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Mid-Level Blends

With volatile energy costs affecting all Americans, offering flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) owners more choices at the fuel pump makes sense. FFVs are vehicles manufactured to operate on gasoline and up to 85% ethanol (E85), or any mixture of the two, such as mid-level ethanol fuel blends. One way to accomplish this goal is for retail fuel station owners to purchase and install a multi-product fuel dispenser, commonly referred to as a “blender pump.” Blender pumps utilize existing fuels available at the station to offer additional fuel blends directly from the dispenser. New fuel blends such as E20, E30, and E40, offer consumers ethanol blended fuels between 10% and 85% ethanol.

Introduction of new fuel blends is expected as the marketplace incorporates additional biofuel volumes. Mid-level ethanol blended fuels – fuels containing above 15% and below 51% by volume minimum ethanol content allowed in E85 fuels – are being developed. These fuel blends are described as “EXX,” where the letter E stands for “ethanol volume percent” and the “XX” indicates the maximum ethanol content contained in the blend, with the balance of the fuel being unleaded gasoline. Today, these mid-level ethanol blends are restricted for use in FFVs.

The RFA has prepared a resource guide,  “Becoming a Flex-Fuel Blender,” for ethanol producers looking to pursue this new ethanol marketing opportunity. This guide covers the regulatory requirements, including federal and state, fuel quality standards, incentives, and legal considerations. Find information on Underground Storage Tank (UST) Compatibility with Ethanol-Blended Fuel Here.

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Ensuring Fuel Quality

An ASTM Standard Practice ASTM D7794 for Blending Mid-Level Ethanol Fuel Blends for Flexible-Fuel Vehicles is available to fuel blenders looking to incorporate mid-level ethanol blends into their product offering. The standard practice provides the marketplace with the support needed to ensure the content and make-up of these fuel blends provides consumers the quality fuel they demand.

To ensure the fuel that is being offered is truly what is being dispensed, the RFA has developed the “Blender Pump Sampling and Testing Procedure.”   This document recommends certain ASTM sampling methods that should be used in addition to a step-by-step sampling procedure.

Flex-Fuel Vehicles

The idea of using ethanol as a transportation fuel dates back to the 1880’s with Henry Ford designing his automobiles to run on ethanol. The first flex-fuel vehicle available was the 1908 Model T, a far cry from the sophistication of today’s automotive technology. Several vehicle manufacturers currently make flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) or variable fuel vehicles (VFV) that are capable of operating on 100% gasoline, E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline) or any mixture of the two, such as mid-level ethanol fuel blends. Mid-level ethanol blends are a newly offered fuel for use in FFVs, developed to complement E85 fuel sales. 

Today, there are over 22 million FFVs on the roadways representing about 8% of the total light duty vehicle fleet. 

There are several ways to determine if a vehicle is a FFV: 

  • The inside of a vehicle’s fuel door will typically note E85 compatibility with a sticker.
  • Since September of 2006, auto manufacturers are required to place a label inside the fuel door and to badge the rear of the vehicle. Some manufacturers actually added yellow gas caps for additional recognition.
  • Flex-fuel capability is noted in the owner’s manual and encoded in the vehicle’s identification number (VIN). 

FFVs are growing in demand as consumers want a choice in fuels and desire to support domestically grown transportation fuels. For more information on FFVs and E85, including a station locator, click here.