The U.S. Department Of Energy (DOE) has released a study conducted by Michigan Technological University that was designed to evaluate the effects of E-15...

The U.S. Department Of Energy (DOE) has released a study conducted by Michigan Technological University that was designed to evaluate the effects of E-15 fuel on current and legacy snowmobile engines and vehicles.


Three test scenarios were conducted to evaluate the impact of E-15, including cold-start performance and emissions; snowmobile drivability; and laboratory exhaust emissions over the useful life of the engine. Eight engines were tested over a two-year period. The vehicles were tested in the laboratory and on the trail in real life driving conditions.


The conclusion of the testing by the DOE is that E-15 fuel is NOT approved for snowmobile use. Observations made during the study support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to not approve E-15 fuel for snowmobiles.


The testing was conducted since E-15 fuel is being introduced into the marketplace and is viewed by some as an important fuel enabling the U.S. to achieve the goals of the Reformulated Fuel Standard passed by Congress.

Study Summary

The objective of the study was to evaluate the effects of E-15 on current and legacy snowmobile engines and vehicles that could occur due to misfueling by the vehicle owner. Three test scenarios were conducted to evaluate the impact of E-15, including cold-start performance and emissions, on-snow vehicle driveability, and laboratory exhaust emissions over the useful life of the engine. The eight engines tested represent current and legacy product that may exhibit sensitivity to increased ethanol blended in gasoline.


Cold-start tests were performed at 20 degrees F, 0 degrees F, and -20 degrees F. The evaluation included time to start or number of pulls to start, engine speed, exhaust gas temperature, and start-up engine emissions concentrations. Statistically significant differences in starting times were not observed for most vehicles.


Snowmobile driveability was analyzed using a subjective evaluation on a controlled test course. The drivers could not easily discern which fuel the snowmobiles were using during the subjective evaluation.


Durability tests were conducted to measure the emissions and performance of the snowmobiles over the useful life of the vehicles (5,000 miles). There were no fuel-related engine failures on E0 or E15. Carbon monoxide emissions were generally reduced by E15 relative to E0, by from 10% to 35%. Formaldehyde emissions increased consistently for E15 fuel by 35%.


E-15 is not approved for snowmobile use, and observations made during this study support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to not approve E-15 for snowmobiles. These vehicles do not have the same sophisticated control systems as modern automobiles and do not compensate for the additional oxygen content of the E-15 fuel. However, occasional misfueling of snowmobiles with E-15 is not likely to cause noticeable or immediate problems for consumers. One thing to note from this study was increased exhaust temperatures with E15 under certain conditions. Increased exhaust temperatures are of concern to manufacturers because some parts in the engine and exhaust could be temperature sensitive.

From the December 2013 issue of Snowtech

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