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Chicago’s E15 Ordinance May Damage Vehicles, Cause Consumer Confusion

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Contact(s):
Beth Mosher
phone: 630.328.7234
December 04, 2014

Less than 5 percent of cars on road approved to use E15 gasoline

(Link to Video - E15 cause for caution)

AURORA
, ILL., Dec. 4, 2014 – AAA urges Chicago lawmakers to vote against the ordinance that would require most Chicago gas stations to carry E15 gasoline. In a recent survey of Illinoisans, AAA found a strong likelihood of consumer confusion surrounding E15 as the majority (nearly 60 percent) had never heard of E15. With little consumer knowledge about E15 and less than five percent of cars on the road approved by automakers to use the fuel, AAA believes consumers and drivers need to be better protected before the sale of E15 comes to market.

While Chicago’s ordinance notes that E15 is approved by the EPA for use in cars 2001 or later, only about 12 million of the 240 million light-duty vehicles on the roads today are approved by manufacturers to use E15, based on a survey conducted by AAA of auto manufacturers. AAA automotive engineering experts also have reviewed the available research and believe that sustained use of E15 in both newer and older vehicles could result in significant problems such as accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage and false “check engine” lights for any vehicle not approved by its manufacturer to use E15.  

“It is clear that the majority of drivers are unfamiliar with E15, which means there is a strong possibility that many motorists may improperly fill up using this gasoline and damage their vehicle,” said Beth Mosher, director of public affairs for AAA Chicago. “Bringing E15 to the market without adequate safeguards does not responsibly meet the needs of consumers.”

Unsuspecting consumers using E15 could end up with engine problems that might not be covered by their vehicles’ warranties. Five manufacturers (BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen) are on record saying their warranties will not cover fuel-related claims caused by the use of E15. Seven additional automakers (Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo) have stated that the use of E15 does not comply with the fuel requirements specified in their owner’s manuals and may void warranty coverage.

The only vehicles currently approved by automakers to use E15 are flex-fuel models, 2001 model-year and newer Porsches, 2012 model-year and newer GM vehicles and 2013 model-year Ford vehicles. These approvals extend only to cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles (SUVs). The use of E15 is expressly prohibited in heavy-duty vehicles, boats, motorcycles, power equipment, lawn mowers and off-road vehicles.

AAA supports the development and use of alternative fuels. More than 95 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States contains up to 10 percent ethanol. Lower ethanol blends should remain available to consumers while the challenges with E15 are addressed.
 
“The sale and use of E15 in Chicago should not be mandated until additional gas pump labeling and consumer education efforts are implemented to mitigate problems for motorists and their vehicles,” continued Mosher. “Consumers should carefully read pump labels and know their auto manufacturer’s recommendations to help prevent any problems from E15.”

AAA urges the City of Chicago to do a better job of educating consumers about potential dangers before selling E15 gasoline. This outreach should include a consumer education campaign and more effective pump labels, among other potential safeguards to protect consumers and their vehicles.

The EPA in June 2012 officially approved the sale of E15 after receiving a waiver request from producers interested in expanding the use of corn-based ethanol. Despite objections by auto manufacturers, the EPA approved the use of E15 gasoline in flex-fuel vehicles and 2001 model year and newer cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles and SUVs. This means that nearly half (112 million) of the vehicles on the road today are not approved by either the EPA or manufacturers to use E15. AAA urges consumers to follow the recommendations of manufacturers to truly protect themselves from voided warranties or potential damage. 
 
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About The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, travel, insurance and financial services offerings to approximately 9 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with nearly 55 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety.

About Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation
Established by AAA – The Auto Club Group in 2010, Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation, Inc. (ACGTSF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and public charity dedicated to producing a significant and continuous reduction in traffic crashes, injuries and deaths in the communities targeted by its efforts. ACGTSF provides programs, education and outreach to increase public awareness about the importance of traffic safety and improve driving behavior. ACGTSF is funded by voluntary, tax-deductible contributions from organizations and individuals who support ACGTSF’s purpose.

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