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Rider group calls to stop ethanol fuel push

Caberg Duke flip-up helmet ethanol fuel

Governments are continuing to push ethanol fuel on the market, despite the fact that it can damage some motorcycle engines.

In Australia, Queensland and NSW force service stations to supply a certain percentage of E10 (10% ethanol blend) fuel.

In the US, there are moves to push that blend from 10% to 15%.

The American Motorcyclist Association has backed a bipartisan move to prohibit the US Environmental Protection Agency from allowing the introduction of fuel blends with more than 10% ethanol by volume.

More should also be done by Australian rider representative groups to resist this growing government push for ethanol fuel.

The Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries lists the following motorcycles, scooters and ATVs and their suitability for E10.

    E5 Suitable E10 Suitable
Aprilia  All motorcycles and scooters
BMW All motorcycles post 1986    
Buell All motorcycles    
Can-Am All ATVs & SSVs
Ducati All motorcycles    x     x
Harley Davidson All motorcycles post 1986    
Honda All motorcycles and All Terrain Vehicles   x   x
Hyosung All motorcycles x x
Husqvarna All motorcycles          
Indian All motorcycles     √     √
Kawasaki All motorcycles and All Terrain Vehicles with the exception of the list below   x   x
Kawasaki KLX110A/C/D (KLX110/L) 2006-2012 models, KL250J (Stockman) 2006-2012 models, KLX250T (KLX250S) 2009-2012 models, KLX250W (KLX250SF) 2010-2012 models, KL650E (KLR650) 2008-2012 models, KLE650A (Versys) 2008-2009 models, KLE650D (Versys ABS*) 2010-2012 models, ER650A (ER-6n) 2006-2008 models, ER650C (ER-6n) 2009 model, ER650D (ER-6n ABS*) 2009-2011 models, EX650A (ER-6f) 2006-2008 models, EX650C (Ninja 650R) 2009 model, EX650D (Ninja 650R ABS*) 2010-2011 models, ZR750L (Z750) 2007-2012 models, EJ800A (W800) 2011 2012 models, VN900B ( Vulcan 900 Classic) 2006-2011 models, VN900C (Vulcan 900 Custom) 2006-2011 models

* E10 fuel is approved for use in these LAMS variants models

KTM All motorcycles          √
Moto Guzzi  

All fuel-injected motorcycles


    √     √
Piaggio All fuel-injectedmotorcycles/scooters    
Polaris All motorcycles    
Suzuki All motorcycles and All Terrain Vehicles except the two stroke range        
Triumph All motorcycles
Vespa All fuel-injectedmotorcycles/scooters
Victory All motorcycles  
Yamaha All motorcycle and All Terrain Vehicles

Ethanol doesn’t work with carburettors or mechanical fuel injection. It is also a solvent which attacks metallic and rubber-based fuel lines, and has an affinity to water that can cause steel fuel tanks to rust.

Inadvertent fuellingAvoid filling your motorcycle tank with ethanol fuel

The big concern is that many riders are unaware that their motorcycle could be damaged by using ethanol-blended fuels and are inadvertently using E10.

Some riders are being fooled by the higher octane rating of E10 fuels, usually 95 compared with ULP at 89 or 91 and PULP at 95 or 98.

They have the misconception that the 95 octane rating is suitable for modern engines yet cheaper than PULP.

However, RACQ executive manager technical and safety policy, Steve Spalding, warns that ethanol-blended, higher-octane fuels may not necessarily meet the correct fuel requirements for a vehicle designated to run on PULP.

While the RON may be high enough, there is another property in fuel, called Motor Octane Number (MON), which is rarely specified on the bowser.

MON is usually about 10 numbers lower than RON, so a MON of 85 would be ok for a bike rated at 95 RON.

However, ethanol fuels have much lower MON numbers than their RON which could be too low for your bike.

Riders are also confused and attracted by the fact that E10 is usually a few cents cheaper than ULP and much cheaper than 95 or 98 RON.

However, there is about 3% less energy content in a litre of E10 compared with unleaded fuel which means your engine performance and fuel economy will be 3% worse, or to put it another way, your range will be limited by 3%.

The price of E10 would need to be at least 3% less than ULP for riders to even break even on the fill.

Fuelling advice

Either ask the service/gas station for the MON rating or fill up non-ethanol premium unleaded fuel of 95 RON or higher.

It is always best to have a higher octane rating than a lower one even though modern engine management systems have knock sensors that can handle lower octane.

If there is no choice but to fill up with ethanol fuel, make sure your next fill is with a high-octane fuel.

There are plenty of signs and advertising around promoting ethanol, but nothing warning motorcyclists about the potential engine damage!

AMA action

AMA wants to stop E15 in American gas stations Ethanol fuel
AMA wants to stop E15 in American gas stations

Meanwhile, the AMA is calling on American riders to send a message to their representatives by clicking here on their Take Action page and entering your information.

The AMA encourages riders to adjust their messages by drawing on personal riding experiences.

Further reading

Motorbike Writer has published several articles on ethanol fuel in motorcycles.

Check out the articles below under “More stories you may also like”.

  1. on the other side shouldn’t motorcycle manufacturers be suiting up their bikes to cope with ethanol fuel???

    1. Hi Todd,
      With so many people starving in the world, why should more fields of corn be devoted to running internal combustion engines?
      The future of transport is electric power via renewable generating sources, not old, inefficient fuels such as ethanol.

      1. Ethanol and other biofuels don’t have to be made out of plants that take up valuable growing space it’s just unfortunate that it is often so much cheaper and more profitable for a would be fuel company to buy up land or the production of a farm than use the sources that are essentially free.
        Every week tonnes of biomass goes straight into landfill when it could go into fuel production. An example of this kind of short sighted waste is when a certain QLD council had the opportunity to choose between an Australian developed power plant fuelled by the local garbage collection or a landfill owned by an American conglomerate. Guess which one they choose.

  2. The dangers of alcohol blended fuels
    The ron and mon ratings can vary sharply with age, you may fill up with 95 ron but leave your vehicle sit for a few weeks and discover that the ethanol that made cheap ulp 95 ron has either evaporated out or soaked up water and is sitting at the bottom of the tank. This is very dangerous for the engine as it can cause knocking in pre computerised vehicles or hydrolock or simply stall the engine.
    Various plastic fuel components can become brittle or erode away and cause a fuel leak and possible fire, the ethanol can combine with water contaminants and products of corrosion to form a horrible jelly that clogs and gums up the fuel system. Ethanol can burn hotter especially in a lean condition which is the most likely circumstance in a carburetted engine or mechanical fuel injection. this can result in valves burning out.

    E10 is good on occasion to clean out a fuel system if you suspect water in the tank just don’t let it sit for more that a day before running it dry and filling up with the good stuff.

  3. “No Japanese bikes (and no Piaggio products) can use it.”

    The owner manuals for SUZUKI DR650SE, DR-Z400S and DL650 (MY2015) clearly state that up to 10% ethanol can be used in these models. ( I own all 3)
    Honda seems to allow up to 10%. ( I checked 2 manuals)
    Kawasaki and Yamaha make no mention. ( I checked 2 manuals each)
    You’re right about Piaggio.

    I once bought a ’94 BMW K75S in not working condition and it turned out that the rubber mount for the fuel pump inside the tank was dissolved and the black goo clogged up the pump. The bike was last registered in QLD. My theory is: ethanol damage.

    1. My Kawasaki VN1700 manual states “Do not use any fuel with an ethanol in this vehicle. It has not been tested and certified for use with such fuels. Damage to the engine and fuel system, or engine starting and/or per- formance problems may result from the use of improper fuel.”…

  4. Things must be different in the city (I assume you live in a city). Here in Northern NSW and the bush areas we ride in all over the country, virtually all ethanol-blended fuel is 91 octane. I have just lately seen 94 octane ethanol-blended fuel in one or two places, but have never once seen 95 octane E10 as per your article. Personally I always fill my motorcycle tank with 98, unless that is not available in which case I get 95 or in the worst case 91 that doesn’t contain ethanol.

    Your assertion that PULP is ALWAYS better is not quite correct. Higher octane fuel burns too slowly for some low-compression engines, such as 2-strokes with compression ratio of 6:1 that I have owned in the past. To use high octane fuels in such an engine results in un-burnt fuel going out through the exhaust valve. For modern high-compression engines you would be mostly correct.

    1. I agree Graeme, PULP isn’t always better. You should always run the lowest octane possible in your vehicle before knocking/pinging occurs for best performance.

      High octane doesn’t require just high compression. My 600RR is 12:1 compression and only requires 91. Running higher octane is a waste as the bike cannot adjust the timing etc for the octane rating. Which means more carbon deposits and unburnt fuel out the exhaust.

      Read the owners manual, and use what is recommended. Runnning a higher octane “just because it’s better” is just a waste.

      1. Oops! I should have written “exhaust port”, not “exhaust valve” when referring to two-strokes.

  5. “Either ask the service/gas station for the MON rating or fill up non-ethanol premium unleaded fuel of 95 RON or higher.”

    Yes, I remember the days when you could get service station attendants that knew something about fuel…

  6. We’re not alone with our bike engines. Car engines are in the same boat … oh wait … then there are the boat engines … … |:-|

    I’ll add more later, BUT …

    – here in Queensland, IMHO, the so-called ‘ethanol fuel industry’ is driven in the Qld parliment by a combination of left-wing ideology and far-right wing redneck-ology, c/- Katter juniour, and his cane farmer constituents.

    Not a single one of these ‘individuals’ have a single ‘motoring’ bone in their body. Their big turn-on is to sit around in back room meetings with the party apparatchik, and devise absurd new laws around their banal ‘twisting’ of the logic of our everyday life. Me??? Cynical? Nawwww.

    Anyway – when the benefits of our local, environmentally friendly, ethanol industry – is analysed at it’s small scale production levels – the energy balance (production energy in vs ethanol energy out), is negative.

    Meaning, that we spend more energy to make the stuff than what save by using the stuff, compared to the use of petrol.

    Yep – Queensland – The Smart State. (Just don’t look too deeply).

  7. My BA ute would also shit itself if I was stupid enough to put ethanol in it. My Harley is meant to be able to take it,but judging from the terrible performance and backfiring the time I got stuck and had no choice I doubt that claim. Also dropped 100km of my range.

  8. I live in California, stuck with 10% ethanol fuel. Can anyone recommend a decent fuel additive that helps with the ethanol?

  9. How about an article dispelling some of the myths about octane ratings. Eg.
    High octane has more energy in it
    High octane burns faster or hotter
    High octane gets better fuel consumption
    Low compression engines need low octane
    High octane produces less emissions

  10. I think perhaps the article showed have actually been a bit more specific when it comes to brands that can use ethanol fuel. Most manufacturers state that their machines can use E10, the machines are required to by law. The issue is the long term use of E10 and this applies to cars as well. Last year I suggested to my wife that she put the ‘new’ E10 95oct fuel in her 2011 Subaru Impresa, instead of the 91 ULP she normally used. Well after a couple of months the ‘eng fault’ light kept coming on, so of to the dealers. The service manager asked what fuel was being put in it, as soon as I mentioned E10. He said that the problem’ it apparently glogs the o2 sensors. I suggested that we put a bottle of injector cleaner in it and no more E10. Solved the problem, without replacing the sensor. So buyer beware,

  11. the only people E10 (or higher) benefits are the cane farmers, so you know they’ll be doing a great job to lobby for it here over the needs of the motorcycling (and ATV and watercraft) community because getting bikers to campaign for anything is like herding cats at bathtime!

    I lived in the US for a decade and watched as E10 became more and more prevalent and I experienced firsthand the impact a tank-full would have on my ’05 Dyna (first generation EFI) – fuel economy dropped noticeably (I had a regular commute routine so during the week it would be obvious) and the engine ran way hotter (nice in the winter perhaps). Since moving back here I’ve been pretty careful to avoid E10, though there are a couple of garages I’ve come across recently where there’s no ‘pure’ option available (and with mixer pumps you’re getting cross-contamination anyway, even though it’s a small amount, with the smaller tank on a bike it can be a bigger deal).

    really hoping that the various State and overall Motorcycle Councils here along with magazines like AMCN and Heavy Duty can spread the word and get behind a campaign to make sure we don’t go down the same path the Americans have let themselves get dragged onto

  12. Ethanol in fuel forms aldehydes as a byproduct. The aldehydes polymerise and form sludge that sticks to everything in the engine. The rings start to stick. Fuel bypasses the rings and thins the oil. Boundary lubrication is compromised and you get increased wear or scoring.

    Typically E10 (10% ethanol) results in about a 6% reduction in fuel economy. Unless E10 is 6% cheaper than normal fuel it’s not worth buying N.B. Most times E10 is only a few cents cheaper than regular fuel.

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