Gas Pains: Unleaded 88 and Your Car

Discussion in 'In the News' started by cliff leppke, Jan 12, 2022.

  1. cliff leppke

    cliff leppke Cliff Leppke

    [​IMG] Everything you needed to know about 88 Octane Fuel.

    Cliff Leppke – CleanMPG – Jan. 11, 2022


    There’s a change at some filling stations—a new blend marketed as Unleaded 88 “Engine smart. Earth Kind.” According to Gas Buddy, it’s available in 31 states and 1,826 stations. Look closely at pump labeling. Unleaded 88 has 15-percent ethanol (E-15) and usually costs less than regular unleaded (87 octane) with 10-percent ethanol or E-10.

    Refiners are introducing 88 in many places, even those with problematic air pollution despite the fact it’s not strictly Clean Air Act compliant. More on this later. Thus “88” is now available in Milwaukee/Chicago, a “nonattainment area” due to subpar ambient air quality. This piece explores whether you should refuel with E-15 and how it arrived at the pumps.

    Let’s start with whether you should use it. This is much more complicated than you’d think. Pump labels say it’s suitable for 2001 and newer model year vehicles. It’s not appropriate for small engines used for lawn mowers and motorbikes. Ethanol in this fuel has a corrosive nature and has added oxygen. These properties aren’t kind to older machines. The EPA says E-15 has been thoroughly vetted; carmakers disagree. They claim the EPA focused primarily on the fuel’s impact on catalytic converters. It didn’t check E-15’s feasibility in a wide range of vehicles for damage to fuel senders and fuel pumps. Carmakers agree on one point: all flex-fuel vehicles engineered for E-85 can burn E-15.

    VW’s product specialist Mark Gillies says he’s “pretty sure all Dubs since 2014 are designed for E-15. There was an E-15 program out of its Detroit office.” Nonetheless, both Wade Newton, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation’s vice president of communications, and VW’s Engineering and Environmental Office’s Jenny Sigelko urge you to check your owner’s manual. It’s the ultimate arbiter of what fuel belongs in your vehicle’s tank. Sigelko says a blanket statement isn’t possible. Some engines, such as the one in Audi’s V-10 R8 sports car, she argues, weren’t evaluated for E-15.

    The 2021 Atlas’ manual says E-15 is permitted, the 2021 Mazda6 says no and the 2009 VW Rabbit’s says nothing greater than E-10, although 15-percent MTBE is acceptable. This latter blend (now banned in many regions) contains methyl tert-butyl ether, an oxygenate. It’s a controversial fuel additive, which upped octane and was part of a reformulated gas program meant to reduce ozone-forming volatile organic compounds during summer months and cut oxides of nitrogen for the entire year. After its introduction (Chicago/Milwaukee area in 1995), this additive’s proclivity for contaminating water, led to an ethanol-laced alternative: E-10.


    Pump labeling, itself a hotly debated topic, reflects a shift in motor vehicle fuel systems since 2000. Most late-model cars now have fast-acting oxygen sensor systems, which alter the fuel mixture to meet the ideal stoichiometric ratio of gas and oxygen for an internal combustion engine. The reason an engine’s fuel systems must tweak for this ratio is ethanol has oxygen molecules; straight gasoline doesn’t. Thus, E-15 introduced into engines designed for conventional gas or the mandated E-10 might experience “enleanment.” If there’s too much air, the resulting fuel mixture increases combustion temperature and could damage engines or emissions components. Plus, it might increase oxides of nitrogen emissions (NOx).

    How E-15 got to your filling station is likely just as confusing as whether you should use it. The experts I consulted couldn’t provide a definitive timeline. Thus, we might start this journey by returning to the 1980s and 1990s. Air quality in many parts of the USA didn’t meet the Clean Air Act’s standards. Therefore, regulators required a shift toward what’s called reformulated gas (RFG). These were oxygenated blends meant to meet goals mentioned earlier. These blends alter cold-engine emissions, which I’ll explain later.

    Another factor shifted is called volatility. Fuel blends shift seasonally because temperature has an effect on how fuels burn and volatile organic compounds (VOC). One VOC measurement is Reid Vapor Pressure or RVP. Ideally, you’d want a low vapor pressure during the summer to prevent vapor lock or gasoline turning into a vapor before it’s combined with air via the fuel system. In contrast, a higher vapor pressure improves a cold engine’s ability to start. So, refiners seasonally adjust fuel blends. And under RFG rules, one goal was improving air quality by lowering vapor pressure. Fuels that didn’t meet this requirement were banned—especially during summer months from many metro areas.

    Experts say E-15 exceeds vapor pressure standards. True, but so does E-10 in much of the USA. There’s a patchwork of gas blends in the USA, so there are regions with different rules. The reason it’s now available in places such as Chicago year-round is a 2019 EPA waiver. The politics behind this waiver focused on increasing the use of renewable fuels. It extends to E-15 the same increase of 1 psi in vapor pressure granted to E-10.

    You might point your finger at E-15 and then call it a stunt appeasing certain political interests. It is. But whether it’s good for the earth in terms of air quality is difficult to peg as vapor pressure isn’t the only factor in what forms ground-level ozone due to VOCs. Plus, the reason it’s at the pump involves the renewable fuels standards mandate codified at least 15 years ago. RFS is a federal program with policies enacted in 2005 (Energy Policy Act) and 2007 (Energy Independence Security Act) couched as weaning the USA from its reliance on imported oil. Since use of renewable fuels hasn’t met expectations, the feds added E-15 to the mix.

    I cannot evaluate the impact of E-15 on vehicles or the air you breathe, but we know a few things about fuel blends from university studies. Researchers focused on Milwaukee to measure whether RFG improves air quality. Milwaukee’s problematic air probably doesn’t sound as nasty as Los Angeles. But meteorologist Robin Marshment says Milwaukee’s micro climate on Lake Michigan’s “fresh coast” generates an ozone situation during summer months; polluted air from nearby Chicago migrates north. This leads to unhealthy smog levels at testing stations nearly 40 miles north of Milwaukee—an area of low vehicular traffic.


    Fuels with lower vapor pressure were evaluated in California and other regions. Maximillian Auffhammer (UC Berkeley) and Ryan Kellogg (University of Michigan) examined US gas regulations (2011). What they found might surprise you. Their study focused on VOCs, NOx and ground-level ozone pollution. Their conclusion was simple: implementation of federally mandated RFG did not improve air quality because the feds allow flexibility in choosing a compliance mechanism. Therefore, refiners opt for the cheapest mode of reducing VOCs, which does not reduce ozone. In California, however, where VOC rules specifically target known harmful compounds air quality did significantly improve.

    Reid Vapor Pressure Regulations

    RVP, measured in pounds per square inch, gauges the intensity with which VOCs are emitted from gasoline. These emissions occur either on the road, via vehicle exhaust or through evaporation. The fumes you smell when fueling a vehicle are an example of evaporative VOC emissions. Regulations meant to target ground-level pollution through RVP began in 1989. Standards varied based on EPA modeling with the longer trend toward mandating tighter 7.8 psi summer RVP. Some areas implemented stricter limits, as low as 7.0 psi. Refiners often met this rule by reducing the concentration of butane in the gas they sold.

    Federally mandated RFG under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 led the EPA to enforce RFG in 1995 in areas designated with severe ozone problems (Milwaukee and Chicago, say). These rules placed caps on how much benzene (no more than 1 percent)—a VOC—and this fuel must contain at least 2 percent oxygen with the goal of cutting VOCs. Furthermore, under federal rules RFG’s NOx emissions could not exceed those of conventional gasoline. The NOx/benzene standards were year-round, with the VOC standard applied during the summer ozone season.

    California’s Air Resources Board and Arizona regulators implemented their own RFG programs. Benzene rules were like the federal standards, whereas VOC targets, were tougher with a seasonal 7.0 psi RVP limit requiring cuts in olefins and aromatic hydrocarbons—both more reactive than butane in forming ozone. Sulfur content was further reduced to control sulfur dioxide and NOx.

    While this is weedy, and scores of graphs, charts and stats compare air pollution in various areas. For instance, evidence shows the area just east of St. Louis with lower RVP fuel accomplished via methods not as closely linked to ozone as CARB’s did not reduce ozone concentrations. Researchers noted similar findings for Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and New York—although decreases in ozone in Delaware and New Jersey were better explained by local and upwind NOx emissions controls. In California, however, the 1996 CARB standards did significantly decrease ozone concentrations in VOC-sensitive parts of the state.

    In sum, this study found the failure of RVP and RFG to reduce ambient ozone concentration centers on the flexibility granted to refiners in meeting VOC emissions. The rules capped the overall rate of VOC emissions for gasoline, which refiners met by removing butane. Since butane isn’t highly reactive in forming ozone, its reduction doesn’t translate into reductions in ground-level ozone.

    Since Unleaded 88’s RVP is higher than federal standards for straight gasoline, it could, depending on its compounds, increase ground-level ozone pollution. Yet, its RVP is the same as currently used E-10. In contrast, those promoting ethanol argue it’s possible to design engines with higher compression ratios for greater thermal efficiency and therefore take advantage of this additive’s higher octane. Since ethanol is less energy dense than gasoline, fuel economy suffers. Here, again, engines engineered for optimal use of higher ethanol blends would fare better.

    Theresa Foley, Craig Rendahl and Donna Kenski published a technical paper on the effect of RFG on carbon monoxide concentrations in Southeastern Wisconsin (Journal of Air & Waste Management, 2003). They compared the Milwaukee area with a control city Madison, which didn’t have RFG during the study period. Their conclusion based on a six-year study was RFG introduced to lower CO, VOCs and thus ground-level ozone, did decrease ambient CO concentrations during the winter (twice as much in Milwaukee), but summer data showed no statistically significant change. RFG did not have the impact the federal modelling predicted—likely a variation of the same results found in the Auffhammer study—only RFG created to cut known ozone producing compounds achieves year-round benefits.

    Other matters studied included Southeastern Wisconsin’s vehicle inspection program—less effective than anticipated—evidence pointed to several factors including motorists who shifted their vehicle registrations to areas outside the program area. Winter reductions in CO emissions were likely because the slight “enleanment” caused by RFG reduces vehicle CO emissions after a cold start and before the catalytic convert reaches optimal temperature for oxidizing CO into carbon dioxide. Since air quality in Madison without RFG improved. Researchers theorize fleet turnover—fewer vehicles on the road built before 1978–especially carbureted autos, was a factor.

    Unleaded 88 is here. You can use it in some but not all late-model cars. At some stores, Unleaded 88 replaced mid-tier E-10, 89 octane gas. Those marketing 88 claim it’s cleaner, improves engine performance and costs less. You can still fill’er up with regular unleaded. Just use the appropriate pump nozzle. It’s likely a wash on whether you’ll save money.
  2. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    They might try to tell you it's "safe" for vehicles that are 2001 or newer. I distinctly remember my 2008 Honda
    specifying no more than 10% ethanol. No thanks , commie bastards. I'm not thrilled with E10 , but I won't buy E15.
    Even if they call it Angel Whiz.
    08EscapeHybrid, litesong and BillLin like this.
  3. litesong

    litesong litesong

    I agree with Edwin, except for the “commie bastards” remark. More accurately, its the lie-labeling “ethanol in gasoline” industry that has bribed themselves into gov’t to dilute the nation’s gasoline stocks with the lie-labeled “87 octane 10% ethanol fuel blend”. The gasoline component of lie-labeled “87 octane, 10% fuel blend” is 84 octane.
    Still NOT satisfied with their dilution share in our gasoline stocks, the decades old lie-labeling “ethanol in gasoline” industry similarly forces more money on the gov’t trying to make lie-labeled “88 octane 15% ethanol fuel blend” acceptable to the American public. In truth lie-labeled *88 octane 15% ethanol fuel blend” has a gasoline component that is only 83.5 octane. Another lie-labeled “87 octane 15% ethanol fuel blend” only has a gasoline component of 82.5 octane.
    With lots of fake talk about clean air, the lie-labeling “ethanol in gasoline” industry has for decades hid what gasoline component true octanes are in their fuel blends. Cliff Leppke speaks as if lie-labeled “88 octane 15% ethanol fuel blend” is new. Since Cliff Leppke also hasn’t stated what octanes are in lie-labeled “88 octane 15% fuel blend”, Cliff Leppke becomes complicit in the decades-long propaganda of the lie-labeling “ethanol in gasoline” industry.
    It would appear that this old lie-libeled “88 octane 15% fuel blend” propaganda is coming out again, because gas prices are now outrageous. The lie-based “ethanol in gasoline” industry strikes again while the iron is hot(gas prices high), saying what a deal, cheap lie-labeled “88 octane 15% ethanol fuel blend” is.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2022
  4. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    Or more likely , Cliff didn't investigate this as much as you. I don't think he's part of a conspiracy , lol.
  5. Trollbait

    Trollbait Well-Known Member

    Saw E15 a year ago. I've tried out it out since the Camry can take it, and it was cheaper. It probably came out ahead. Was on a trip, so direct comparison of fuel economy is difficult in the situation. Of course, my normal fuel economy has been all over the place with the pandemic.

    "The gasoline component of lie-labeled “87 octane, 10% fuel blend” is 84 octane."
    That doesn't quite add up.

    Ethanol as an octane booster has been used in gasoline longer than the recent E10 mandates. Ford preferred it back when we started increasing the octane of straight gas. But DuPont won out, and we got lead instead, which was such a wonderful idea.
    RedylC94 likes this.
  6. litesong

    litesong litesong

    Of course, it adds up correctly. One part 114 octane ethanol, combined with 9 parts 84 octane gasoline = 10 parts 87 octane fuel blend” as the lie-labeling “ethanol in gasoline” industry are calculating its ratios. Problem is the 114 octane ethanol component nor the 84 octane gasoline components are what 87 octane gasoline engine engineers designed their vehicles to burn. That is why my last five 87 octane gasoline engines got 8%, 8%, 7% to 8%, 7% & 6% BETTER MPG burning E0 than using (not burning efficiently) E10.
  7. litesong

    litesong litesong

    Cliff did lots of investigating, to the tune that he has stated in a lengthy post EVERY(?) fake fact that the lie-based “ethanol in gasoline” industry has dumped on the public. I couldn’t “investigate” as he has investigated. But, I know how to calculate fuel blend component octane ratios, & including ten plus years & hundreds of tanks of both E10 & E0 use to obtain my 5 cars, getting much better MPG with E0 over E10, proving that five out of five 87 octane gasoline engines prefer 87 octane E0.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2022
  8. Trollbait

    Trollbait Well-Known Member

    The true octane of ethanol is unknown. This is because the test engines for MON and RON can't be adjusted to accommodate the air fuel ratios for pure ethanol. A blending value can be determined(BOV), which is 112 to 113 for ethanol. I have never seen 114 listed before.

    So what if the gasoline in E10 is only 84AKI. The engine isn't separating the alcohol and petroleum products to burn individually. If we went with real straight gasoline, the gasoline fraction distilled directly off of petroleum, the best octane we could have would be 60, but more likely lower.

    The Model T engine was designed for ethanol. The gasoline it ran on when new would simply wreck a modern engine. What gasoline actually is has been evolving along side cars.

    Some other reading.
    The BTEX section implies that gasoline in the 1990's was only 50% to 70% gasoline, depending on grade.
    A primer on the properties of E10.

    To avoid the negatives of ethanol, phase separation and vapor pressure, we should be using E30.
  9. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    Could be worse.The Feds could mandate E85. Lots of old-school cars can burn it. Then we could preserve the
    last few liters of dino juice in the ground.
  10. Trollbait

    Trollbait Well-Known Member

    Some new ones can too.
    The issue I had with flex-fuel cars was that manufacturers used low compression engines for them. Higher compression would take more advantage of E85's higher octane, and lessen the fuel economy loss.

    I had wanted to try E85 in my Sonic. The 1.4L turbo was like 95% flex fuel. It just needed 15in of alcohol compatiable fuel hose and an alcohol sensor; E85 fuel maps were already in the ECU. But like when I had the flex-fuel Ranger, there was no station selling E85 around me. Same with E15, I happen to come across it while visiting parents down south. 'Pure' gasoline is also more common down there, but it is around a dollar more a gallon, putting it above the price diesel.

    Blends around 30% ethanol also have another benefit. In some engines, the fuel efficiency per btu can be higher than that of gasoline.
  11. litesong

    litesong litesong

    Trollbait sometimes doesn’t show up for a month(longer?) at a time, but hours after I mention ethanol, he’s here to argue whether blended ethanol has an octane of 112, 113, or 114. Now we know how to boost CleanMPG readership…..just have me mention ethanol.
    Wagging his ethanol fake facts straight from the “ethanol in gasoline” industry playbook, he even mentions the Model T (which he has done before).

    Of course, the 87 octane gasoline engine doesn’t separate ethanol & petroleum to burn separately….a new side-tracking fake fact from Trollbait. The different fuels with different octanes, do the separate burning on their own. Because gasoline in 10% ethanol has an octane of 84 & blended ethanol has an octane of 114, they MUST burn at different temperatures,pressures & timings, within the cylinder. Just as I’ve said scores of times, ethanol MUST COMBUST, mostly outside the combustion timing period for 87 octane gasoline engine maximum power & torque. That is why I have repeated often, that early carburetors if knocking occurred, while using (burnlng inefficiently) E10, it was the low 84 octane gasoline that was causing the knocking. The ethanol has too high an octane to knock. That is why my last five 87 octane gasoline engines gave 8%, 8%, 7% to 8%, 7% & 6% better MPG using 87 octane E0, rather than lie-designated 87 octane 10% ethanol, E10.

    Yes, yes, yes. The “ethanol in gasoline’ industry advertising posterboy, Trollbait, says we have to use E30 now. He’s said that before.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2022
  12. Trollbait

    Trollbait Well-Known Member

    Any sources for your claims? Should easy to find. Many areas are E10 only, there must be a rash of knocking problems going on.

    How about answering this. H2O is the chemical formula of water. C2H5OH is ethanol. What is gasoline's?
  13. litesong

    litesong litesong

    Yes, there are sources. My last five 87 octane low-compression ratio gasoline engines delivered 8%, 8%, 7% to 8%, 7%, & 6% better MPG burning 87 octane E0, as compared to using (NOT burning efficiently) lie-labeled 87 octane E10. All vehicles, while burning 87 octane E0 or using (NOT burning efficiently) lie-labeled 87 octane E10, were carefully featherfooted.

    Of course, Trollbait knows this, because he goes round & around asking the same questions.

    I must say, Trollbait has had as much action on this website as he has had in many months (a year?). Stirring ethanol really gets Trollbait stirred up.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2022
  14. Trollbait

    Trollbait Well-Known Member

    Because you never answer them. You haven't even shared the data for your percentage difference between fuels.
  15. litesong

    litesong litesong

    You are a sentinel for the lie-based “ethanol in gasoline” industry. Yea…..often long absent from this website. But a wiff of ethanol words, you are back, fluttering their decades of propaganda. Model T running on ethanol, to ya.
  16. 08EscapeHybrid

    08EscapeHybrid Moderator

    Personally I won't put E15 in any of my vehicles unless absolutely necessary. My only vehicle that it MIGHT run ok in is my 05 Grand Marquis (my late Grandfather's car). The hit on mileage is enough for me to avoid any ethanol whenever possible. I'm not putting E15 in, and risking fuel system damage. I don't dare put it in the motorcycle because the octane is too low, and my pickup truck is a 1998... I know that fuel system will grenade with higher ethanol.

    That all being said, I did buy two tanks of E15 recently. We were returning some rental trucks, and while I wouldn't put it in my own car, E15 is fine to top off a rental right before returning it. I even checked to see if those trucks could run E85, but I got conflicting information on whether or not you could run E85 in a 2022 Freightliner Sprinter.
    EdwinTheMagnificent likes this.
  17. Trollbait

    Trollbait Well-Known Member

    Toyota has it right on the gas cap, no more than E20. The lower price meant the cost per mile didn't change.
  18. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    I haven't seen it for sale yet. When I do , I will compare the price to 87 and 89( or 90 ).
    The Prius can drink it , but I'm sure my 1994 Honda lawnmower won't like it.
    RedylC94 likes this.
  19. RedylC94

    RedylC94 Well-Known Member

    That's interesting, considering my owner's manual (for same generation, but older, Prius) says "Toyota allows the use of oxygenate blended gasoline where the oxygenate content is up to 10% ethanol ... "
  20. Trollbait

    Trollbait Well-Known Member

    Once it became obvious that the push for E15 wasn't going away, the car manufacturers started making compatible vehicles. 70% of 2016 MY cars, including my Camry, were okayed for E15, and that went up to 80% the next year. The switch didn't just start in 2016.
    Most of the big car companies sell cars in Brazil. The smallest blend of ethanol there is E20. They already had the knowledge and parts for making engines and fuel systems safe for E15.
    08EscapeHybrid likes this.

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