Research shows E30 is safe for long-term use in non-FFVs

By Erin Voegele | March 08, 2021

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts on March 8 announced that ground-breaking research conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with support from the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services clearly demonstrates that E30 is safe for long-term use in non-flex fuel vehicles (FFVs).

“The research partnership between the State and the University clearly demonstrates that E30 is a safe and reliable fuel for vehicles,” Ricketts said.  “Ethanol saves drivers money at the pump, is good for air quality, and creates opportunities for our farm families.  This study will be a great aid as we advocate for growing the volume of E30 in our nation’s fuel supply.  In turn, raising demand for E30 biofuel will benefit Nebraska’s corn growers who supply 35 percent of their crop to our state’s ethanol industry.”

Results of the study were reached after a yearlong demonstration that compared various data points among a fleet of state-owned, non-FFV vehicles. The demonstration, which was permitted by the U.S. EPA, captured data using on-board diagnostics (OBD) devices on approximately 50 vehicles through both warm and cold seasons. The OBD devices captured millions of data points, giving UNL researchers an opportunity to monitor fuel efficiency, vehicle performance, emissions control systems and many more systems. Drivers also kept a log each time they filled up and provided their experience regarding maintenance and efficiency. Full results of the demonstration will be released following peer review.

“We were not surprised by the results,” said Roger Berry, administrator for the Nebraska Ethanol Board.  “I am encouraged that we now have hard facts that show E30 can safely be used in vehicles other than flex fuels.  Our next step will be to demonstrate this to the EPA and auto manufacturers and to change their recommendations.  I personally have been a long-time user of higher ethanol blends in my conventional vehicles and have had no issues.  Ethanol is a widely studied fuel.  More people will start to see ethanol’s benefits as we continue to provide the facts through projects like this.” 

The Renewable Fuels Association has spoken out in support of the study. “This study adds to a growing body of evidence that demonstrates the benefits of higher ethanol blends like E30,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “It is especially notable that while E30 may have a lower energy content per gallon, the report shows no meaningful loss of fuel economy under real-world driving conditions. Indeed, if these vehicles had been optimized to take advantage of E30’s higher octane rating—something RFA continues to advocate for—they would have likely seen even better fuel economy results. The key takeaway is that more than 300,000 miles were driven on E30 in vehicles that are between six and eight years old, with no reported or observable impacts on vehicle performance. And it’s likely that newer vehicles are even more adaptable to higher ethanol blends.

“This was a controlled experiment conducted by the state of Nebraska with approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” he added. Automakers and the EPA should both take a close look at these results, and the agency should work with the autos to consider issuing a fuel waiver for the use of E30 in new light-duty autos. Likewise, it’s time for automakers to design for, and warranty the use of, higher blends in their new automobiles.

“We thank Gov. Ricketts, the University of Nebraska, the Nebraska Ethanol Board, and EPA for their roles in approving and conducting this important study.”

A summary of the research can be downloaded from the Nebraska Ethanol Board website