MOTORING by Augustine Moyo: ‘I rethink on E15’

ZUVA PETROLEUM
ZUVA PETROLEUM

I FULLY support the Green Revolution. I fully support Green Fuel’s initiative to build an ethanol plant in Chisumbanje and create jobs. However, there is a ‘‘but’’.

There’s totally nothing wrong with their idea, but I get worried when they are silent on the real issues with blend and the compatibility of blend with different types of engines.

As a motoring journalist, I have highlighted the challenges some vehicles on the local market are facing with blend on different fora and I have often been refered to Zera (Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority).

I thought it must be Green Fuel, the producer of the ethanol that must be dealing with queries and not Zera.

I know the argument is that Zimbabwe used blend back then in the day and so on and so on.

But the other issue that our policymakers are overlooking is that times have changed. Times have changed and so has engine technology.

Carburettors have been replaced with injectors and catalytic converters. So the argument that Zimbabwe used blend at one time falls away and there is need for more intelligent and convincing arguments to support blend.

This is not the first time that I have written articles on the issue of Zimbabwe fuel, or rather, fuel that has been imported into the country over the years as being of poor quality (both petrol and diesel).

I was brutally attacked by the then Noczim (National Oil Company of Zimbabwe) over an article I wrote at a time when motorists were having problems with their engines.

Recently, Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries (WMMI), the very same car assembler that policymakers want to support, was in the media saying that its vehicles are not compatible with E15 blend and, as such, the car assembler could not guarantee warranty on engines that consume anything more than E10.

I remember very well that when Zimbabwe received the launch of the Mazda3 other countries had long launched the Mazda6.

The Mazda3 was supposedly meant to be the successor of the Mazda 323 line-up and the Mazda6 a successor of the Mazda 626. However, in Zimbabwe WMMI only unveiled the Mazda3 and never assembled or launched the Mazda6 because of issues associated with the “quality of Zimbabwean fuel”.

At times, like I always say, if one has never understood the value and the pain of buying a car, they will handle it anyhow. Tell me how on earth does someone who has bought a vehicle whose fuel flap is clearly inscribed “UNLEADED FUEL ONLY” “RON95” pour blend into their engine and expect the same engine performance?

What happens to issue of warranty on your engine if you deliberately fill up with the “wrong” fuel? Issues of warranty are very serious in other countries save for our beautiful country.

Is the Minister of Energy aware that some motorists are now personally importing their own unleaded fuel into the country?

Is he aware that visitors driving into Zimbabwe are bringing in their own fuel to cater for their stay in the country because they understand that the moment they pour blend into their engines, their warranties become null and void?

There is totally nothing wrong with unleaded fuel.

I remember during my days in the newsroom I broke the story that Government had banned leaded fuel and the story was front page story in this very same paper.

Leaded fuel was banned world over because of the effects of the lead component in fuel, which was hazardous to health.

The fight to ban lead in fuel began in the early 1920s when it was first added to petrol. The move to ban lead in fuel by 2013 was announced by the United Nations.

Since the ban of leaded fuel, Zimbabwe had been using unleaded fuel until the blanket ban, without consultation with stakeholders, which saw the coming in of Blend E10 and the gradual increase of the same to E15.

There is nothing wrong with Zimbabwe selling both unleaded fuel and blend and blend selling at a lower price than unleaded fuel as a competitive advantage over unleaded.

Are our policymakers aware that unleaded fuel has a RON (Research Octane Number) which is also known as the Anti-Knock Index? It is a rating used to measure a fuel’s knocking resistance in spark-ignition internal combustion engines.

Before we attempt to understand this mumbo-jumbo, we have to know what knocking is.

Knocking is what happens when parts or all of the air-fuel mixture prematurely ignite before the flame from the spark plug can reach it.

This can be caused by ignition timing that is too early or engine overheating, where the heat from the cylinder itself causes the mixture to combust before the spark plug can burn the mixture.

Ultimately, this causes a decrease in performance and might also harm the engine.

Car manufacturers are not stupid to make sure that they inscribe the fuel that their products can run on. Surely, there is need for more dialogue on the subject of E15.

A vehicle is arguably the second most valuable asset one can ever buy in their lifetime after a house and surely the Ministry of Energy has to relook into the issue and avail unleaded, even at a premium, for those that can afford it and allow for competition with blend.

Government risks having a secondary market that will be selling unleaded fuel.

There are risks associated with storage of fuel as more and more motorists are now importing unleaded fuel.

Most vehicles are moving around with engine check lights on because of the issue of E15. Policymakers and Zera cannot keep turning a blind eye to this.

Like I said, I have no beef with Green Fuels and I have no problem with their investment, but these issues still have to be looked at as far as E15 is concerned.

 

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