Mechanics advise caution on ethanol blend

Faith Mhandu
Motor vehicle mechanics and car distributors have appealed to Government to ensure mandatory ethanol blending remains at 10 percent after some vehicle engines performed below capacity following the migration from unleaded to blended fuel.

The calls come in the wake of pronouncements that the blending ratio will be scaled up to 20 percent this month.

This ratio is in line with the National Energy Policy, which advocates 20 percent blending by 2015.

Prominent car distributor Nissan Zimbabwe has also since written to the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) expressing reservations on increasing the blend volume.

A Harare-based mechanic, Mr Admire Mudzemeti, said authorities need to re-examine the position as several vehicle engines seem incompatible with higher percentages of the blend.

He said some of the cars he has worked on even failed to start due to incomplete combustion.

“Some models are failing to start. In certain instances, the recommended flexi fuel inverter that is being installed is worsening the situation,” he said.

“E10 fuel results in carbon deposits in the engine cylinders, causing plugs to fail to perform.

“I think there is need for the authorities to do further research before increasing the blend percentage.”

Another mechanic, who preferred anonymity, concurred.

“The fuel burns slowly in the cylinder, resulting in the car taking time to start.

“The flexi fuel inverter that is being installed is meant to assist in burning the fuel faster, but it is not durable.

“It only lasts for three to four months,” said the mechanic.

“It is better for Government to make blend optional and not mandatory since it might do more harm than good to some vehicle makes.”

In a letter to Zera last November, Nissan Zimbabwe said most Nissan fuel injection components would have to be changed if the mandatory blend exceeded 10 percent.

He said it would be expensive and time-consuming for the car manufacturer to redesign the already distributed fleet.

“Nissan vehicles are designed to take a maximum of 10 percent ethanol blended gasoline only. Consultations have been made with Nissan Technical Centre Africa (NTCAF) and these findings came after intensive studies were carried out on different engines already distributed locally,” said Nissan Zimbabwe after-sales manager Mr Mehluli Khumalo.

“If this percentage is exceeded, Nissan products will have to have most fuel injection components changed and various components installed into the fuel system, redesigning them to cater for a higher ethanol blend.

“As a mitigatory measure, every unit will need to be covered by a very costly field fix which will take a long time to institute as this involves redesigning different components of the different models for the units to be able to cater for the higher ethanol blend.

“Nissan Zimbabwe therefore requests Zera to ensure that the existing fleet will have access to fuel with a maximum of strictly 10 percent ethanol for future successful operation.”

 

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