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First tank of E10 yields powerful results

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A recent E10 convert discusses her experience using the sustainable fuel in her car.


I’m just old enough to remember the aftermath of the phase out of leaded fuel. I remember our family car pulling up to service station pumps and having to scan each row for “unleaded”, and asking my parents why people didn’t like leaded fuel anymore. I also remember the answer – that leaded fuel is bad for the environment and people’s health, and new cars don’t run on it anymore.

The wheel has turned and now we are faced with a similar scenario to that faced 20 years ago. Now, it is unleaded fuel that we know is bad for our environment and for our health. The use of unleaded fuels in transport is contributing to the build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which cause global warming and the associated devastating climate events like cyclones and droughts as the Earth struggles to cope with our poisonous, gaseous output. The increased amount of gases in the air can also have a negative effect on human health, including by triggering asthma attacks and causing respiratory infections.

Again, we have a viable alternative – but this time it is sustainable and could even help reduce our carbon emissions over the cycle of its production. You may have heard of it.

Ethanol.

I switched to premium unleaded about a year ago, after noticing how much better my car ran on this compared to standard unleaded 91. But I had often stopped by the E10 pump, wondering what this mysterious product was. I’d never seen any advertisements for E10 from the fuel stations that sell it – all I knew at the time was that it was cheaper. Some mechanics told me it was a good fuel, to just put it in and see how I went; some of the petrol heads I know went on a passionate tirade, swearing in bouts of four letter words that they would never fill their car with ethanol for fear of sacrificing their power. Nevertheless, I decided to give E10 a go.

A quick spot of Googling told me my car is E10 compatible. The ethanol blend was also a few cents cheaper than my regular fuel, so my hip pocket didn’t feel as light as it usually does after a trip to the local servo.

I had heard some of the rumours about ethanol – in particular, that I would get less power and less fuel for my dollar – so I made sure to pay attention to how my car performed on the new fuel.

The first thing I noticed after switching the ignition back on was the noise, or rather the lack of it. The car seemed much quieter, even after I hit the highway, which was something I hadn’t been expecting. My vehicle also drove a lot smoother, with no lags in acceleration between gears.

I drove a little more erratically than usual, hitting the accelerator hard to test the power. Despite what my petrol head friends had said, I could still very easily beat people off the line and up hill, cruising easily past the traffic. Not bad for a 2L!

Speaking of litres – what about the all-important fuel economy, you ask?

Well, I haven’t noticed a big difference in the amount of fuel my car uses on ethanol. It’s difficult to be sure, especially given the fact that so many other factors can have an impact on fuel consumption. Roadworks, weather and road conditions make it hard to maintain a consistent speed and driving in the stop-start traffic of peak hour of course increases the amount of fuel used. Based on highway travel, I’d say I have noticed that I’m using just slightly more fuel than I would on my usual unleaded fuel – but it is such a marginal amount, that I doubt I would have noticed if I wasn’t looking for it. Further, I still got a fortnight of my normal driving out of a tank of ethanol, exactly the same as what I would get on a tank of non-blended petrol (this is of course compared to the premium unleaded I was using, which in turn had better fuel economy than the regular unleaded I once filled up with.

A fortnight later, after running my first tank of ethanol right down to empty, I went back to my usual premium unleaded, just to be sure. And boy did I miss the ethanol! But of course the results of any experiment can’t be confirmed with just one test – so I refilled with E10 next time I hit empty. The difference was once again staggering and I’ve realized that I am addicted to the way my car runs on an ethanol blend. Except in circumstances where E10 isn’t available, I won’t be going back to unleaded, premium or otherwise.

I’m surprised more people aren’t using ethanol to fuel their cars. Most modern cars are compatible – around 90% of the fleets in both NSW and QLD – and it’s easy to find out if yours is in the minority that aren’t. When I did my research, I used the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries’ checklist of compatible cars, found here, as a starting point. It’s easy for anyone to understand!

For those who care about their impact on the environment, ethanol can help to minimize their carbon footprint. The environment is rapidly reaching the point of no return, but we have the tools here to make a real difference to our emissions levels. The most simple is in our fuel consumption habits.

Ethanol as fuel just makes sense. It’s time more people got on it.