This Letter to the Editor was addressed jointly to St. George News and Aaron Kelly in response to previous St. George News opinion articles; to wit: most recently an Op-Ed submitted by Aaron Kelley, Counterpoint to Analysis: Gas mileage going down, and that to the original column by Bill Gephardt, Analysis: Gas mileage going down.
OPINION EDITORIAL – Hi Aaron, I’m writing to you about your op/ed response, “Counterpoint to Analysis: Gas Mileage Going Down,” which was published on StGeorgeUtah.com (article here).
The mistake that has been made here, in both the original article written by Bill Gephardt and in your reply to it, is that you are referring to “energy content” as being the reason why a gasoline-powered spark induced internal combustion engine gets less mileage with ethanol (or an ethanol-gasoline blend). And this is an error that has been made for many years, and is repeated, and repeated, and repeated.
It’s not a matter of “energy content,” it is a matter of “engine optimization.” A spark induced ICE that is optimized to run on ethanol (or a high ethanol-gasoline blend) will deliver mileage that equals or even exceeds the mileage of gasoline in a gasoline optimized ICE. While you do touch upon the importance of spark timing to properly ignite either fuel, spark timing is just one of three factors that must be addressed in comparing mileage efficiency in the two fuels: the other two factors are length of piston stroke (ethanol permits longer strokes per same time intervals), and proper fuel injectors. The fuel injectors in the typical gasoline-powered engine (non-flex fuel and flex fuel vehicles) actually wastes ethanol. This is the probably the single biggest reason of the three why there is comparative mileage loss.
To illustrate this another way, if you had an ethanol optimized engine (which correctly addressed all 3 issues) and you tried to use straight gasoline, the engine might not even run, but it would surely produce fewer miles per gallon of fuel. However, it would still be correct to say that gasoline has a greater energy content than ethanol (according to BTU style measurements). But as you can see, the higher energy content is irrelevant.
This has been known to automotive engineers and scientists for more than 100 years. Unfortunately, it has been successfully swept under the rug by the petroleum oil industry.
On a slightly different note, I find that the issue of water in ethanol causing a problem with gasoline-blends is also a canard. I say this because water separation – if it occurs – does not happen overnight, or after just one week or one month’s inactivity. It takes a longer time. So while this issue has been used to frighten consumers, it is no more significant than the problem of letting an engine with gasoline sit idle for an extended period of time. As I’m sure you know, if you store a vehicle or lawn mower type device for an extended period you are supposed to do one of two things to insure that you don’t catastrophically damage the engine: you either drain the fuel, or you add something like Sta-Bil to the fuel. You would do the same thing with an ethanol-powered engine. It’s funny how the “bad-gasoline” problem gets ignored when anti-ethanol people try and scare people away from trying ethanol or a high ethanol-gasoline blend.
Incidentally, I own a 2002 non-flex fuel Ford Taurus and I run it on either straight E85 or high ethanol-gasoline blends – far in excess of E10 or E15. The vehicle’s engine has not been converted in any manner, and I have not done anything to adjust the engine’s computer. Yes, the check-engine light is illuminated, but I know why and so I am not concerned. I purchased the vehicle used for the purpose of experimenting with it. It passes California smog tests and I do not have any liquid leaking from its hoses or connection points. But, I do save money every time I fill the vehicle. The small mileage loss I do experience is compensated by the lower E85 price.
Thanks for your time.
Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
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