The GAfuels Blog is written by two private pilots concerned about the future availability of fuels for piston-engine aircraft: Dean Billing, Sisters, Ore., an expert on autogas and ethanol, and Kent Misegades, Cary, N.C., an aerospace engineer, aviation sales rep for U-Fuel, and president of EAA1114.
On Thursday, March 3, the German Ministry of Economics and Technology announced a summit concerning the country’s aggressive mandates forcing the use of 10% ethanol (E10) blends, part of a European-wide effort to promote the use of biofuels. As reported in the German paper Frankfurter Rundschau, consumers, worried of potential damage to their vehicles, have widely rejected E10 and 70% have switched to ethanol-free Premium (Super and Super Plus) fuel, exempted from the mandates but significantly more expensive compared to the heavily-subsidized E10.
The result has been that E10 tanks remain full while suppliers are not able to keep up with the demand for ethanol-free grades. Adding insult to injury, companies that do not meet ethanol mandates are fined two European cents per liter fuel sold, which is passed on to already unhappy consumers. The reaction from technology-savvy Germans gives one an impression of what would happen in the U.S. if consumers were guaranteed a supply of ethanol-free fuel, as our petition to the EPA requests.
In a report from the EASA last fall, it was estimated that approximately 50% of all aviation fuel consumed by piston-engine airplanes in Europe is Premium, ethanol-free unleaded autogas. The continued move towards a potential two-fuel (autogas/Jet-A) aviation future has taken a step forward with the announcement this week by Austro Engine of Wiener Neustadt, Austria, of a new 285-hp, six-cylinder compression-ignition, Jet-A fueled engine based on the proven Steyr M1 Monoblock diesels. Two other interesting powerplants emerging for light aircraft that are derived from vehicle engines are the Viking, a Honda Fit conversion from Jan Eggenfellner, and a BMW R1200 motorcycle engine conversion from the German company Take-Off. The increased use of automotive engines and fuels represent important opportunities for General Aviation to benefit from huge production volumes relative to aviation.