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As you drive around town, there’s a good chance you’ll see gas pumps with labels of “E10” or “E15.” This indicates that gasoline contains ethanol, a type of alcohol commonly made from corn. And even though electric vehicles are becoming more popular, most cars still run on ethanol-blended gasoline. But what about your lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and chainsaws? Is ethanol-free fuel the best choice for power equipment? 

What is ethanol gas? 

A red and blue pump with the selection for ethanol (E-85) as a button.
Ethanol gas pump | Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

First, you may be wondering what ethanol gas is. Ethanol-blended gasoline is commonly sold at gas stations and used by most drivers. It typically contains between 10% and 15% ethanol, meaning it has been mixed with regular gasoline at a ratio of 9 parts gasoline to 1 part ethanol. E10 (10% ethanol) and E15 (10.5-15% ethanol) are both widely available and often cheaper than premium, non-ethanol fuels. While drivers choose ethanol gas over premium non-ethanol fuel to save money, non-ethanol fuel is better for your power equipment. 

Here’s why non-ethanol fuel is the best option for power equipment

Non-ethanol fuel has better performance in more delicate machinery because it doesn’t contain additives that can corrode small parts over time. In addition, non-ethanol fuel does not absorb water, so it has a longer shelf life if properly stored—this makes it ideal for seasonal use, like snow blowers or leaf blowers.

According to Husqvarna, “E10 gas absorbs up to 50 times more water than standard gasoline.” One of the biggest reasons to avoid using ethanol gas in power equipment is that ethanol can dissolve plastic, rubber, and fiberglass, and even damage the interior components of power tools if used regularly.  

Options outside of ethanol gas

The U.S. Department of Energy mentions a few different alternatives: compressed natural gas, biodiesel, and electricity.

Natural gas engines have an advantage over gasoline and diesel engines in that there are fewer harmful emissions. Additionally, natural gas can lower maintenance requirements.

Biodiesel, produced from something like vegetable oil, is “nontoxic and can reduce pollutant emissions compared with petroleum diesel.”

Electric mowers do not require as much maintenance. There are also corded electric leaf blowers.

Do not use ethanol gas in your power equipment

To sum up, most cars, trucks, and SUVs run on blended fuels containing 10% to 15% ethanol. However, when it comes to lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and chainsaws, opting for no-ethanol or ethanol-free gasoline is always going to be the better option.


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