Officials with Triple A (AAA) say their recent survey finds a strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage as a result of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent approval of E-15 gasoline. An overwhelming 95 percent of consumers surveyed by the agency say they have not heard of E-15, a newly approved gasoline blend that contains up to 15 percent ethanol. With little consumer knowledge about E15 and less than five percent of cars on the road approved by automakers to use the fuel, AAA is urging regulators and the industry to stop the sale of E15 until motorists are better protected.
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.
Unsuspecting consumers using E15 could end up with engine problems that might not be covered by their vehicles’ warranties. Five manufacturers (BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen) are on record saying their warranties will not cover fuel-related claims caused by the use of E15. Seven additional automakers (Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo) have stated 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. The 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. Triple A says “Consumers should carefully read pump labels and know their auto manufacturer’s recommendations to help prevent any problems from E15.”
AAA also urges fuel producers and regulators to do a better job of educating consumers about potential dangers before selling E15 gasoline. The consumer agency says it wholly supports the development and use of alternative fuels. More than 95 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States contains up to 10 percent ethanol. Lower ethanol blends according to AAA, should remain available to consumers while the challenges with E15 are addressed.