How will ethanol affect fuel consumption?

While many manufacturers are focusing on ways to eliminate fuel from vehicles altogether, others are crafting more efficient fuel options to keep the country's vehicles moving. 

The Queensland government has recently announced a new initiative to advertise these alternatives to fleet managers and the rest of Australia's drivers. To do this, it has employed the services of six-time V8 Supercars Driver's Champion Jamie Whincup. 

Australia's V8 Supercars are powered by E85 ethanol, a cleaner option than the fuels the series used to run. Energy Minister Mark Bailey is confident the fuel is good enough to support the country's fleets if it can power these racing cars to victory. 

"V8 Supercars made the switch to ethanol blended fuel in 2009 and since that time Jamie has won five out of the last six championships," he explained. 

The Queensland government wants to see ethanol-blended fuel account for at least 2 per cent of all that is used in the state. According to Jamie Whincup, the changes won't only reduce fuel consumption, but could result in less fleet maintenance as well. 

"Ethanol has increased detonation over octane, so the engines actually run cooler than previously, hence wear is less which extends servicing life," Whincup stated. 

Another upshot of the developments is the boost to the state's biofuel industry, which is likely to observe increased demand if these plans go ahead. 

According to insurance provider Allianz, there are a number of key differences between conventional petrol and ethanol and its blends that drivers need to be aware of. There are a range of pros and cons for drivers and fleet managers to consider. Most notably, while ethanol emits less harmful pollutants when it is burnt, it also expends less energy.

Ethanol blends are also currently carried by some petrol stations. Typically, this is E10, and will run perfectly fine in any car manufactured after 1986. In fact, most drivers probably won't actually notice the difference.