The Ethanol Debate Continues

Although E10 fuel has been labeled as safe for use in motorcycles, its long-term affect on powersports units still remains questionable.

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), in partnership with the SEMA Action Network (SAN), hosted the Fuel for Thought Rally on Capitol Hill last month in an effort to raise awareness of the corrosive effects of ethanol-blended gasoline on motorcycle engines and the dangers of consumer misfueling.

Ethanol’s chemical property poses a risk to older cars and motorcycles, as these vehicles weren’t constructed with ethanol-compatible materials. Ethanol absorbs water, which can lead to metal corrosion. It can also dissolve plastics and rubber.

The EPA has made it illegal to fuel pre-2001 vehicles and motorcycles with E15; however, the EPA only requires a warning label on the pump. E10 fuel has been labeled as safe for use in motorcycles, but the debate continues as to its long-term effects on powersports units.

In response to the Fuel for Thought Rally, Renewable Fuels Association’s director of market development Robert White held a teleconference to discuss ethanol fuel and motorcycles. In the teleconference, he stressed that motorcyclists should not use E15 fuel and went on to explain that E10 is the approved ethanol fuel for motorcyclists.

On the call, a service adviser for an award-winning auto shop and de facto technician for the Iron Order International Motorcycle Club, Bryan O’Neill, claimed that in his 20 years of industry experience, he has seen zero problems with E10 in motorcycles, "from brand new engines to older, classic engines."

That claim sparked skepticism from one MPN reader. “With 20 years experience, he has not seen any evidence of trouble with E10?” said reader Tony in an online post. “We see the bad experiences of using ethanol blended fuels everyday. From corroded out carbs to overheating from phase separation of ethanol fuels. And when you get into smaller engines the troubles are even worse. We get better fuel mileage and better performance with non-ethanol fuels. To believe that there is no difference is absurd. We have done our own experimentation, not in a lab, but with everyday vehicles, and the proof is there.”

The debate over ethanol isn’t likely to simmer down anytime soon, nor can we expect to see less of the mix in our fuel in the future.

So how best can dealers handle the question? Education is key. Your service advisers can lead the charge and engage in a conversation about fuel choice during service check-in to ensure that your riders are making the best decisions for their personal riding situation. 

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