Ethanol a false economy?

21 Feb 15

Ethanol-blended fuel is often touted as an antidote to fluctuating petrol prices and diminishing oil supplies.

While it has some merits, it is by no means a magic solution to the car world’s energy woes.

Most ethanol produced in Australia is derived from the waste of sugar cane, corn and grain crops.

(There are also studies underway to try to make ethanol from municipal waste which, if successful, could reduce the amount of landfill.)

Because of ethanol’s high alcohol content, it can be used as a fuel in most modern car engines (1990s onwards).

In Australia, most petrol stations now offer fuel that is a blend of 10 per cent ethanol and 90 per cent regular unleaded (E10).

Many motorists are initially attracted to E10’s cheaper price, but is it a false economy?

Ethanol has 34% less energy than unleaded petrol. While the octane rating of E10 is similar to premium unleaded (94 to 95 octane) it does not have the same energy density.

In other words, you have to burn more to get the same amount of energy as regular fuel.

So that means a tankful of E10 will not get you as far as a tankful of regular petrol - which in many cases negates the modest cost saving.

What are your thoughts on E10 or other more environmentally friendly options? Leave a comment below.

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