Wisconsin Department of Commerce Newsletter
August 2005
Ethanol Blended Motor Fuels Use Increasing

Rising gasoline prices have generated an interest in, and more facilities selling motor fuel with the level of ethanol greater than the 10% that is commonly used, such as E-85. Most light duty vehicles on the road today are certified for the use of unleaded gasoline only. However, certain vehicles are designed by the manufacturer to use an alternative fuel. These vehicles are referred to as "flexible fuel" vehicles. E-85 is not considered gasoline, even though it contains gasoline. E-85 refers to a mixture of gasoline and 85% denatured ethanol.

If a retail outlet does sell E-85, it is very important that it clearly labels its pumps as containing the respective motor fuel. Also, a sign must be displayed that states that the fuel shall not be used in motor vehicles unless they have been certified as flexible fuel vehicles and that E-85 is one of the alternative fuels that may be used. Typically, this statement is "For Use in Flexible Fuel Vehicles Only."

If a flexi-fuel vehicle is required to use some specific formula (for example, if the vehicle must only use E-85) in order to comply with alternative fuel requirements of the federal government, then there could be violations of law for fueling such vehicles with any fuel other than the one that is specified. For example, E-20, a mixture of gasoline and 20% denatured ethanol, should not be used in a car that is designated for use with E-85 only.

To find out if you vehicle is an E85 compatible vehicle, refer to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition web site.

Note that all gasoline fuels must meet the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements of the Clean Air Act ("Act"), and other federal regulations. These regulations require that gasoline distributed for use in motor vehicles must be "substantially similar" to the gasoline used to certify motor vehicles to meet EPA emissions standards. The only exception to this requirement is where EPA issues a waiver to the substantially similar provisions pursuant to a specific waiver request. Waivers have been granted for up to 10 percent-denatured ethanol and for 85% ethanol referred to as E-85.

--Sheldon Schall

The newsletter is issued electronically every other month.

Please send comments or questions to Barbro McGinn, editor.

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