South Dakota Farmers Union is touting a new study from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln finding non-flex fuel vehicles can run just as well on gasoline containing 30% ethanol as on the 15% ethanol blend.
In a study published last month, Professor Rajib Saha and assistants Adil Alsiyabi and Seth Stroh report the results of a year-long student on 50 vehicles: 2013 Dodge Avengers and 2014 Ford Fusions driven by the Nebraska Transportation Bureau and 2014–2015 Dodge Chargers driven by the Nebraska State Patrol. From June 1, 2019, to June 1, 2020, 24 of the cars ran on E30 while 26 ran on E15. The E30 cars covered 307,516 miles; the E15-ers covered 331,483 miles.
The E30 cars’ computers adjusted to the higher oxygen content, and nothing blew up:
Changes in On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) parameters were investigated to determine the long-term adaptability of vehicles to E30 fuel. Long-term fuel trim (LTFT) and O2 sensor readings were monitored to investigate whether the vehicle’s engine control module (ECM) can adapt to the increased oxygen concentration resulting from the added ethanol. The ECM controls the air/fuel ratio (AFR) by measuring the voltage generated through the oxygen sensor which indicates the proportion of oxygen in the exhaust. The distribution of these two parameters, recorded over an entire year, was compared between vehicles operating on E30 and those operating on E15. As expected, there was an average increase in the LTFT of vehicles operating on E30 (Figure 1A). However, the distribution of O2 sensor readings for the two conditions were similar (Figure 1A). This indicates that the ECM of the tested vehicles was able to account for the increased oxygen content in the fuel. Furthermore, a similar comparison was implemented on coolant temperatures from vehicles running on each fuel type (Figure 1B). As shown, the increase in ethanol concentration does not cause engine coolant temperature to change significantly. Finally, a multitude of more complex statistical data analyses were conducted to determine the effect of E30 on overall vehicle performance. Results from that analysis indicates no significant change in performance between the two fuel types [Dr. Rajib Saha, Adil Alsiyabi, and Seth Stroh, “Redefining Renewable Fuels: A Demonstration of the Long-Term Adaptability and Economic Feasibility of E30 Consunmption in Non-Flex Fuel Vehicles,” University of Nebraska–Lincoln: Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, February 2021].
The Nebraska results match those Drew Dennert said he found in his own at-home test of E30 on his vehicle in 2018 and align with the message South Dakota ethanol producers have been promoting for the last few years that we can safely run E-30 in our unadjusted vehicles.
Professor Saha concludes that switching the Nebraska Transportation and Patrol fleets from E15 to E30 would increase ethanol consumption by 66,000 gallons a year and decrease annual carbon dioxide emissions by 529 tons. Getting 10% of Nebraska drivers to switch to E30 would increase annual ethanol consumption by 18.5 million gallons and decrease annual CO2 emissions by 64,000 tons.