3 Pros and 2 Cons of Using E15 Gasoline in Your Car

In early 2022, the Biden Administration announced an Executive Order lifting the ban on E15 gasoline to help ease high gas prices. Before this, car safety concerns and conflicting opinions had curtailed the use of E15 gasoline in several states. 

The ability to save money on gas prices by using E15 gasoline in your car will depend on factors such as your type of car, your car’s manufacturing year, its fuel efficiency, and your driving behavior. Still, understanding the benefits and drawbacks of E15 gasoline is key to car safety. Let’s examine the pros and cons of using E15 gasoline in your car. 

What is E15 gasoline?

A BP gas station off a highway in Asseviller, France
E15 fuel offered at a gas station highway | Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

According to the EPA, E15 is gasoline blended with 10.5% to 15% ethanol. The EPA approved E15 gasoline for use in light-duty vehicles manufactured from 2001 going forward.

Pros of using E15 gasoline in your car

E15 is sustainable

Ethanol is an alcohol derived from corn, making it a sustainable component of E15 gasoline. E15 is a cleaner form of gas since it contains biofuel–which is considered carbon-neutral. It burns cleaner than 100% gasoline.

According to the Renewable Fuels Association, ethanol is an affordable and effective method to reduce harmful emissions from the transportation sector. Since ethanol is a pure compound that is 35% oxygen, it burns more completely than pure gasoline, which contains over 1,000 unique compounds. Consequently, emission reduction means fewer cases of respiratory illnesses. 

E15 gasoline is cheaper for your car

In response to the rising gas prices, President Biden lifted the ban on E15. E15 gasoline is 5-10 cents cheaper than normal gas on average. This is especially good if you’re driving your car long distance. Filling up the gas tank on a small vehicle can save from as little as 45 cents to $1. 

However, while most Americans might find such minimal savings minimal, it is still cheaper than the alternatives. Using ethanol also reduces America’s need to import costly, high-octane, petroleum-based gasoline components or crude oil from other countries.

It is safe for most car models

Compatibility is a crucial car safety factor whenever you’re buying gas. E15 gasoline is safe for most cars manufactured for the 2001 model year and later. Most car manufacturers also say it’s OK to use. According to the EPA, E15 can be used in flexible fuel vehicles, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty SUVs. 

Surprisingly, according to a Kettering University study, there may be no significant degradation in fuel systems dating back to 1995 models. While this is a relief even for those planning to use E15, the main issue is whether your car is covered under warranty for E15-caused damages. Regardless, you can still use E15 if you purchase a vehicle manufactured after 2001.

Cons of using E15 gasoline in your car

It can cause damage to vital components in older cars

Ethanol is relatively corrosive to certain metals and rubber, which can damage vital car components for those vehicles made before the 2001 model year cutoff point. It attracts and bonds with water from the atmosphere. This water can separate inside the tank as a result of phase separation. 

Additionally, if your pre-2001 model year car sits for extended durations between use, the moisture can settle at the tank’s bottom and clog in-tank pumps and filters. Possible damage can also happen in fuel lines, injectors, gaskets, seals, valve seats, and carburetors on older engines.

It is less efficient during summer months

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Ethanol is alcohol. Since alcohol evaporates rapidly in high temperatures, adding more ethanol to gasoline makes your fuel evaporate even faster. This increases the recurring need to refuel. 

Furthermore, when gasoline blends with ethanol, the resulting fuel is volatile. It evaporates easily, and the evaporated particles react with sunlight, resulting in smog–a hazardous air pollution form. 

So, E15 gasoline can be good or bad for your car depending on factors such as car manufacturing year and your driving habits. While it is cheaper and relatively sustainable, experts advise caution and research before considering this type of gasoline for your car.