The Ethanol Chronicles

I think that the subject of Ethanol in fuel is going to become the topic of the moment in the next few years and in view of the frequency of my posts on the subject am beginning to wonder whether I should have called this “The Ethanol Blog”.
In brief the current situation is this: The fuel currently available in the UK may contain up to 5% Bio – Ethanol without it being explicitly declared, and this will rise to 10% in 2013.

The best information available on the subject comes from the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs without whom we would probably have been unable to continue with unrestricted enjoyment of our old cars. I would wholeheartedly advise anyone who has an interest in driving vintage and classic cars to google ‘FBHVC’ and to have a good look at their website.

The FBHVC in their press release of 16th June 2011 identify “Three C’s”: Corrosion, Compatibility and Combustion. The effects of alcohol based fuels on brass components has been known for decades to anyone who runs Methanol as a racing fuel. In the last month I have seen two vehicles which have a long history of continous reliable use which have suffered from recent, substantial and unusual corrosion to brass fuel system components. Now this most certainly is not scientific evidence of the effects of ethanol in fuel but it is extraordinary and worthy of further attention.

The ideal solution to running our cars on modern fuels would be to replace all incompatible materials (which are listed on the Federation’s website) with compatible ones. This is not likely to happen in the near future because of the difficulty of setting up manufacture of so many disparate components so the next best thing is perhaps to treat the fuel in order to counter its effects. There are, so far as I am aware, two additives currently available to treat petrol containing ethanol in order to make it suitable for our cars. I am not aware of any independent tests which might confirm the efficacy of these additives although the FBHVC will, I understand be conducting such tests in the future.

Of the two available additives one is produced by a manufacturer who has already produced an FBHVC approved lead substitute and is available over the counter at Halfords; it works out as an expensive option, requiring one bottle at around £8 to treat 40 litres of fuel. The other available additive seems so far only to be available by mail order and at around £12 per bottle to treat 250 litres.

I don’t of course have the facilities to carry out proper testing of these sorts of products, but I shall be giving them a try to see if they make any difference to the situation.

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