What is E20 petrol and how will it affect your vehicle? | News from India

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a pilot for ‘E20’, or petrol blended with 20% ethanol, at ‘India Energy Week’ in Bengaluru, ahead of the launch of a cleaner version of petrol by two years. TOI takes a deep dive:
What is Ethanol Blending?
Ethyl alcohol or ethanol (C2H5OH) is a biofuel produced naturally by the fermentation of sugar derived from sugar cane or other organic matter such as cereals.
As part of its carbon reduction efforts, India has launched the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) program to blend this biofuel with gasoline to reduce its consumption. India has already met its E10 target, so the petrol used in the country contains 10% ethanol. The E20 pilot covers at least 15 cities and will be rolled out across the country in a phased manner.
Why increase mixing?
India imported 185 million tonnes of oil costing $551 billion in 2020-21. As most petroleum products are used in transportation, a successful E20 program can save the country $4 billion or Rs 30,000 crore annually.
“Furthermore, ethanol is a less polluting fuel and offers equivalent efficiency at a lower cost than petrol,” states a report by a special committee of experts set up by the Observatory. “The availability of large arable land, increased grain and sugar cane production leading to surpluses, the availability of the technology to produce ethanol from plant sources, and the feasibility of making vehicles compliant with ethanol blended gasoline make the E20 is not only a national imperative, but also an important strategic requirement,” he says.
What the research shows
An Indian study on the suitability of using E20 in existing vehicles found that “metals and metallic coatings had no problems with E20. Elastomers perform less well with E20 than with straight gasoline. PA66 plastic had a drop in tensile strength after use with E20. “
Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP) and Indian Oil Corps
ration (R&D) who conducted the research in 2014-15 also found that fuel economy decreased by up to 6% on average (depending on vehicle type). However, the test vehicles passed hot and cold start and drivability tests on pure gasoline and E20 test fuels. In all cases, no serious malfunctions or stalls were observed at any stage of vehicle operation. No abnormal wear of engine components or deposits or deterioration of engine oils have been observed following road mileage accumulation tests.
Joint studies reported by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Honda Research and Development indicate that up to a 20% relative efficiency improvement can be achieved with E20 over regular gasoline when the engine is tuned correctly. Tests conducted by Ford Motor Company concluded that an engine optimized for E20 fuel demonstrated volumetric fuel economy (mileage) and range (single-fuel miles) comparable to regular gasoline with a reduction in CO2 by 5%.
Environmental impact
Stressing that vehicle emissions such as carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are currently under regulation in India, the Central Committee report argues that gasoline blended with ethanol reduces these emissions .
“Greater reductions in carbon monoxide emissions have been observed with E20 fuel: 50% less in two-wheelers and 30% less in four-wheelers. Hydrocarbon emissions are reduced by 20% with ethanol blends compared to regular gasoline. Nitrous oxide emissions did not show a significant trend as they depended on vehicle/engine type and engine operating conditions,” the report said.
Unregulated carbonyl emissions, such as acetaldehyde, were higher with E10 and E20 than with regular gasoline due to the presence of hydroxyl groups in ethanol. However, these emissions were relatively smaller (a few micrograms) than the regulated emissions (which were in grams). Evaporative emissions test results with E20 fuel were similar to pure gasoline.
“Overall, blending ethanol can help reduce emissions from both two-wheelers and four-wheelers,” the report added.


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