WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

Mailbag: Ethanol in your motorcycle

By James - 2/15/2007

George emailed me with a question about burning E85 in his motorcycles.

What about burning E85 in 1964 Honda and 1983 Yahama motorcycles?

E85 is (from Wikipedia) fuel made from 15% regular gasoline and 85% Ethanol. Ethanol is an alcohol made from organic materials like sugar, corn, and brewery waste. Drink a beer and stop global warming! But seriously, Ethanol can be a viable alternative to oil which is hard to extract from the earth and located in hostile environments.

The real danger to running ethanol in your engine is the damage it may cause to magnesium, aluminum, and rubber parts in the fuel system. E85, or Flex Fuel engines have rubber conditioned to transport or store E85 and stainless steel that does not corrode when exposed to alcohol.

If you are really serious about converting your engine over to accept E85, the process shouldn’t be hard, as long as they are four strokes. A trip to your local auto parts store or favorite internet shop should provide you with what you need. Also read Roger Lippman’s excerpt about converting an old VW engine. I hope this helps.



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  1. Thanks for the response,James,forwarding this info to Riders Of Vision index. Do you feel that eventually the U.S. will go to E85 completely? George…

    Comment by George Bates — 2/15/2007 @ 4:55 pm

  2. We found an interesting article about the problems with Ethanol on ConsumerReports.org:


    “But there are some problems with increasing ethanol blends. Ethanol contains less energy than gasoline, so increasing the amount of ethanol in gasoline will likely result in lower fuel economy. Increasing standard fuel blends from zero to 10 percent ethanol, as is happening today, has little or no impact on fuel economy. In tests, the differences occur within the margin of error, about 0.5 percent. Further increasing ethanol levels to 20 percent reduces fuel economy between 1 and 3 percent, according to testing by the DOE and General Motors. Evaluations are underway to determine if E20 will burn effectively in today’s engines without impacting reliability and longevity, and also assessing potential impact on fuel economy.”

    Comment by TheSUBWAY.com — 4/1/2008 @ 11:05 am

  3. It’s good to hear BP & GM talk about alternative fuels, but 50 years to implement is too long.

    Perhaps this link will spark more attention.

    It is GM’s electric concept car the Chevy Volt. If more people begin to demand alternative fuel cars, we should be able to speed the rate at which the technology is developed.

    Comment by TheSUBWAY.com — 4/3/2008 @ 6:50 am

  4. I am interested in hearing from anyone who has a bike converted to run on e85 or even 100% Ethanol. I know there must be some in Brazil as they are nation wide cummited to using ethanol. So if there are any Brazilian bikers out there pls speak up would love to know how it is working there.

    Comment by Chuck Smith — 4/15/2008 @ 1:29 am

  5. I own a 98 Yamaha Royal Star. I have had zero problems until I started using gasoline with 10% ethanol in Florida. Now, if it sits longer than 2 weeks, the carburator floats get stuck and fuel runs out. Are there any gas stations that still sell 100% gas?

    Comment by Nery Mejicano — 1/19/2009 @ 9:44 am

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