The recently approved use of E15 fuel made from blending gasoline and ethanol could damage vehicles and void warranties says the American Automobile Association (AAA), which is urging the federal government to ban it from the market.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the fuel earlier this summer, but AAA says only five percent of vehicles on the road are approved by the manufacturers to use the special blend they say causes significant problems such as accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage and false "check engine" warning lights.
The auto club conducted a recent survey it says identifies confusion among consumers as to which vehicles can use the fuel - 95 percent of those surveyed had never heard of E15, which contains 15 percent ethanol.
"It is clear that millions of Americans are unfamiliar with E15, which means there is a strong possibility that many motorists may improperly fill up using this gasoline and damage their vehicle,??? said Robert Darbelnet, AAA president. "Bringing E15 to the market without adequate safeguards does not responsibly meet the needs of consumers."
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), former chairman of the House Science Committee, said the findings confirm concerns on Capitol Hill that the fuel can damage cars.
Gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol is readily available at most gas stations nationwide, but E15 is only sold at a few stations in Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.
"Concerns about E15 are not diminishing, they are increasing. That is telling," Sensenbrenner said. "When an organization like AAA, a nationally trusted source for motorists, calls out the EPA, you would think the administration would listen."
The EPA has not yet responded to the AAA's request.
Several manufactures including BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagon are refusing to cover vehicle warranties for damage caused by E15. More are signaling they will follow suit, including General Motors, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, according to AAA.
The only vehicles currently approved by automakers to use E15 are flex-fuel models manufactured in 2001 and after, including some Porsches, General Motors and Ford. The use of E15 is expressly prohibited in heavy-duty vehicles including boats, motorcycles, power equipment, lawn mowers and off-road vehicles.
"The sale and use of E15 should be suspended until additional gas pump labeling and consumer education efforts are implemented to mitigate problems for motorists and their vehicles," Darbelnet said. "Consumers should carefully read pump labels and know their auto manufacturer???s recommendations to help prevent any problems from E15."