The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association recently sent this press release about the use of E-15 fuels in snowmobiles:
The U.S. Department Of Energy (DOE) released a study conducted by Michigan Technological University that was designed to evaluate the effects of E-15 fuel on current and legacy snowmobile engines and vehicles. Three test scenarios were conducted to evaluate the impact of E-15 including cold-start performance and emissions; snowmobile drivability; and laboratory exhaust emissions over the useful life of the engine. Eight engines were tested over a two-year period. The vehicles were tested in the laboratory and on the trail in real-life driving conditions.
The conclusion of the testing by the DOE is that E-15 fuel is not approved for snowmobile use. Observations made during the study support the U.S. EPA’s decision not to approve E-15 fuel for use in snowmobiles.
The testing was conducted because E-15 fuel is being introduced into the marketplace and is viewed by some people as an important fuel to enable the United States to achieve the goals of the Reformulated Fuel Standard passed by Congress.
Ethanol is being produced throughout the United States, and producers use corn, switch grass and other related plant products in the production of ethanol. It is the directive of the Obama administration that 13.8 billion gallons of ethanol be produced and distributed in the marketplace. That goal is challenging because U.S. gasoline consumption is declining rapidly.
Since it appears the E-15 fuel will be made more readily available throughout the United States, it is important that owners of snowmobiles and other gas-powered products realize that E-15 fuel may negatively impact various engines.
The 69-page study highlights that one of the key issues related to snowmobiles is that exhaust gas temperatures and muffler exit temperature consistently increase with the use of E-15 fuel. The increased temperatures range from 15 to 40 percent, depending on the vehicle. This rise in temperature occurs because of the leaner air/fuel mixture.
Since it has been recommended that E-15 not be approved for snowmobile use by the EPA, there is concern in the marketplace that mis-fueling of snowmobiles can occur. Recent surveys show that about 50 percent of Americans fill up their portable gas tank or vehicles that they are towing with the same fuel used to fill their tow vehicle. Also, about two-thirds of Americans say that they assume that any gas sold at a gas station is safe for all of their vehicles — including snowmobiles, generators, boats, etc. About 50 percent of Americans check the fuel pumps for warning labels when filling up their vehicles.
Other fuels with ethanol are widely available. E-85 has been available in the marketplace for many years. E-85 is a blend of fuel that is designed to be used only in flex fuel-equipped cars and trucks. It is 85 percent ethanol and should not be confused with E-15, which is 15 percent ethanol. E-10 fuel is 10 percent ethanol and has been available and used throughout the United States for years and is approved for snowmobile use.
The complete study is available online.