Goverment announced mandatory blending of petrol with ethanol, increasing it from E-10 to E-20, a move which could set it on a collision course with motorists.
This was announced at a post-Cabinet meeting in Harare by Information and Publicity minister Monica Mutsvangwa, who said: “Cabinet has adopted resumption of petrol blending at E10 from April 25, 2022, which has reduced the pump price of petrol by US$0,04 per litre. The blending will go up to E20 by end of May 2022, which will lead to a higher reduction in the price of petrol by US$0,07 per litre.”
Motorists are calling for two separate tanks at petrol stations because existing vehicles have been running for at least another 10 years and should ideally continue to run on petrol with E10 — 10% ethanol. E20 fuel in an E10 vehicle, they say, could erode parts, which could prove to be a safety issue as the ethanol could lead to corrosion in the fuel lines of vehicles
Mutsvangwa said this would cushion motorists from the sharp increase in fuel prices caused by the instability caused by “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”, resulting in uncertainty in fuel supplies.
Asked to explain whether it was true that ethanol can damage vehicles, Energy minister Zhemu Soda said: “The perception that the blending of fuel will affect the performance of vehicles is not correct. Blending of fuel with ethanol will also create jobs and this is going to be mandatory.”
Raising the fuel blending to E20 could lead to a drop of 4-5 percent in the vehicle’s mileage. Additionally, new anti-corrosion materials will have to replace the traditional metals that come in contact with the fuel, say department heads at the research and development divisions of auto companies.
A 5% blend may not affect the engines, but 20% mix could create problems. The increase in the amount of ethanol could result in damage to some plastic, rubber and aluminium components. And this could affect the durability of fuel pipes, injectors and hoses. Though ethanol has a higher combustion rate than petrol, it contains less energy and this could affect fuel efficiency a bit. In case of older vehicles, at least some components will need to be changed.