1997 Pontiac Gran Prix fuel tank
1997 Pontiac Grand Prix fuel tank

Last October, the EPA approved the use of E15 (a fuel consisting of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline) in 2007 and newer vehicles. Then, this January, the Agency deemed that the biofuel could be safely used in model year 2001-2006 vehicles. However, the EPA's testing did not include vehicles made between 1994 and 2000, so it's probably risky to fill up older cars and trucks with the blended fuel. Right?

Well, Ricardo, an automotive engineering firm, tested E15 in older vehicles and presented its findings recently at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and the short version is that E15 is likely fine. Ricardo's Rod Beazley claims that older vehicles can burn E15 without suffering any measurable damage. In fact, the firm points out that vital fuel system components (i.e. gas tanks, fuel filters and fuel lines) are more likely to corrode from the outside than from the E15 found within.

Ricardo's presentation, titled "Technical Assesment of E15 Use in 1994-2000 Model Year Vehicles" concludes with this clear statement:
The adoption and use of E15 would not adversely affect fuel system components in properly engineered vehicles, nor would it cause them to perform in a sub-optimal manner, when compared to the use of E10.
Interested in finding out more? Click here (pdf) to view a slideshow of Ricardo's presentation.

[Source: Domestic Fuel, Ricardo (pdf)]