down) and used for a non-food crop. Forget the rising population and therefore demand for food, and the limited amount of quality land for growing.

Forget the amount of electricity required to process sugar into ethanol into fuel.

Let's also forget that to produce 1 litre of ethanol, we need 4 litres of water (conservative estimate - some people estimate this much, much higher).

Forget all that stuff and ethanol fuel is very eco-friendly :-)

Also forget that there are many billions of barrels of oil still locked away in areas where green campaigners won't let the oil companies drill, or where different extraction processes are required but again the greens are constantly trying to block production. In the US alone, there is potentially as much untapped oil as the world has used since industrialisation. Sorry I don't have a direct source but it is references in the book Climate of Corruption.

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