Ford, GM E15 warranties driver for adoption?
In a potentially crucial step toward broad “E15” adoption, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors (GM) have signed off on use of 15 percent blends in its new models.
Published: Oct 4, 2012
Ford has announced it will warranty 2013 model-year vehicles for E15 use, while GM has OK’d use of E15 in its 2012 and 2013 model-year vehicles. GM states its E15 policy in new vehicle owners' manuals; Ford is placing labels in the fuel filter area that clears blends of up to 15 percent for use in new, non-flex fuel vehicles.
In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave final approval for E15 use in post-2000 cars and light trucks. However, specific engine-vehicle warranties are seen as essential in generating consumer confidence in new blends.
Ford, GM, and Chrysler have stood by their commitment to boost production of flex-fuel vehicles that run on 85 percent ethanol (E85) to 50 percent of new models. But the Big Three have approached E15 warily despite federal assurances about its safety in post-2000 vehicles.
Only last year, Ford stressed that “fuel not approved in the owner’s manual is considered misfueling and any damage resulting from misfueling is not covered by the warranty.”
Illinois Corn Growers Association Business and Technology Director Dave Loos suggested Ford and GM may have been awaiting August’s U.S. Appeals Court decision upholding EPA E15 approval before announcing its latest decision.
“I suspect this has been in the works for some time, but (they’ve) kept things pretty close to the vest,” Loos told FarmWeek. “I commend them for doing this -– it’s really taking a leadership role.
“It should do nothing but help encourage others to come along. GM, Chrysler, and Ford have always been very supportive of biofuels. You could see that in their tremendous support of FFVs. I don’t think any of those three companies wavered from that even during recent tough times.”
E15 remains a tougher sell for many non-U.S. automakers. Gasoline caps included with 2012 Toyota models advise motorists to “Use up to E10 gasoline only,” and specifically label a prohibition on E15 and E85 in non-flex-fuel vehicles.
Loos suggested that early on, manufacturers may have been uncertain not only about the impact of E15 on engine life and performance but also about the way automotive systems -– and thus motorists -- might react to the new fuel.
For example, auto engine service lights may come on if onboard computers are triggered by oxygen sensors calibrated to a specific level of fuel oxygen content. Loos noted continued auto engineering refinements that should prevent such harmless but potentially disconcerting occurrences.
Meanwhile, retail E15 infrastructure is expanding. Loos reported one Iowa and four Kansas stations have installed E15-capable pumps specifically for standard E10 vehicles –- E15 also is dispensed in dial-up “blender pumps” designed only for flex-fuel vehicles.
“Hopefully, we’re going to get some here shortly,” he said.
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