Gasohol is a mixture of gasoline and alcohol (mostly ethanol). Historically, the use of such a blend dates back as early as 1920s, and has been promoted on and off. Its primary intention is to reduce the consumption (import) of gasoline.
Today, in many countries, the use of gasohol is promoted or even mandated (notably Brazil). In Thailand, the first gasohol appeared on the market in 2001 and has been steadily promoted. The Thai Government, with its usual top-down approach, has set a rather aggressive schedule to replace all conventional gasoline with gasohol. At the time of writing, no other neighbouring countries (Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore) produce gasohol.
Regular 95 gasoline is to be completely replaced with gasohol 95 by January 2007, and is already increasingly difficult to find at gas stations. Regular 91 gasoline is allowed to survive some more years, but to be replaced with gasohol 91 by 2012.
At the moment, both gasohol 95 and gasohol 91 contain 10% ethanol (E10), but this proportion is announced to be increased in the near future.
2. How does it affect?
Unless a motor vehicle is specifically designed to cope with gasohol (and many motorcycles are NOT!), use of gasohol has no advantage on a personal level but incurs certain disadvantages (loss of power and mileage) or even damage (fuel system).
a. loss of power and mileage
This is a natural result of using gasohol and more or less inevitable. How much inconvenience one encounters depends on the engine and the fuel system, and varies from a subtle change in throttle response to outright engine trouble.
You can find various discussions on carburettor modification for gasohol use on motorcycle forums in several countries (eg. U.S.). Roughly speaking, to keep the same performance as with the regular gasoline, you need to replace the carburettor jet to a bigger size to burn more fuel, and adjust the air-intake accordingly. This is a tedious chore even for an experienced mechanic
b. damage to the fuel system
While newer fuel injection models are reported to be designed to resist ethanol corrosion, older fuel injection models and, more seriously, carburettor models are subject to mechanical damage whether in the short term or long term.
One characteristic situation in Thailand is that most big motorcycles are secondhand import from Japan where the use of gasohol is practically non-existent - thus little/no official comment from the manufacturers. At the other end, motorcycles manufactured in the U.S. - be it Harley Davidson or Japanese models - are claimed to be ethanol-resistant. (ref. E-10 Unleaded in Motorcycles)
3. What to do?
Unless you know your bike can handle gasohol without incurring drastic loss of performance or damage, stay away from gasohol, and try to search for model-specific information/experience from other riders. Regular 91 gasoline will still be available for a couple more years, and most motorcycles manufactured in Japan are designed for regular 89 (or above) gasoline.
Different gas stations use different brand names to market various fuels, and it's often difficult to tell which is what. Basically, fuels are tinted in following colors:
|Regular 95||yellow||==||Gasohol 95||orange|
|Regular 91||red||==||Gasohol 91||green|
and fuel pumps often (but not always) carry same-colored stickers as with the color of the fuel.
Generally speaking, gas station attendants are unreliable and irresponsible, and they tend to pump in gasohol even when you ask for regular gasoline. It is your responsibility to watch every move of the attendants to make sure that they pump in what you want.
4. Reported experience
Honda VFR 750
|Stay away from mixed petrol!! I got a tankful of what i can only guess was mixed 95, and the bike ran like shit, I eventually siphoned out the remaining 12 litres and refilled somewhere else, it took a days running to clear it out and get the bike back to normal. Open the throttle and the bike just hesitates as it tries to accelerate.|
|Yamaha V-Max 1200|
|I made the mistake of putting some gasohol in it once that just destroyed the rubber in the carbies requiring a complete strip down by Siam Superbikes - a job which I'm reliably told "was a complete barstard!!!"|
|Honda Africa Twin 650|
|it would suck ...my 1988 Honda Africa Twin 650cc had a lousy performance with Gasohol and it felt like some technical problem in the engine or carbo!|
Please send your trouble/non-trouble experience to firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Gasohol-Compatibility List
Following table is an excerpt from Type of cars and motorcycles that are Shell Gasohol 95 compatible. This list is limited to Thai-made motorcycles - and its reliability unknown - but it should give you some idea that not all carburetor models break down instantly upon filling up with gasohol.
|CELA||1990 - 1991|
|CELA-L||1990 - 1991|
|DREAM EXCES||1994 - 1996|
|DREAM 125||2001 - 2003|
|NICE UBOX||2000 - 2002|
|NOVA-KS||1990 - 1991|
|NOVA-R||1990 - 1991|
|NOVA-RS||1990 - 1991|
|NOVA-SP1||1994 - 1996|
|PHANTOM 150||1997 - 1999|
|PHANTOM 200||2000 - 2002|
|WAVE 125 R||2003 - Present|
|WAVE 125 S||2003 - Present|
|FD 110 LOVE||1996|
|SMASH 110, SMASH JUNIOR 110||2002|
|SMASH D 110, SMASH 110 PRO, SMASH JUNIOR 110 PRO||2003|
|SMASH 110 LIMITED||2005|
|BEST 110 PRO||2001|
|BEST 125 SPORT, SUPER BEST 125||2004|
|BEST 125 LIMITED||2005|
|STEP 125||Sept. 2005|
|KATANA 125||Sept. 2005|
|Belle 100, Belle R||1992|
|Mate 100, Mate 111, Mate alfa||1992|
|RX-Z, Speed, Tiara, Touch, Rainbow, X-1||1992|
|TZM, TZR, TZR-R||1992|
|Fresh, Fresh ll||1992|
|Nouvo, Nouvo MX||1992|
|Spark, Spark-135, Spark-R, Spark-Z||1992|
|Boxer||200SAD||Sport||2004 - Present|
|CX 125 A||125EAA||Enduro||2004 - Present|
|CX 125 E||125EAE||Enduro||2004 - Present|
|CX 125 SE||125EAA||Enduro||2005 - Present|
|CX 125 SM||125EAE||Enduro||2005 - Present|
|Joker 120||120MFD||Shopper||2002 - 2004|
|Joker 125||125MFA||Shopper||2003 - Present|
|Joker 125 F/0||125MFA||Shopper||2004 - Present|
|Joker 125 (M)||125MFA||Shopper||2003 - Present|
|Joker 125 (M) F/0||125MFA||Shopper||2004 - Present|
|Ozone||110MFA||Family||2004 - Present|
|S 120 SG 1.2||120MFC||Family / Side Car||2003 - Present|
|Smart 120 A||120MFA||Family||2002 - 2004|
|Smart 120 B||120MFB||Family||2002 - 2004|
|Smart 120 C||120MFC||Family||2002 - 2004|
|Smart 120 E||120MFE||Family||2002 - 2004|
|Smart 110 S-C||110MAC||Family||2004 - Present|
|Smart 110 S-E||110MAE||Family||2004 - Present|
|Smart 110 S-E (M)||110MAE||Family||2004 - Present|
|Smart 125 S-A||125MAA||Family||2004 - Present|
|Smart 125 S-A (M)||125MAA||Family||2004 - Present|
|Smart 125 S-C||125MAC||Family||2004 - Present|
|Smart 125 S-E||125MAE||Family||2004 - Present|
|Smart 125 S-E(M)||125MAE||Family||2004 - Present|
|ST 200||200SAA||Sport||2004 - Present|
|CHEER / 4 stroke||AN110J/L/W/Z|
|KAZE / KAZE HIT/ 4 stroke||AN112|
|KAZE 125 / 4 stroke||AN125|
|KAZE ZX 130 / 4 stroke||AN130|
|KSR110 / 4 stroke||KL110B|
|KLX110 / 4 stroke||LX110A|
|BOSS / 4 stroke||BN175A/E|
|LEO / LEO STAR / 2 stroke||AS120C/D|
|GTO / 2 stroke||KH125|
|KRR-ZX / 2 stroke||KR150K|
|KR-SSR / 2 stroke||KR150E *|
|VICTOR H / 2 stroke||KR150H *|
|VICTOR J / 2 stroke||KR150J *|
|VICTOR S POLECE / 2 Stroke||KP150A *|
|* Kawasaki Type KR150E. KR150H. KR150L and KR150A will need to change fuel gauge prior to using Gasohol 95|
6. Media Reports
|Phuket Gazette - Issues & Answers|
Gasohol in motorbikes? (October 17, 2005)
Q. Can the new gasohol fuel be used in motorbikes?
A. Gasohol can be used in all car engines manufactured in Thailand since 1995. However, we do not recommend it be used in motorcycles. The reason for this is that cars made in Thailand in the past 10 years are all equipped with fuel injectors, not carburetors.
The Fuel Research Department of the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) researched the use of gasohol only in fuel-injected engines. We are therefore not sure whether the seals in carburetors - as in pre-1995 cars and as still fitted to most motorcycles - can handle the burning of ethanol. Carburetors contain plastic parts. If these are damaged and leak, an engine fire could result.
Carburetor-aspirated engines will work on gasohol but, for the reason stated, we cannot recommend its use in these engines.
( - Vichitpong Cheanthongsub, PTT Phuket Oil Depot Manager)
Gasohol in motorbikes (November 25, 2005)
Q. Why do attendants at Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) gas stations not tell customers that gasohol should not be used in motorbikes or cars older than 10 years? They put it in my motorbike and my 20-year-old car without saying a word.
A. We have given the manager or owner of every gas station in Phuket a half-day of training about gasohol and which engines it is suitable for. It is the duty of the gas station manager to train staff how to serve customers.
In addition, each PTT station has been given brochures - though in Thai only - explaining to customers which engines are suitable for gasohol use.
( - Vichitpong Cheanthongsub, PTT Phuket Oil Depot Manager)
|Bangkok Post - Motoring (December 9, 2005)|
Gasohol's not a simple cocktail to concoct
Apparently, gasohol has achieved popularity among consumers, much to the delight of its local distributor, based on the assumption that it is 1.50 baht and 0.70 satang cheaper than octane 95 and octane 91 respectively.
But all this is being done without educating the general public and motorists on how much fuel consumption will decrease or increase as a result, and at what rate.
First, a basic understanding of ethyl alcohol is needed. Ethyl alcohol contains about half the amount of energy when compared to gasoline (petrol as it is called in the UK), which in official terms is its heating value.
Engines that use ethyl alcohol and can still deliver the same performance as a gasoline engine will have to use a fuel pipe that has a section area twice as large and fuel injectors that are twice as fast in order to maintain similar performance figures.
And the obvious thing is that fuel consumption will be twice that amount. If you want to compare it head-on, the price of ethyl alcohol per litre must be half that of gasoline.
Therefore, mixing 10% ethyl alcohol with 90% gasoline to make gasohol will result in an energy value of only 95%. When compared to the conventional gasoline engine, fuel consumption will increase by roughly 5% depending on size, condition and type of engine.
If you want to make up for any increase in fuel consumption, the price must be reduced. For example, gasoline 95, now at 25 baht per litre, must be 1.25 baht cheaper.
In reality motorists aren't saving on fuel costs based on distance travelled. But they are helping the economy and the agricultural sector.
I don't need to show you the calculations. Say, if it's gasoline 91 which is 0.70 satang cheaper, the consumer will have to pay more for fuel that will cover the same distance for sure.
In times like this, who will want to pay more for the country?
Gasohol isn't even the standard official name, but is the bringing together of benzine (called gasoline in the US) and alcohol. Hence, gasohol.
It doesn't even tell us whether gasohol uses ethyl or methyl alcohol and doesn't indicate the proportion of mixtures.
The US penned the gasohol moniker because it pioneered the 10% ethyl alcohol and 90% gasoline mixture. The 10% is only an approximate figure; the optimal rate might well be 7% or 8%.
I believe that 10% is too much. Readers please take note: politicians responsible for our country's energy issues were naive when they announced that they will eventually increase the alcohol content in gasohol to 30%.
This is ridiculous and will cause grave damage to the engine. Various components will suffer from wear and tear resulting therefrom.
And, most importantly, how will the engine management system be able to compute the fuel mixture ratio and maintain the same performance at the same time?
|Bangkok Post - Outlook (April 12, 2005)|
FUEL CRISIS? WHAT FUEL CRISIS?
With the price of Benzene 95 at an all-time high of 22.89 baht per litre, Oranuj, an accountant, decided it was time she did something to stretch the value of her baht.
"I didn't know much about alternative fuels like gasohol, but I decided it was time I really gave them a try," she said, adding that she had been uncertain whether the new type of fuel would adversely affect her car's performance.
"But it didn't. My car seems to run more smoothly and the fuel gauge drops more slowly. Perhaps it's just the good feeling that comes with it helping me save some money," she smiled. With gasohol she saves about 60 baht for 40 litres compared to the same quantity of petrol.
Choke, a 36-year-old entrepreneur, was one step ahead of Oranuj. A few months ago he modified his Mercedes to allow it to run on natural gas, turning it into an NGV (Natural Gas Vehicle).
"I couldn't continue spending about 3,000 baht on petrol each week. It was horrendous!" he said. "Since switching to natural gas I pay about 900 baht a week. Although the cost of the necessary modification is high, I think the investment is worth it in the long run."
In the current situation, with the price of oil soaring and some experts predicting it could reach $60 (2,380 baht) per barrel, and incomes unchanged, motorists have few options for saving money. But switching to alternative fuels is one of them.
Chavalit Pichalai, director of the Energy System Analysis Bureau at the Energy Policy and Planning Office (EPPO) said that turning to alternative fuels means more than savings made by individuals. It also means better air quality, fewer health risks, a boost to agriculture and huge national savings.
"We are at the point of no return. Wishful thinking won't bring the price of oil down. Alternative fuels are here now, and will be the main players in the future," said Chavalit, citing the government's plan to increase the use of alternative fuels from the current 0.5 percent to eight percent of all commercial fuel usage within the next seven years.
The EPPO and other energy-related agencies are coming up with ways to make cost-effective, locally produced alternative and renewable fuels possible. The so-called "soft energy" obtained from the sun, wind, biomass and domestic refuse recycling are among the potential solutions.
Right now, as part of government policy, gasohol is available and becoming more popular. Currently, Banchak, PTT and Shell are offering gasohol at 700 petrol stations, mainly in Bangkok, and by the end of this year the fuel should be available at over 4,000 stations. Ultimately, gasohol is planned to replace Benzene 95 petrol within three years.
The price difference of 1.50 baht per litre is a major incentive for motorists to switch to gasohol. But many motorists have only a vague idea about this cleaner alternative to petrol and are uncertain whether or not it will compromise their car's engine and performance.
According to a gasohol expert from the PTT Research and Technology Institute, gasohol is still largely made up of petrol. It is a mixture of 90 percent petrol and 10 percent crop-derived ethanol (ethyl alcohol) _ 99.5 percent pure alcohol, by volume, made from cassava and sugarcane molasses.
"Even better, ethanol helps a car's engine to burn fuel more completely and slowly, resulting in smoother engine running," said the PTT alternative fuel expert.
The Thai Automotive Industry Association and many car manufacturers assure consumers that most cars produced since 1995, and with fuel injection systems rather than a normally-aspirated carburettor, can run safely on gasohol (with 10 percent ethanol) without requiring any adjustment or modification to the engine. However, there are some exceptions, and car owners are recommended to check with manufacturers. Cars with carburettors, normally those made before 1995, are not suitable for running on gasohol, though.
"With older cars, engine modification has not yet proved safe or effective. It's likely that owners may need to change to cars that can run on gasohol or opt for natural gas," suggested Chavalit.
Ethanol is not new to car manufacturers in Japan, Europe and North America. Canada and Brazil have used gasohol for over 25 years. Brazil in particular, has developed cars that can use up to a 20 percent mixture of ethanol, and gasohol was available in the US in the 1930s.
As for Thailand, Chavalit said the government plans to launch a tax incentive scheme to persuade car companies to produce cars that can run on gasohol with more than 10 percent ethanol.
"The higher the percentage of ethanol used, the more the country saves on imported crude oil," said Chavalit.
Thailand imports 90 percent of its crude oil for domestic consumption, of which 60 percent is used by the transportation sector. A major cut here will help national savings and also save at least three billion baht on the import of methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), an octane-boosting additive that started to replace lead in petrol about 10 years ago.
To promote gasohol use, the government aims to keep the price of gasohol below that of Benzene 95 petrol by about 70 satang to one baht per litre.
CONCERNS ON POTENTIAL RISKS OF GASOHOL
However, Dr Kanit Wattanavichien, head of the Internal Combustion Engine Laboratory, Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University, is concerned by potential problems caused by using gasohol.
"The guarantees are so vague," he said. "You can't guarantee [a car for use with gasohol] just by the year of manufacture as many consumers may have repaired their cars or changed parts, which may not be original parts and thus cannot sustain contact with alcohol. This can cause mechanical problems and who is going to be responsible for that?" he said. "Cars can run with gasohol, but they need specially-designed parts to support the fuel."
According to him all parts that come into contact with ethanol _ such as fuel filters, pipes, the fuel tank and the fuel injection system _ should be suitable for use with gasohol, otherwise, there may be problems such as rust, perishing rubber parts or clogging of the fuel injection system, reducing the car's performance.
"Very few talk about the potential long term affects. Each car manufacturer should come out to guarantee auto parts for use with gasohol and set standards for these parts to ensure quality and safety for consumers' cars," he said. "Manufacturers should also be ready to take responsibility if motorists report adverse effects caused by the use of gasohol," he suggested.
ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH CONCERNS
If auto parts are qualified for use with ethanol _ a "clean" fuel _ then its use will produce less air pollution than petrol, making it more environmentally friendly and less of a health risk.
Ethanol, made by fermenting agricultural produce, often cassava and sugar cane, is used to replace the octane-boosting additive MTBE. Although environmentally better than lead, the US Environmental Protection Agency has classified MTBE as a "possible human carcinogen". Laboratory animals, exposed to high concentrations of MTBE have been shown to develop lymphomas and leukaemias, as well as cancers of the kidney, liver, testicles and uterus. However, no conclusive studies have been made on its effects in humans.
MTBE, when evaporated, can contaminate the environment _ the atmosphere, groundwater and soil. Fortunately, a study by PhD candidate Charoensri Keepra-sertsaab from the Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment has not yet found MTBE contamination at a dangerous level in Bangkok, despite it being used in petrol for over 10 years.
In addition to the lack of MTBE, gasohol also helps reduce hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions.
"Complete combustion [of gasohol] reduces carbon monoxide emissions by up to 30 percent ... therefore the air is less polluted," said an oil expert from PTT.
Generally, petrol-fuelled vehicles, when running, produce carbon monoxide _ a hazardous, colourless and odourless gas _ as a result of incomplete combustion. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath and dizziness, and in a confined space ultimately leads to death.
The use of gasohol can also help reduce greenhouse effects, said the PTT's gasohol expert.
"The production of benzene produces carbon dioxide, known to cause global warming. But the production of ethanol from agricultural produce does not emit such gas into the air. So if we reduce the production of oil by 10 percent [to be replaced by ethanol], it means we help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent," he explained.
Opting for alternative fuels is also a boon to our farmers.
"Thailand may not be a land of fossil fuels but our strength is in the fertility of our soil and in our skilled farmers. We still have plenty of vegetation that we can turn into alternative energy sources," said Chavalit.
Cassava and sugarcane are the major raw materials used to produce ethanol, while palms can be used to produce an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective bio-diesel.
"A rising demand for these crops will help stabilise prices and guarantee farmers' incomes and work," said Chavalit.
However, many doubt whether the crop supply, which relies heavily on the climate, will be sufficient to supply the steady and growing demand.
"As of now, there is no worry about that. We have quite a stock," he said. Ethanol stocks are enough to fuel future plans for producing three million litres of gasohol a day in two years.
"But we have to be cautious too. Take the current drought situation for example _ our poor irrigation system could lead to a major setback," cautioned Chavalit.
The popularity of natural gas may come second to gasohol. But it may be the bigger and brighter player in the near future. Why? NGV motorists say the gas is a big saver.
"On average, my car runs at 60 to 65 satang per kilometre. I used to go to Pattaya, about 230km, and it cost me about 130 baht," claimed Sombat, who is among 1,300 taxi drivers now on the NGV programme.
Taxis and buses are the first vehicles to be targeted by the government for conversion to NGVs, to help reduce the country's reliance on imported petrol. However, many private car owners are considering conversion to natural gas because the price is over 50 percent lower than petrol. Choke, for example, installed a natural gas tank in his Mercedes, and Nirut in his Grand Cherokee.
According to government policy, the price of natural gas will be pegged at 50 percent of retail diesel prices until 2006. The price will then increase to 55 percent of Benzene 91 in 2007, and to 65 percent of Benzene 91 from 2009 onwards.
Apart from its competitive pricing, this non-renewable fuel is considered environmentally friendly. Unlike liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), the gas used mainly for cooking, natural gas is hard to ignite and emits less hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than other fossil fuels.
Natural gas comes mainly from the Gulf of Thailand and from Burma via the Yadana pipeline. A source in the PPT maintained that the supply should be sufficient to meet growing demand now and in the future.
LOOKING AHEAD FOR RENEWABLE FUELS
At present, the use of gasohol still relies largely on petrol supplies. Its price, although lower than regular petrol, still depends on oil and ethanol prices, which can fluctuate up and down _ but usually up. Energy experts from the Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment predict a worst-case scenario of oil prices reaching $60 (2,280 baht) per barrel. If that happens, the economy could come to a virtual standstill, they said.
However like petrol, natural gas is a form of fossil fuel and is thus non-renewable.
It is currently found in abundance in the Gulf of Thailand and in neighbouring countries like Burma. But the supply will inevitably run out in the future, and exploring for new sources raises many environmental issues.
Chavalit suggests that a sustainable solution to our energy needs is to rely on energy efficiency and sources of renewable energy, such as solar power, wind power, domestic refuse (which we have in abundance) and bio-mass.
"Now we are researching and experimenting with projects to make these renewable fuels commercially viable. But we still have technological limitations that make the cost per unit too high for consumers," he said.
As of now, consumers can help the country save energy by all means. And this will result not only in savings for themselves but for the country too, he added.