CRC Releases Summary of Status of 8 Projects Investigating Effects of Mid-Level Ethanol Blends on Non-FFV Highway Vehicles
The Coordinating Research COuncil (CRC) recently released a summary of the current mid-level ethanol blends testing program for highway vehicles that are not specifically adapted as flex-fuel vehicles that can run on ethanol blends of up to 85%.
The testing program has eight projects underway or pending, exploring engine and vehicle compatibility and emissions issues resulting from the use of higher blends. Testing is due to be complete next year, prompting the auto, oil and outdoor power equipment industries to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to delay action on its proposal to allow higher levels of ethanol in gasoline until that testing is done. (Earlier post.) The projects are:
Fuel storage and handling (CRC AVFL-15). It is unclear at what level of ethanol content above 10% that E10-rated parts fail. The objective of AVFL-15 is to determine the durability of wetted fuel components/systems. AVFL-15 preliminary work is underway; more funding to support additional testing is needed.
Base engine durability (CRC CM-136-09). The auto industry knows what is required to upgrade engine components for E22, E85 and E100. Some automakers have done internal testing and have found sensitivity to intermediate ethanol blend levels for non-FFV vehicles. (Base refers to the actual machinery as opposed to the sensors, controls and the like). The initial round of vehicle testing is nearing completion.
On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) evaluation. (CRC E-90). The automakers have a good understanding of the theoretical effects of ethanol on OBD. The issue is how OBD systems actually work in a fleet of aged production vehicles. The initial phase of vehicle data collection has been completed, and two additional phases are planned for 2010.
Tailpipe emissions for SULEV vehicles and at cold ambient temperatures. (CRC E-92) Starting with the 2010 model year automakers have to meet Non-Methane Hydrocarbon (NMHC) emissions at a 20 °F (-6.7 °C) start temperature. Automakers have had to meet stringent SULEV emissions at a 50 °F (10 °C) start temperature for many years. The enleanment due to oxygen in ethanol and the low volatility of the ethanol portion of the fuel blend at low temperature gives concerns that existing and planned vehicles designed for federal and California emissions test fuels will not meet their required emissions standards when operated on mid-level ethanol blends. This program does not envision vehicle aging, however limited funding has delayed the start of this test program.
Catalyst durability and degradation. (CRC E-87) A study by Orbital in Australia has documented the issue of accelerated catalyst aging with intermediate ethanol blends. US DOE found that 44% of vehicles they tested had the same control architecture as those that had problems with E20 in Australia. Their data, when combined with initial results of this project, indicate that 35-45% of the US fleet will have this sensitive control architecture. Durability testing to identify this phenomenon is the scope of follow-on testing which is underway generating data through DOE funding with minor support funding from CRC. In the status summary, however, the group indicated that the course and fate of this project is currently unclear.
Evaporative emissions durability. (CRC E-91) In previous intermediate ethanol blend research coordination meetings, CRC reported on the results of research projects under E-65 and E-77 on the effects of ethanol on evaporative emissions. However, these tests have all looked at the effects of short exposures. A contract has been awarded for this new project, test vehicles have been acquired, and initial data collection is underway for the 2010-2011 program.
Emissions inventory and air quality modeling. (A-67 / A-73). The CRC Atmospheric Impacts Committee is leading this effort in coordination with other stakeholders. A-67 (Estimating Ozone from Fuel Reformulation) and A-73 (Emissions Modeling and Air Quality Modeling) are the two CRC programs that will address this subject. These efforts will rely on obtaining emissions data from the other CRC programs above.
Exhaust emissions on vehicles aged on mid-level ethanol blends. (New project). A good collection of aged vehicle data will be acquired as part the overall program effort. These data will be used to assess direct emissions impacts from intermediate ethanol blends and for conducting air quality modeling evaluations.