written by: Jean Scheid•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 3/30/2011
Do a quick Google search on, “can I remove ethanol from gasoline" and what you’ll find are many blogs and forums—loaded with those desiring to do so—if only to increase fuel economy. Should you buy an ethanol test kit or try and remember whether your model year car uses E10 or E15?
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As far back as 1896, Henry Ford used ethanol in his quadricycle, but the issue of ethanol in gas really started heating up in 1999 when government agencies discovered that MTBEs (methyl tertiary butyl ether), made via a combo of natural gas and petroleum, was sneaking into drinking water.
Once the EPA got involved, the Energy Protection Act of 2005 stated that all gasoline must have some sort of renewal fuel—meaning ethanol. By 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act stating by 2015, it would be mandatory for 15 billion gallons of gas to be made with ethanol.
Ethanol burns cleaner—plain and simple, but drivers of cars, minivans and SUVs aren’t getting the fuel efficiency with ethanol they once had (often 20-30% less) making some wonder can I remove ethanol from gasoline?
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Getting the Ethanol Out
Actually, you probably can’t get the ethanol out of gasoline, unless you drive some sort of motorcycle and can complete the process in your garage, but it’s a very dangerous process indeed. What you can do, is buy ethanol test kits or make your own kit, however, buying a kit to find out how much ethanol is in your gas won’t remove it.
A forum post on Ecomodder offers up a quick way to relieve your gasoline from ethanol by using a five gallon plastic jug, a ball toilet valve, and small pipe and epoxy putty. The inventor claims this works great for motorcycles that have smaller fuel tanks by mixing gas with water and allowing it sit for an hour or two. After that, he claims the water and ethanol move to the bottom, the jug can be drained and poof—he can now pour his ethanol-free gas into another container, whereby he says he saves up to 25% in fuel efficiency.
This may be great invention, however, what he does with the water/ethanol mix is anyone’s guess and probably not recommended.
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What You Can Do
If you want ethanol out of your gas, good luck. Not only is it dangerous to perform, but expect the EPA or some other state or town agency to come after you, especially if you don’t dispose of the ethanol correctly—in an environmentally safe way that is.
These days, gasoline is either E10 (10% ethanol) or E15 (15% ethanol) and from research on the Internet, most states, but not all, require labeling at the fuel pump, allowing you to choose. The scary thing is that not all states do require labeling—the website Fuel Testers offers up a great chart on states that require labeling and those who don’t.
What’s more, chat with an ASE (automotive service excellence) certified technician and they’ll tell you if your model year requires 10% ethanol and you don’t read the label and use 15%, you will experience engine problems—so be prepared to call a tow truck.
This will be especially tricky in states that don’t require labeling. Model year cars 2001 and older require 10% ethanol levels and those 2002 and newer seek the 15%. Remember those diesel fuel gas pumps where the nozzle won’t fit into a gasoline engine? Those won’t be coming anytime soon so it’s up to the consumer to either read the label (if there is one) or buy an ethanol test kit and test the fuel at home.
You could most likely inquire at the service station on the level of ethanol, but if you’re asking a cashier/clerk, they might not know.
If you’re not a chemistry major or know nothing about eco-friendly ways to get rid of contaminants, stop wondering can I remove ethanol from gasoline. It’s not a safe task to perform. What you can do is start writing your senators and representatives and tell them you’re tired of low fuel efficiency—but fighting with Washington Lobbyists is a tough challenge. So how’s that Chevy Volt looking right about now? It’s electric and you can skip the ethanol but you will have to find someplace to plug-in—or move to California, they have more ways to plug-in than any other state except Alaska, but that's another story that has nothing to do with ethanol.