Wisdom > Tutor

Here’s what you have to do for the upcoming biofuel-mix increase

DOE has approved the proposal for 5% biodiesel and 20% ethanol in gasoline

There's nothing to worry about the upcoming fuels increase, so long as you understand what's changing. PHOTO BY HANS BOSSHARD


Well, the actual answer is a little more complicated than that. The bottom line is most folks don’t really have to do anything. Just keep a few key points in mind when you see the changes at your local gas station.

We already mandate a biofuel mix for both diesel and gasoline, with B2 (a 2% biodiesel blend) and E10 (10% ethanol in gasoline) being standard for pumps up and down the country.

This not only improves emissions, but also helps reduce our dependence on petroleum imports. Our local corn and coconut industries get a boost, too, as ethanol and coco methyl ester (CME) are derived from those two, respectively.

An increase in the biodiesel mix is mandated over the coming years, but E20 adoption remains voluntary. SCREENSHOT FROM DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

The recent Department Of Energy guidelines now require a 3% biodiesel mix (B3) starting October 1 of this year, with B4 and B5 gradually being phased in by 2025 and 2026, respectively.

For motorists, this simply means slightly lower prices, as most diesel engines will run even higher mixes of biodiesel just fine. DOE’s own testing also showed a 10% increase in mileage with B5 diesel (however, we’re not privy to the specifics of said test). Biodiesel is also supposed to have a lower specific energy compared to petroleum diesel, so we’re not sure how DOE managed to get better mileage, either.

For E20 gasoline, things are a little different. Ethanol is actually an octane booster of sorts, with E85 being used in the performance scene as it burns colder, allowing you to use even more fuel for more power output.

Unfortunately, a lot of gasoline vehicles on the road today are not compatible with gas above E10. SCREENSHOT FROM MAZDA

There’s a catch, though. Fuel lines and gaskets have to be rated for higher ethanol blends, or you risk swelling and degradation of rubber components.

Ethanol also has a lower specific energy, meaning that you will need to burn more of it to make the same energy as pure gasoline of similar volume. Electronic fuel injection can adjust to the leaner conditions, but carbureted engines will need re-jetting and tuning.

Your owner’s manual should be able to tell you if your vehicle can run on fuel higher than E10. If you can, DOE’s memo will now allow gas stations to sell E20 gasoline in separate tanks and pumps, giving you the option for cheaper gasoline.

While you will see a small reduction in fuel economy (perhaps around 5-10% depending on your vehicle), the fuel itself will be cheaper, so you may net savings overall.

Even motorcycles usually aren't compatible with E20. PHOTO BY HANS BOSSHARD

If your vehicle can’t run anything beyond E10, just gas up as normal. Your usual gasoline blend of choice won’t change following the memo.

After a quick survey with my VISOR colleagues, my social peers, and publicly available vehicle manuals online, it seems that most folks’ vehicles (cars or motorcycles) can only really take E10 anyway.

At least for now. If the market for E20 grows locally (just like in Brazil and Thailand), then manufacturers may make a move to support the slightly cheaper fuel moving forward. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

Hans Bosshard

Hans is the ultimate commuter: He drives a car and he rides a bicycle. He also likes tinkering with mechanical stuff.