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What is Diesel Ethanol?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 17, 2024
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Diesel ethanol, also called E-diesel, is comprised of diesel fuel combined with ten to fifteen percent ethanol alcohol. It is used primarily in centrally fueled vehicle fleets. Although there are many benefits to using ethanol-based fuels, diesel ethanol is not yet widely used. This is primarily due to the fact that there are increased risk factors associated with its use.

The main benefits of using E-diesel are increased fuel efficiency and fewer carbon emissions released into the atmosphere. Much like ethanol-gasoline combinations, E-diesel helps to increase gas mileage, which has a direct effect on the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted into the air. Trucking companies are also able to save money by having to fuel up less often.

Despite these benefits, diesel ethanol is not widely used and is not legally sold in many areas. This is because of the high flammability of the fuel and an increased risk for combustion and explosion. Fires caused by traffic accidents with E-diesel fueled trucks or trucks carrying the fuel are also increased, although it is not known exactly by how much. When the use of diesel ethanol was compared to gasoline and regular diesel fuels, it was shown that it poses a higher risk for fire-related injury.

There are other issues related to the use of diesel ethanol, including hindered performance of trucks using it as a primary fuel source. Decreased fuel pump and fuel projector life, along with decreased performance in these components, was noted in trucks using diesel ethanol fuel in comparison with those using standard diesel. This results in added costs for trucking companies.

The use of diesel ethanol was temporarily suspended in some regions due to the increased safety hazards, but its use has recently been reexamined. There are a variety of precautions that can be take to decrease fire risks so that the use of E-diesel is comparable in safety and risk to gasoline or diesel fuel. These include equipping all fuel tanks, filters, and fill lines with flame arrestors that are specially made for use with ethanol. Installing proper vapor recovery systems and insuring that fuel tanks are of a safe design are other methods being used to increase safety.

The use of diesel ethanol is still being researched and modified to ensure optimum safety and convenience. This type of sustainable fuel is of increasing importance due to the threat of global warming and the Earth’s dwindling fossil fuel supply. Since ethanol alcohol is made from a renewable resource, it is a primary choice for increasing fuel efficiency and decreasing fossil fuel dependency.

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Discussion Comments

By Fletch — On Dec 09, 2018

High compression increases ethanol efficiency. Scania makes an ethanol engine (ED95) with equal mileage to diesel today

For example: I believe biodiesel is needed to allow ethanol to mix with regular diesel fuel. I wonder if the ethanol is great enough to act as a natural cold weather anti gel mix.

Ethanol is much easier on rubbers, plastics, and metals than what diesel fuel is or gasoline and BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene) are.

If you doubt this, look it up in any engineering chemical compatibility chart you can find. I would have given links if they were allowed.

By anon346339 — On Aug 27, 2013

Yes I agree, fuel efficiency will go down.

By anon330347 — On Apr 16, 2013

What is the procedure to mix ethanol with diesel?

By anon287378 — On Aug 25, 2012

Ethanol doesn't improve fuel economy in gasoline engines either. It has lower energy content than either gasoline or diesel fuel and by contaminating fuel with it you decrease fuel mileage in both cases, never increase. In most testing it is proven that using ethanol will cause problems with seals and other engine parts especially fuel injection pumps and injectors(not projectors as in the article) in diesels.

The idea of using a renewable fuel like ethanol is all well and good, but reality and dreams don't often coincide. Ethanol as a stand alone fuel would be a much better idea as engines can be built specifically to run it.

By anon235544 — On Dec 18, 2011

Ethanol increases the efficiency of diesel combustion (as a result of the increased oxygen content in ethanol) but, because ethanol has a much lower calorific value (energy content) than that of diesel. In other words, more fuel needs to be burned to create the same energy. The fuel efficiency of the vehicle will therefore go down and not up!

E-diesel therefore, gives more miles per calorie, but has fewer calories per gallon and therefore will give fewer miles per gallon.

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