As automakers retool engines to maximize gas mileage while minimizing emissions to meet future Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards, a new study reveals that ethanol provides the higher-octane these high-efficiency engines require while remaining both affordable and environmentally friendly. 

The study, conducted by AVL, a global leader in the development of powertrain engines with internal combustion systems, was funded in part by the National Corn Growers Association's Ethanol Committee and Research and Business Development Action Team.  The goal of this research was to explore the role corn ethanol could play in meeting the new CAFÉ standards enacted by the U.S. federal government.

"The findings of this study further support our existing understanding of ethanol in that they demonstrate its inherent ability to meet our nation's need for an affordable, sustainable domestically-produced fuel source," said NCGA Ethanol Committee Chairman Chad Willis.  "NCGA, together with the states that also contributed, funds studies such as this to add to the data on biofuel. We do this not only as proponents of corn farmers, but also as citizens concerned with finding the innovative solutions that will help our nation improve the economy, environment and national security."

The study, which evaluated various fuel blends along a long range of knock limit operation, found additional benefits of ethanol's favorable octane sensitivity in that it offers twice the octane potential expected.  The octane benefits derived from ethanol had been inconsistent in most testing performed up to this point.  However, this inconsistency was the result of the variability of the gasoline used in the blend, limiting the reliably demonstrating the biofuel's true performance.  The new data illustrates the level of performance which can actually be achieved simply by adding ethanol to gasoline and shows the value of using intermediate blends to automakers in meeting the new fuel efficiency standards.

"Implementation of the CAFÉ standards will require auto manufacturers to decrease carbon dioxide emissions while increasing fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon," Willis explained.  "Considering this data, it becomes increasingly evident that ethanol offers an important tool to help meet this challenge.  Prior to the study, we understood that ethanol was part of the solution. Now, we know that it holds even more potential for helping meet our energy goals."

The full study will be available this spring pending journal publication.