The objective of this study is to understand the impact of ethanol-blended fuel at various blending levels (10%, 15%, and 20% vol.) on "in-operation" vehicles built to differing emissions and manufacturing standards around the world. The study focuses on vehicles used in Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, and Mexico. Historical experience in the United States and Brazil informs the analysis. The primary study question is: Are vehicles in targeted countries physically and operationally compatible with ethanol blended fuel? For a fuel to be compatible with a vehicle, the fuel must perform its function as part of the integrated fuel-vehicle system, meaning: the car should start easily and drive normally, the fuel should not cause catastrophic fuel system leaks, the fuel should not cause corrosion or degradation of any engine or fuel system components (including emissions control components). The history of E10 use in the United States, beginning in 1978, was evaluated and shows no reliability or operability issues for cars dating back to pre-emissions-control times -- and likely included many cars manufactured in the 1960s. This strongly supports the contention that fuel chemistry and property differences between E0 and E10 are so small that any car made to international standards in the last 50 years will have a very high probability of being fully compatible with E10. This conclusion is supported by the experience in Brazil in the 1970s, where E10 was also introduced, and ethanol blending for conventional cars rapidly ramped up to even higher blend levels. A limited number of fuel system and component manufacturers supply the global market, including Bosch, Continental, Denso, Delphi, and Visteon. To reduce complexity, ethanol-compatible materials began to be integrated in fuel system designs globally. Fuel systems evolved over the following decades to incorporate ethanol-compatible materials with core subsystem families, such as in-tank fuel pumps used across several global vehicle original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). A similarly compelling case can be made that all cars at the Tier 1 (or equivalent) emissions-control technology level or higher are fully compatible with E15 blends, based on the data evaluated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ricardo in 2010. For cars at this technology level, the minor differences in fuel chemistry and properties between E10 and E15 are not significant. For E20, studies are not as extensive but are still highly significant. A long-term durability study conducted on mileage accumulation dynamometers presents convincing evidence that Tier 2 technology level cars have materials of construction and engine control authority for compatibility with E20, although this conclusion is not as strong as those drawn for E10 and E15, which are also partly based on real-world experience.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages87
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5400-81252


  • automobiles
  • biofuel
  • compatibility
  • ethanol
  • motorcycles


Dive into the research topics of 'Global Ethanol-Blended-Fuel Vehicle Compatibility Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this