|Status of research into the effects of mid-level blends. Programs with red borders are unfunded; red bars are gaps in research. Source: Joint IEPR/TC workshop. Click to enlarge.|
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM) sent a letter to US House and Senate Energy and Water Appropriators in support of additional funding to complete research into the impacts of mid-level blends of ethanol.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is current considering a request to allow more than the current limit of 10% ethanol in gasoline to increase overall ethanol consumption in the US fuel pool. (Earlier post.) The auto industry in principle is not opposed to the introduction of such mid-level blends (i.e., above 10% but below 85%; but it wants the completion of current durability testing plans. (Earlier post.)
The industry also has suggested that rather than make incremental changes to the amount of ethanol blended with gasoline to increase ethanol consumption, a better investment would be to expand the E85 infrastructure.
We believe any proposal to raise ethanol levels before adequate data are available is premature, and since EPA has never allowed conventional vehicles to use higher ethanol blends, the research on their potential impacts on vehicles not designed, tested or warranted for their use is incomplete.—AAM / AIAM letter
In 2007, automakers began an effort on mid-level ethanol blend testing. Subsequently, they engaged the Coordinating Research Council (CRC), a non-profit organization that directs, through committee action, engineering and environmental studies on the interaction between automotive/other mobility equipment and petroleum products.
Under CRC’s leadership, the test Program has broadened and is now referred to as the Mid-level Ethanol Blends Research Coordination Group and includes members from the auto industry and trade associations (Chrysler Group LLC, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, Volkswagen, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers) as well as experts from the oil, ethanol, small engine, marine, outdoor power equipment and motorcycle industries, DOE and EPA. The group is using EPA recommendations to assess numerous test plans.
The Research Coordination Group has now identified critical information gaps, as well as research overlaps, opportunities for collaboration and funding needs. The Group estimates that $17 million beyond existing allocations will be needed to successfully complete vehicle studies that will provide much needed data for evaluating the effects of adding more ethanol to base fuels.
Using that analysis as the basis for the request, the AAM/AIAM letter asked that the Conference Report coming from the House and Senate:
Direct DOE to spend up to $17 million in 2010 to complete the necessary vehicle testing to evaluate the effects of mid-level ethanol blends on legacy vehicles; and
Direct DOE to re-prioritize its 2010 Program Spending to provide this $17 million to complete the test program.
Mid-Level Blend Ethanol: Challenges, Opportunities & Testing Follow Through (Joint IEPR and Transportation Committee Workshop on Transportation Fuel Infrastructure Issues, April 2009)