The nation's leading travel organization Friday urged the Obama administration to block the sale of E15, a new ethanol-laced gasoline, that could damage as many as 228 million vehicles that are not designed to run on it.
After years of controversy, the Environmental Protection Agency in June approved the sale of E15, a blend that contains up to 15 percent corn-based ethanol, for cars made after 2001.
But AAA said its survey shows that 95 percent of consumers were unaware of E15 and the potential that it could damage engines and void warranties.
Five manufacturers -- BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen -- have said that their warranties will not cover fuel-related claims caused by the use of E15. Seven other automakers -- Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo -- said E15 does not comply with the fuel requirements specified in their owner's manuals and may void warranty coverage.
AAA automotive engineering experts believe that sustained use of E15 in both newer and older vehicles could result in significant problems such as accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage and false "check engine" lights for any vehicle not approved by its manufacturer to use E15, the organization's press release said.
Only flex-fuel models, 2001 model-year and newer Porsches, 2012 model-year and newer GM vehicles and 2013 model-year Ford vehicles were built to run on E15. The use of E15 is expressly prohibited in heavy-duty vehicles, boats, motorcycles, power equipment, lawn mowers and off-road vehicles.
More than 95 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States contains up to 10 percent ethanol. By contrast, less than a dozen gas stations nationwide are selling E15 fuel.
AAA said the sale and use of E15 should be suspended until gas pumps can be labeled and a public education campaign is launched. Further, it said, lower ethanol blends should remain available while E15 issues are ironed out.
Last year, the U.S. House voted to block approval of E15, but the Senate did not vote on it.