WASHINGTON — An analysis of 2016 model year (MY) warranty statements and owner's manuals conducted by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) shows that auto manufacturers explicitly approve E15 (15 percent ethanol 85 percent gasoline) use in more than 70 percent of new vehicles. This is up from 2015, when just over 60 percent of MY 2015 automobiles were clearly approved for E15. RFA's analysis shows that, for the first time, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA Group) has approved the use of E15 in its MY 2016 Chrysler/Fiat, Jeep, Dodge, and Ram vehicles. FCA's decision means it joins the other members of the "Detroit Three" (General Motors and Ford) in unequivocally allowing E15. Other key points from RFA's analysis include:
- GM started approving the use of E15 with its MY 2012 vehicles, while Ford joined a year later with its MY 2013 vehicles.
- More than 45 percent of the vehicles sold in the United States this year have been produced by the Detroit Three, according to industry data.
- Other automakers offering explicit approval of E15 in MY 2016 vehicles include Toyota/Lexus, Audi/Porsche/Volkswagen, Honda/Acura, Jaguar, and Land Rover. Together with the Detroit Three, these manufactures have produced approximately 72 percent of the vehicles sold in 2015.
- When flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) produced by Nissan and Mercedes-Benz are included, RFA estimates the percentage of MY 2016 automobiles explicitly approved by manufacturers to use E15 is even larger (FFVs are approved to use up to 85 percent ethanol blends).
- With a U.S. market share of 8.5 percent, Nissan Motor Company is the largest "hold-out" when it comes to approving the use of E15 in its vehicles. Nissan even goes as far as suggesting that "E-15 fuel will adversely affect the emission control devices and systems of the vehicle," which raises questions about why Nissan is not able to provide the same quality of technology as automakers approving the use of E15. Curiously, Nissan also warns drivers that oxygenates like ethanol "can cause paint damage."
- Hyundai, Kia, and Subaru also continue to exclude E15 from their fuel recommendations. Together, these three foreign automakers account for about 11 percent of U.S. auto sales. While Subaru recommends that gasoline used in its vehicles contain "no more than 10% ethanol," it allows the use of gasoline containing 15% MTBE—a toxic substance banned in dozens of states because of groundwater pollution concerns.
- Interestingly, BMW's MINI Hardtop appears to allow the use of 25% ethanol blends. The manufacturer states, "Fuels with a maximum ethanol content of 25%, i.e., E10 or E25, may be used for refueling."