The Sunday Mail
The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) will soon carry out formal research on fuel economy following several complaints from motorists that it was more expensive to purchase ethanol blend as the fuel is consumed faster than unleaded petrol.
Regarding vehicles that are incompatible with large blend volumes, the authority maintains that non-flexi fuel vehicles only require “minor adjustments” to enable them to take up higher percentages of blended fuel.
Green Fuel — operators of Chisumbanje Ethanol Plant — are now giving out flexi-fuel kits to motorists for free as part of efforts to encourage ethanol blend uptake.
It is understood a good number of top-of-the-range vehicles in the country can take up to 85 percent ethanol blend, although the cost of such vehicles is beyond the reach of many.
Zera chief executive officer Engineer Gloria Magombo said a recent consumer survey conducted countrywide revealed that many motorists are concerned about fuel economy.
Fuel economy relates to a vehicle’s fuel consumption in relation to volumes purchased.
For instance, in the case of ethanol blend, motorists are complaining that the fuel they purchase lasts a shorter distance when compared to unleaded petrol, meaning they need to fork out more money to purchase the product.
Eng Magombo said: “Zera has not received any unsolicited complaints from motorists on blend fuel economy but, however, during the consumer survey on E10 and 15 that Zera conducted recently, there were some complaints on fuel economy.
“Given these concerns, Zera shall conduct a formal research to determine the actual loss in fuel in specific models.
Ethanol contains 30 percent less heat energy per litre than the equivalent unit of unleaded petrol. The reduced energy content is, however, compensated by improved combustion that ethanol offers as an oxygenate in the fuel, resulting in an expected theoretical loss of only 3 percent in fuel economy.
“The loss in fuel energy depends on the model and age of the vehicle but, however, at E10 level, the ethanol blend has an advantage of reduced environmental emissions (tailpipe emissions) and ethanol blends in general also increase local employment opportunities and energy security through uptake of the locally produced ethanol.”
Eng Magombo advised vehicle importers to consider the flexi-fuel component. She also recommended that Government consider introducing tax incentives that make flexi vehicles affordable.
“The country has a sizeable number of flexi-fuel vehicles which can take up to E85 although there are also a number of vehicles which can take up to E20 without any problems,” she said.
“However, for some specific non-flexi fuel vehicles, minor adjustments may be required especially within the fuel- and air-mixing systems.”
Green Fuel assistant general manager Mr Raphael Zuze said misconceptions about ethanol blending should be debunked.
“There are very serious misconceptions about ethanol blending.
“Some say it causes serious damage to vehicles. The truth of the matter is that ethanol blending is not new to this country.
“It was very successful when it was being used before and after independence until 1988 when the majority of vehicles used to run on fuel that was blended with ethanol.
“We are currently giving out these flexi-fuel kits for free to motorists in the event of increased mandatory blending.
However, the current E10 to E20 is safe for all motorists.”