UAI: Vehicle emissions testing shows ethanol blends are cleaner

By Urban Air Initiative | October 19, 2020

The future of vehicle emission testing is at our fingertips, literally. The use of portable emissions measurements systems (PEMS) is growing in popularity because it’s an accurate and consistent way to test emissions for real world driving conditions and real world fuels. Before PEMS, the only vehicle testing done was in a controlled laboratory with specially blended test fuels. In fact, it was a PEMS unit that helped uncover the emission irregularities that came to light with the VW Dieselgate scandal.

Urban Air Technical Director Steve Vander Griend recently conducted a PEMS test for the 3DATX Corporation Cannon Ball Run promotion. The company is sending its PEMS unit across the globe to track emissions from a variety of vehicles and fuels. The PEMS system measures tailpipe emissions while it collects data from the vehicle’s computer and is compiles the data.

Vander Griend, with the assistance of Jordan Tochtrop, an intern from K-State University tested four vehicles using two different fuels, E10 and E30. The purpose of UAI’s PEMS testing was to validate that changes in fuel blends do impact emissions and that engine data along with emission results can demonstrate that non flex vehicles perform better with higher levels of ethanol.  In UAI’s testing, emissions were lower with the E30 compared to the E10 and the vehicles benefited from the higher octane. The results showed E30 significantly reduced CO, NOx and particulate matter (PM). There was also a small reduction in CO2.

The results impressed and surprised the intern working with Vander Griend. “This is why testing and trying to find a good blend of ethanol is so important because having a fuel that can improve performance, reduce emissions and not significantly reduce miles per gallon would truly be amazing for everyone and the environment. Leaning all of this is awesome because filling a car up with gas is something that people do every day,” said K-State Intern Jordan Tochtrop.

Another benefit of monitoring the vehicle’s computer is to track ignition timing, which impacts efficiency and mileage loss. Comparing the ignition timing data between the two fuels found that when running E30, the vehicles took advantage of the octane boost and saw little mileage difference.

In the end, Vander Griend was pleased to demonstrate how fuel does impact emissions and efficiency. Mid-level blends like E30 can make a difference at reducing carbon and overall toxic emissions out of the tailpipe, while providing an octane boost. While UAI has worked with numerous universities over the years to prove the emission benefits of ethanol blends, having the ability to run emissions testing with real world fuel under real world driving conditions is a game changer for the future of studies.