A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: CRCís Engine Durability Highlights Failures on All Fuel Tested

Posted on: June 07, 2013 in Engines, Ethanol, Test

There continues to be a large amount of chatter around the controversial Coordinating Research Council’s (CRC) Intermediate-Level Ethanol Blends Engine Durability Study (Report No. CM136-09-1B). What I haven’t seen is a visual representation of the test program ever make it into press releases, Congressional hearings, newspaper articles, or AAA publications. If indeed a picture is worth a thousand words, here are the test program results — in one thousand words.

Below is the visual representation of the CRC’s Engine Durability Overall Results (from page 11 of the report.)

CRC Engine Durability Results

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Colorful picture isn’t it?  From the API/CRC press releases, one would gather the only failures in the test program were on ethanol blended fuels. That is far from factual.

  • 33 percent of the vehicles tested failed on gasoline with no ethanol.
  • 75 percent of the eight vehicle models (Vehicles 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) tested passed on E20, however one of the duplicate models failed.
  • The objective of the test program was “to identify possible engine component wear caused by additional ethanol content in the fuel…”  If incremental effects of ethanol were the research objective, then E10, which makes up over 95 percent of the gasoline available in the United States, should have been included in the evaluation.
  • The test protocol selected for this test program was “employed by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM)…”  If the benchmark for acceptable engine durability is the protocol used in this research program, then why is a single original equipment manufacturer using this engine durability protocol?
  • Several of the vehicles were “waived” of further testing and subsequently deemed acceptable as no further testing was completed. 
  • It was known that a number of these vehicles were under recall at the time of the testing.

What is not being discussed from this report is the engine failure on gasoline without any ethanol. What are the ramifications to consumers who purchase Vehicle 8? The inference from API and CRC is this protocol sets the minimum standard for engine durability for the entire fleet of cars in use today. Liberally apply this test program’s result to today’s fleet of 240 million vehicles, and 80 million vehicle owners are stranded today because their vehicles won’t even operate on gasoline!

CRC Vehicle 8 Results

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Why isn’t Senator Vitter, in protecting his 4 million constituents in the great state of Louisiana, investigating why this vehicle failed on EVERY fuel tested?  To parody the OEM representative in the New York Times, are the owners of Vehicle 8 already walking??

The Department of Energy (DOE) confirmed the test protocol used here is highly speculative. Further, there should be a detailed explanation of the failure of the control case, assumedly the gasoline with no ethanol. There is no explanation. Mum’s the word on the control failure ramifications.  Without scientific assessment of the failure on every test fuel, the research results should not, and importantly, cannot be applied broadly to any real instance.

The Renewable Fuels Association did not participate in this study because the protocols chosen for this program were unusual, the pass/fail criteria questionable, the vehicles were geared to provoke engine failures, and the test fuels were not indicative of “incremental” amounts of ethanol.  In my assessment, the RFA and government agencies didn’t want to participate simply because they didn’t want to waste taxpayer money on political science.

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