With more than 15 million cars registered in the state, California has almost twice as many vehicles on the road than any other state in the nation, which makes it the number one market for growing domestic ethanol demand.
To that end, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), state corn organizations, ethanol groups and the auto industry, are working with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to conduct vehicle testing using 15 percent ethanol (E15) at the University of California at Riverside (UCR). The Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, and the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) are partnering on the study.
The testing will demonstrate the environmental benefits and compatibility of E15 in selected makes and models of vehicles. This process will help pave the way for sales of E15 and higher blends of ethanol in California.
“With the scope of research agreed upon and contracts signed, E15 testing in California can move forward,” said JR Roesner, Indiana farmer and Ethanol Action Team (ETHAT) member. “If we can achieve E15 as the base fuel in California, based on estimated total gasoline usage in the state in 2015, the potential market opportunity would be roughly 750 million gallons of ethanol or 260 million bushels of corn.”
Tests will be conducted on 20 late-model vehicles to measure tailpipe and evaporative emissions. Testing a broad sample of makes, models, and technology levels with both E10 and E15 blends will provide CARB with the necessary information to permit the sale of E15 in California.
“Motor gasoline volatility is varied throughout the year to ensure good cold-start and drivability while also controlling evaporative emissions,” said Brian West, NCGA contributor and former Group Leader for the Fuels and Engines Research Group at the National Transportation Research Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “Summer fuel is used in certification tests, and we wanted to use retail fuel for this program. If the refiners had begun the changeover to fall/winter gasolines, we would have been significantly delayed either waiting for 2021 summer fuel or having to source a specialty fuel, which is very expensive and also has very long lead times.”