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Minnesota Study Finds E20 Passes Materials Compatibility and Driving Performance Tests

Increasing the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline from 10% (E10) to 20% (E20) does not present problems for materials used in current vehicles or fuel dispensing equipment and provides similar power and performance, according to a new study released by the State of Minnesota.

This initial scoping study for E20 consists of three main areas of investigation: materials compatibility, drivability, and emissions. The emissions testing is still being conducted and the results will be released as soon as the testing is complete.

The State of Minnesota the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) conducted the study as part of the process to meet a state law that requires ethanol comprise 20% of all gasoline sold in the state beginning in 2013. Governor Pawlenty signed legislation that included this requirement in 2005. Minnesota and its partners will soon apply to the EPA for a waiver to federal rules that will allow E20 to be used in all of the state’s gasoline.

The study was conducted at Minnesota State University Mankato and the University of Minnesota, with cooperation from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Renewable Fuels Association. The study included input from fuel refiners, automakers and small-engine manufacturers, and funding support from the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

The study included standard passenger vehicles, gasoline-electric hybrids and delivery vehicles. The vehicles were driven by University of Minnesota employees, who submitted log books compiled during the course of the study. In addition, certified professionals drove the vehicles quarterly and submitted their findings. The study was conducted over 12 months to ensure the fuel and the vehicles operated in weather conditions common to all four seasons. Drivers who participated in the testing indicated that E20 provided both the power and performance they expected.

In addition to the road tests, researchers conducted laboratory tests to evaluate the effect of E20 ethanol blends on materials commonly found in conventional vehicle fuel systems. These included components made of various metals, rubber and plastics.

Key findings of the report include:

  • The effects of 20% ethanol blended fuels do not present problems for current automotive or fuel dispensing equipment.

  • The drivability study showed that E20 provided similar power and performance to E10 ethanol blended fuel throughout the entire calendar year, which included a broad range of ambient weather conditions.

  • Based on the materials compatibility and drivability testing results of this scoping report, there are no issues that would prevent moving forward with the comprehensive testing required to certify E20 as a federally approved motor fuel.

  • Final recommendations on how to proceed with respect to E20 must be withheld until the ongoing emissions testing is complete.


  • Executive summary of materials compatibility and drivability testing


Rafael Seidl

Germany recently required car makers to enumerate how many legacy vehicles would not be compatible with the blanket upgrade of Euro 91 and Euro 95 grades from E5 to E10 planned for 2009. Estimates range from 350,000 to several million.

US manufacturers have long used different materials for the fuel systems in their cars, but it seems to me that one study by one university hardly amounts to conclusive proof that moving from E10 to E20 will be problem-free for all motorists. It's up to manufacturers to certify which models and model years would suffer no damage.

Note that the move would reduce volumetric fuel economy by another ~3% due to the low energy density of ethanol.

Besides, until and unless cellulosic ethanol becomes available in large quantities and, ethanol can be shipped cost-effectively to the coasts, moving to E20 is probably ill-advised for any number of reasons. Of course, the corn ethanol lobby would disagree.


I would think making or prepare cars for E20-E85 would be wise as ethanol "could" become a large scale fuel, if it does not then the preparations were a small price to pay compared to not being prepared if it does come true.


Another article on E20 had a auto manufacturer noting E20 caused failure of the catalytic converter on their vehicles.

Harvey D


According to a very recent study, USA cannot produce enough biofuel (all types) to satisfy even 50% of the current liquid fuel consumption without curtailing food production.

Unless USA imports biofuel (and/or food) anything above 50% mix is not sustainable.

Fuels guzzlers will hit the point of no return sooner or latter.


If ethanol cannot be shipped cost-effectively (to the coasts) then that would be an argument for going to higher blends (such as E20) in ethanol producing areas ... which I assume includes Minnesota


In Brazil they allow gasoline to be blended with 23% ethanol. This has not created big problems. Most people with an old vehicle can get their car upgraded for a small service fee. It will solve a very costly logistical problem if E23 was allowed. Ethanol should be used in the proximity of where it is produced in order to save transportation costs and E23 would help a lot to achieve that. Of cause make a thorough investigation of the existing vehicles and publish on a webpage which vehicles that need to be upgraded. Give people until ultimo 2011 to fix their old vehicles and then allow this blend to be sold even without informing that it is indeed E23.

The US has enough land to sustain biomass production for ethanol to fuel all vehicles 100% with ethanol. That will require new process technology and take decades to scale up but it is possible. It will be even more achievable because battery power will be responsible for the big majority of vehicle propulsion in new vehicles sold in the coming decade’s not liquid fuel.


Harvey D,

Hey even 20% would help reduce the price of energy. Should cars get more efficient (and maybe smaller) of course, heck I even believe cars should go electric in the long term.

Algae Biomass could replace all USA petroleum usage with just 5% of agriculture land (those are conservative estimates based on 15% oil mass, 80% oil mass is theoretically possible, with 30% being a average point at present) also algae will be grown in enclosed bags that can be place anywhere be it open desert or open sea, so I really don't see second generation biofuels harming food production, in fact algae's main byproduct will be protein rich animal fodder, now that that would not do me much good (vegetarian) but we could make tofu out of it instead.

Mark M

I don't think in the short term we have a choice, we need to move to diversification of fuel sources as soon as we can if not for environmental reasons but for fuel availability and security. All it will take is Venzuela and a couple of the middle eastern countries such as Iran or Iraq to sell all their oil to China and we would be hooped, our cities are designed around the car especially in the west and our industrial society is run on liquid fuels for the time being anyway.


I agree with DavidJ - until we overcome the costs/inefficiencies with transporting ethanol, it makes much more sense to use more ethanol closer to where it is produced and less in areas further away.


Can you "crack" ethanol to butanol ?
[ or is it efficient to do so ? ]
It would be very good if you could - butanol is a better fuel from the point of transportation, volumetric energy and similarity to gasoline.
It always strikes me that it would be better to go for a 5% decrease in fuel consumption (by any means) than a 5% biofuel blend.
(Certainly with current biofuel sources).

Rafael Seidl

@ mahonj -

as the name implies, cracking breaks long HC chains into shorter fragment. A typical side effect is that these fragments then recombine into branched isomers.

Butanol has 4 carbon atoms, ethanol only 2. You can get the former by cracking the latter.


Minnesota grows a lot of corn. You might not think that when you consider their winters, but if you look on a map of corn growing states, there they are.

This is just for Minnesota and they need an EPA waiver, which they might get. If people with old cars can change some fuel components and do fine then that is what they will probably do. This is their way of using less oil and helping the farmer. It actually helps ADM more, which produces 1 in 8 gallons of ethanol in the U.S.


==According to a very recent study, USA cannot produce enough biofuel (all types) to satisfy even 50% of the current liquid fuel consumption without curtailing food production.==

Which study is this?

I'd like to add it to my repituar.




From the rough numbers I have seen, we have 90 million acres in corn production and 20 million of those are for ethanol. Since we are not even to E10 nationwide, it is not hard math to figure the rest.



We would make out all corn production at E5


I wish that I could have same conviction as Seidl that corn ethanol should be avoided. There certainly are very good reasons to avoid corn ethanol, yet U.S. politics are such that corn ethanol is what (wrongly) is being promoted.

Given the potential for improvement in emissions and reduction in foreign oil that ethanol might provide when done efficiency and fairly (avoiding negative impact upon food prices), should we wait or start tweaking the ethanol supply for better social benefit?

Coleman Jones

I work on Biofuels Implementation for GM Powertrain and am very interested in these studies. GM is constantly supporting the production and distribution of ethanol and we feel it's the best solution for our energy needs right now, but we do need to make sure E20 has been thoroughly tested. More long-term testing is still needed to measure things like driveability, tailpipe emissions and emissions control systems. The Minnesota studies only tested the cars for 3000 hours, which is a lot less than what an OEM requires. I encourage them to keep testing and keep learning more about ethanol.

I wrote a blog for addressing these issues. You can check it out here:

Coleman Jones
Manger of Biofuels Implementation, GM Powertrain

fred schumacher

E10 has been a boon for us living in cold climates. No more iced up fuel lines; no more having to carry a stockpile of Heat (methanol) under the driver's seat all winter; no more limping down a country road hoping you can make it to the next town.

I keep accurate fuel records, and I haven't seen an increase in fuel mileage when I drive in a state with no E10. I figure that the increased octane of ethanol lets the engine timing run more advanced and compensate for the lower BTUs.

There will always be a need to convert damaged grain into a useful product, such as ethanol. Every year crops are damaged by hail and high moisture storage, causing aflatoxin and other molds to develop. Ethanol is a good use for these damaged grains.

We need to stop talking about how much biofuel production we would need in the future to equal today's usage. No matter what happens, we're at peak fuel usage now and it will never again be equaled. Our present fuel usage is aberrant and unsustainable. We could look to Europe as a model, which has equal mobility to the U.S. but nearly twice the fleet fuel economy.


"We would make out all corn production at E5..."

E5 would be 7 billion gallons which is where we are now using less than 30% of the corn crop.


Well call me stupid..... but about this issue of corn and ethanol and people starving to death, it's my understanding that the vast majority of corn grown in the US is all field corn or feed corn used for animal feed and industrial uses and ethanol production. Only a small percentage of all corn grown is actually sweet corn meant for human consumption. And I further understand that any of the horse corn used for ethanol production is still suitable, and is still used for animal feed and whatnot even after it goes through the ethanol production process.

So that being said, what's the problem? The sweet corn will still be there for people to eat, and the feed corn will still be available for cattle to munch on even after it goes through the ethanol production cycle.

What am I missing?


The distillers dry grain that is left over from the ethanol distilling process IS animal feed. There IS not conflict, but some people want to seem very concerned and appear as if they are the only ones with a conscience.

Harvey D


Presently, USA's yearly corn production is about 6 billion bushels, 1/3 is already used to produce ethanol, 1/3 for USA's food chain (mostly to feed animals to produce meat, milk, cheese etc we consume) and 1/3 is exported. The 2 billion bushels exported are mostly used in the food chain in other countries.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, about 2/3 of the corn produced in USA ends up in the food chain.

If the corn usage is changed, to lets say 2/3 for ethanol and, only 1/3 for the food chain (or even worse) that would create a worldwide food shortage. If other countries do the same, the total effect would be even much woarse.

It is very simple maths.

Another secondary effect is that USA farmers (and others) will switch from wheat-rice production to corn (to produce more ethanol) if they can get a better price etc. This would create a cascade effect on food shortages and price.

The effect on food price has started already with oless than 5% ethanol and will get a lot worse when 100 more large corn ethanol plants go into production in 2008/09.

Use of corn and other edible agriculture products (other than unedible bad parts or wastes) should be restricted to real surpluses. With reserves at an all time low, real surpluses are just not there any more.

Corn ethanol above the %5 to 7.5% level is NOT sustainable and is NOT asn acceptable solution.

It would be much easier and wiser to reduce fuel consumption by up to (and more) than 50% with more efficient vehicles such as hybrids, PHEVs and BEVs.


buing meat

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