Ethanol Can Help Meet Higher Octane Needs

Automakers will need higher octane fuels to meet the coming increases in fuel economy and reductions in emissions called for by 2025 and ethanol is positioned to help fill that need.

According to a new study by auto engineering firm Ricardo, Inc., the increase in average fleet fuel economy to 54.5 mile per by 2025 will have to be met in large part by engines and vehicles popular today, which is about double the average of 2010. Ricardo notes, “[t]he vast majority of vehicles sold through 2025 in the United States will use gasoline-fueled, spark-ignited internal combustion engines as the primary form of propulsion.”

Specifically, Ricardo reports that nearly 3 out of every 4 vehicles will require a gasoline-type, higher octane fuel to operate a growing list of engine technology options. “Future powertrain solutions will have a natural thirst for higher octane fuels,” Ricardo concludes. Octane is the standard measure of the anti-knock properties (i.e., engine performance) of a motor fuel. Most fuels today, including E10 ethanol blends, have an octane rating of at least 87.

Speaking at the 17th annual National Ethanol Conference, Ricardo project director Rod Beazley said the meeting should be called the “National Octane Conference” because “ethanol has sort of a bad rap with the autos and it might need to re-market itself.”

Beaszley says he doesn’t agree with the timing of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “If I was king for the day, you’d be getting the 36 billion gallons by 2017,” he said. “That would be the challenge – how to accelerate it by five years.”

He called for an alliance with auto makers who have a tremendous challenge ahead of them to increase fuel economy. “I think there’s a huge opportunity for the renewable fuels industry to grow and to have a very strong partnership with the autos,” he said. “There’s never been a better time for the industry than now.”

Listen to or download Beazley from NEC here: Ricardo Inc. Project Manager Ron Beazley

2012 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

3 thoughts on “Ethanol Can Help Meet Higher Octane Needs

  1. Just for the record, methanol has an octane rating of 110. Plus it costs less than ethanol, and can be made easily from American natural gas.

  2. Just for the record, Ethanol has 25% more btu content than methanol and has the same octane rating. Ethanol is a benign fuel, methanol is highly toxic (like gas) and Ethanol is not as corrosive. Methanol can be made from natural gas but unfortunately we generate electricity from gas and it also heats our homes.
    Just another ethanol critic who fails to get his facts straight but if he had his facts straight he wouldn’t be an ethanol critic.

  3. Francis,

    The toxicity of methanol is often greatly exaggerated to the benefit of the ethanol lobby. The fact is, every new car delayed already has methanol in it — the tank for the windshield washer fluid. And if you are like me, you probably have a jug of methanol sitting in the garage for refelling you car’s windshield washers. (Walk out to your garage of barn and look at the ingredients on your jug of windshield washer fluid. The one in my garage says “98% methanol.”)

    If methanol were as dangerous as you like to pretend, I doubt so many mini-marks and gas stations would be allowed to stack jugs of it in there stores and sell it to anymore who walks in.

    Yes, methanol can be made from natural gas — that’s exactly the point. The US is quickly becoming the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” and it is easier to make methanol from natural gas than it is to make ethanol from natural gas — there are no intermediate steps of turning natural gas into fertilizer, growing corn, and then using more natural gas to distill fermented corn mash into alcohol.

    True, there are fewer Btus in methanol, but the lower cost and efficiency of making methanol directly from natural gas more than compensates for the lower energy density.

    Methanol will be the next great wave of domestic fuel in the US — made from abundant American natural gas.