What are the risks?

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With more than two euros per liter of petrol, the demand for the installation of bioethanol units literally exploded in March. To give you an idea, in 2021 the number of installations of approved boxes was “about 15,000” according to the figures communicated by Nicolas Kurtsoglou of the SNPAA, the national union of agricultural alcohol producers. “In the months of January and February 2022, 10,000 have already been sold and installed”. And at FlexFuel Energy Development, Jérome Loubert mentioned an order level of more than 10,000 boxes in March.

It must be said that Superethanol-E85 with LPG is the cheapest fuel on the French market. At the time of writing these rules, the average price per litre according to data from our partner costs € 0.76. That is 98 cents difference with Lead-free 95 (E10). For an installation price ranging from 700 to 1300 euros, depending on the model, age, engine power or type of injection, profitability is achieved by covering 26,000 km. In other words, about one and a half to two years, depending on the number of kilometers travelled.

Longer delivery times

Illustrative photo

Illustrative photoCredit photo – Autonews

Besides that, as the demand has increased enormously, the delivery and installation times have also increased. Because you can’t mount an ethanol box on a car like this. The technicians who provide this service must be trained to ensure correct installation.

But between the time you make the decision to install an enclosure and the installation itself, it can take several weeks. And you might be tempted to run partly on E85 by mixing this fuel with unleaded. It’s attractive, we’re not going to lie. But it’s also a very bad idea, as Nicolas Kurtsoglou explains to us:

The unit has the role to see what the percentage of ethanol is in the tank, in the hose that enters the combustion cylinder and thus to adjust the moment of the spark to burn perfectly what is in the cylinder. So if you don’t have one of these elements, you won’t be able to drive well.

In other words, you damage certain mechanical elements of your vehicle because E85 does not have the same density as lead-free. So the engine needs more fuel to run on E85. And it is the role of the box to pass this information on. Jerome Loubert adds:

The approved box makes it possible to ensure that the engine works perfectly and therefore does not consume too much and cost the motorist too much fuel…

Legal risks

Illustrative photo

Illustrative photoCredit photo – Autonews

If for some reason you are offered the installation of an unapproved box or a reprogramming of the motor, which would be cheaper and faster than an approved installation, decline it immediately.

In addition to premature wear and tear on the mechanics, you will not be able to pass the technical inspection if your gray card does not indicate the presence of the box. Then, and this is probably the most serious consequence, as FFED’s Jerome Loubert explains to us:

In the event of an accident involving a vehicle running on ethanol without having been converted according to the rules of the art and thus legally, there is a risk of non-payment of the insurance, which can lead to significant financial and legal difficulties.

In brief

Driving on Superethanol-E85 without an approved gearbox is a very bad idea. In addition to premature wear and tear on your mechanics, this leads to overconsumption of fuel and, above all, legal risks for your insurance and the inability to pass the technical inspection.

Julien Maron

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