GM, Ford announce E15 compatibility with new models

By Susanne Retka Schill | October 09, 2012

General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have made it official. New models vehicles are ready to run on E15. The endorsement is a little less than enthusiastic, however.

When contacted, GM spokesman, Sharon Basel, environment, energy and safety communications, made it clear that GM was not “approving” E15. “I can confirm that GM's 2012 and 2013 model-year vehicles can use fuel containing up to 15 percent ethanol and is stated as such in our new vehicle owners' manuals,” she replied in an email. “As EPA has changed its regulations to allow E15, we've designed our new vehicles to perform efficiently with this fuel in the event that it becomes more available.  We are focused on securing a safe and trouble-free driving experience for our customers and this modification prepares our vehicles for the potential intro of an E15 blend.”

A spokesman for Ford Motor Co. replied to EPM’s inquiry, saying, “We have approved E15 for use in all 2013 Ford vehicles including hybrids and Ecoboost.” Richard Truett added, “We are not retesting any older vehicles to see if they are compatible with E15 and we’re not commenting on the performance of E15.”

Basel referred to earlier testing done on E15 as part of an industry group in her comments: “GM as part of an industry group has performed a multitude of tests on 2001 and newer vehicles that are included in the EPA regulations for E15 and have found that damage to the vehicle's engines resulted. For model-year 2011 or earlier vehicles, we strongly recommend that GM customers refer to their owners manuals for the proper fuel designation for their vehicles.  In fact, we recommend this across the board.”

Yet, while being less than enthusiastic about E15, she also pointed to GM’s offerings for consumers interested in flex-fuel options. “For the 2013 model we offer 21 flex-fuel vehicles to retail customers and four flex-fuel l vehicles to fleet/commercial customers that are capable of running on ethanol blends up to 85 percent,” she said. “We offer more models than any other automaker that are E85 capable.  And in fact, of the 11 million E85 capable vehicles on the road in the U.S. today, more than 7 million of them are GM cars and trucks.”

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association focused on the positive in its news release commending the auto industry. “The IRFA wants to extend our most sincere thank you to GM and Ford for recommending the use of E15 in new vehicles,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “I believe Iowa consumers will take notice of GM and Ford’s leadership.  This is an important step forward for E15.  Thirty years ago, auto recognition of E10 began much the same way.  First one company, then others followed, first for new cars, then for the legacy fleet. The pressure is now on other auto manufacturers to follow suit or explain why they offer substandard equipment.”

The IRFA says several Iowa retailers are in various stages of moving to offer E15, following the lead of Linn Co-op Oil co. in Marion, Iowa, which became the first retailer in Iowa to offer the fuel after registering with the U.S. EPA. The GM and Ford announcements come only months after this summer’s final approval of E15 for all 2001 and newer vehicles by the EPA, IRFA points out.