PhotoThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved the use of E15 gasoline -- a blend of 15 percent ethanol in a gallon of gasoline. While that may be good news for the nation's farmers, AAA warns that could be bad news for your vehicle's engine.

The auto club went public with its concern because of a survey showing 95 percent of consumers have not heard of the new fuel blend. At the same time, only five percent of cars on U.S. highways have been approved by their manufacturers to use the fuel.

“It is clear that millions of Americans are unfamiliar with E15, which means there is a strong possibility that many motorists may improperly fill up using this gasoline and damage their vehicle,” said AAA President & CEO Robert Darbelnet. “Bringing E15 to the market without adequate safeguards does not responsibly meet the needs of consumers.”

Not many vehicles can handle it

The problem is that only about 12 million out of the more than 240 million light-duty vehicles on the roads today are approved by manufacturers to use E15 gasoline, based on a survey conducted by AAA of auto manufacturers. AAA automotive engineering experts also have reviewed the available research and believe that sustained use of E15 in both newer and older vehicles could result in significant problems such as accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage and false “check engine” lights for any vehicle not approved by its manufacturer to use E15.

Currently almost all gasoline sold at service stations contains 10 percent ethanol. Congress passed the law mandating the additive as a means to stretch the nation's gasoline supplies. But many automobile engines don't run as well on the fuel.

In addition, marine engines have trouble with the fuel blend. Many marinas now sell more expensive gasoline that does not contain the additive.

Other ethanol critics decry the use of the corn-based additive as a fuel, charging that it diverts corn away from food production and drives up prices. Farmers, however, dispute that and farm state lawmakers have championed the use of ethanol.

Voided warranties

AAA says eight automakers -- GM, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo -- have specifically warned that the use of E15 does not comply with the fuel requirements specified in their owner’s manuals and may void warranty coverage.

The only vehicles currently approved by automakers to use E15 are flex-fuel models, 2001 model-year and newer Porsches, 2012 model-year and newer GM vehicles and 2013 model-year Ford vehicles. And these approvals extend only to cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles (SUVs).

The use of E15 is expressly prohibited in heavy-duty vehicles, boats, motorcycles, power equipment, lawn mowers and off-road vehicles.

“The sale and use of E15 should be suspended until additional gas pump labeling and consumer education efforts are implemented to mitigate problems for motorists and their vehicles,” Darbelnet said. “Consumers should carefully read pump labels and know their auto manufacturer’s recommendations to help prevent any problems from E15.”

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