A new analysis of vehicle owner’s manuals and warranty statements by the Renewable Fuels Association reveals that nearly all new 2020 automobiles are explicitly approved by the manufacturer to use gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol (E15). However, RFA’s annual review also shows automakers are offering far fewer model year 2020 flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) capable of running on blends containing up to 85 percent ethanol (E85).
According to the RFA analysis, manufacturers responsible for 95 percent of U.S. light-duty vehicle sales unequivocally approve the use of E15 in their model year 2020 automobiles. For the first time ever, BMW models will carry the manufacturer’s approval to use E15; in fact, the BMW Group approves the use of up to E25 in its 2020 models, including its line of Mini automobiles.
“As this analysis shows, virtually all new cars, SUVs, and pickups are approved by their manufacturers to use E15, a lower-cost, higher-octane, cleaner-burning fuel available today at more than 1,900 retail stations in 30 states,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “RFA has worked diligently with the automakers over the past decade to ensure a smooth market transition to E15, and we are thrilled that each year more manufacturers recognize the benefits of E15 to their customers. We are especially pleased that beginning with the 2020 model year, BMW now approves not just E15—but up to E25—in its new vehicle offerings.”
For the ninth consecutive year, all new General Motors vehicles are clearly approved to use E15, while Ford has explicitly endorsed E15 in eight straight model years. Among major manufacturers, only Mercedes-Benz, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Volvo—representing less than 5 percent of U.S. sales collectively—do not include E15 as an approved fuel in their owner’s manuals.
RFA estimates that nearly 97 percent of the registered vehicles on the road today are legally approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use E15, and almost half of those vehicles also carry the manufacturer’s endorsement to use E15. In 2011, the EPA approved the use of E15 in cars and light-duty trucks built in 2001 or later. However, automakers did not start including E15 as an approved fuel in owner’s manuals and warranty statements until 2012, the year E15 was first sold commercially.
Meanwhile, automakers continue to dramatically curtail production of FFVs. Only two automakers—Ford and General Motors—are offering FFVs in model year 2020. Just 16 models will be available as FFVs in 2020, with six of those models available only to fleet purchasers. That’s down from more than 80 different models from eight manufacturers being available to consumers as recently as 2015.
“It is frustrating and disappointing to see automakers hitting the brakes on FFVs, especially at a time when more consumers are actively seeking out E85 and other low-carbon flex fuels,” said Cooper, pointing out that E85 sales in California have quadrupled since 2013 and doubled in just the last two years. “EPA has failed to maintain meaningful incentives for FFV production, and the auto industry has responded by abandoning this low-cost, high-impact technology. Not only do flex fuels like E85 save drivers money at the pump, but they also significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and harmful tailpipe pollution. Rather than encouraging more petroleum use, our lawmakers, regulatory officials, and automakers should be taking definitive actions to put more—not fewer—FFVs on the road.”
As RFA advocates for more FFVs on the policy and regulatory front (such as with this correspondence to EPA on its recent FFV credit guidance to automakers), it also encourages drivers to make their voices heard—not just with political officials, but with the auto industry itself. One way to do that is by signing this online grassroots petition asking automakers to offer more models designed to run on “high-octane, low-carbon ethanol blends such as E20, E30 and E85.”
At present, there are more than 4,800 gas stations selling E85 and other flex fuels, and more than 1,900 selling E15. Click here for locations and a price tracker, and click here for more information on ethanol blends.