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Ethanol: Pros And Cons Of The Biofuel

Ethanol fuel has been the talk of the town ever since the government announced that it will be moving to E25 (25 percent ethanol blend) by 2025. This news came at a time when petrol prices have skyrocketed to over Rs 105 in many parts of the country. So what exactly is the hype around this biofuel about?


One of the biggest advantages ethanol-based fuel has over petroleum is the availability. The biofuel can be sourced from crops like sugarcane, wheat, rice and corn, some of which we produce in surplus. In a bid to cut down on water usage, the government intends on using crops that require less water.

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Greener fuel
Though ethanol too emits CO2, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen and carbon monoxide, however, it is significantly less than petrol. Also, ethanol is considered to be carbon neutral, since the biomass used for making ethanol will eventually consume the CO2 which may offset the CO2 produced when the ethanol is burned.

Sugarcane-sourced ethanol is currently priced at Rs 64. Considering the OPEC (Oil Producing And Exporting Countries) standoff, the petrol prices are bound to increase more in the coming days. In fact, petrol prices have been revised 36 times since May 4.

Engine Compatibility
Most of the modern engines are capable of running on ethanol-doped petrol. Currently, India has E5 (5 percent ethanol) and E10 (10 percent ethanol).


Ethanol has a high octane rating of 113. This makes it a better choice for engines with high compression ratio. However, this compromises the reliability of the engine in small-capacity two-wheelers.

Fuel Economy
Ethanol has about 30 percent less energy than petrol. This means you’ll end up using more fuel than what you would have with a petrol engine to generate similar power. Burning a litre of petrol generates approximately 33.5 million joules while the same amount of ethanol can generate just around 23.5 million joules.

Corrosive Nature
Ethanol is more corrosive than petrol, which means the fuel tends to eat up the inner walls of the fuel tank, plastic/rubber hoses and gaskets. While a few premium motorcycle manufacturers take measures to keep this bay, most of the manufacturers will have to consider different materials to slow down the process.

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