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2010-2020 BMW 550i Technical Service Bulletin # 130106 Date: 110501

2010-2020 BMW 550i Technical Service Bulletin # 130106 Date: 110501

Fuel System - Alcohol Fuel Blend Usage

SI B13 01 06

Fuel Systems

May 2011

Technical Service

This Service Information bulletin supersedes SI B13 01 06 dated September 2006.

[NEW] designates changes to this revision

SUBJECT

Alcohol Fuel Blends in BMW Vehicles

MODEL

All with gasoline engines

SITUATION

Fuel blends containing a high percentage (above 10%) of alcohol, mainly ethanol, are becoming more commercially available. Customers inquire

about the possibility of using alcohol fuels (e.g., E85) in BMW vehicles.

INFORMATION

Fuels containing up to and including 10% ethanol; or other oxygenates with up to 2.8% oxygen by weight, that is, 15% MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl

ether); or 3% methanol plus an equivalent amount of cosolvent will not void the applicable warranties with respect to defects in materials or

2010-2020 BMW 550i Sedan (E60) V8-4.8L (N62TU) Page 115

workmanship.

Usage of such alcohol fuel blends may result in drivability, starting, and stalling problems due to reduced volatility and lower energy content of the

fuel. Those drivability problems may be especially evident under certain environmental conditions such as high or low ambient temperatures and

high altitude.

Only specially adapted vehicles (FFV - Flexible Fuel Vehicles) can run on high alcohol fuel blends. BMW, for the various technical and

environmental reasons explained below, does not offer FFV models.

Usage of E85 or any other high-alcohol content blend (e.g., E30) in BMW vehicles will cause various drivability complaints (cold-start problems,

stalling, reduced performance, poor fuel economy, etc.); may cause excessive emissions; and may cause irreversible damage to engine, emission

control and fuel delivery systems due to incompatibility of materials with alcohols.

General Notes Regarding E85 Fuel

E85 fuel contains 85% (by volume) ethanol and 15% gasoline. Ethanol can be produced chemically from ethylene or biologically from grains,

agricultural wastes, or any organic material containing starch or sugar. In the US, ethanol is mainly produced from corn and is classified as a

renewable fuel.

Similar to gasoline, ethanol contains hydrogen and carbon with additional oxygen molecules built into its chemical chain. This chemical structure

makes ethanol's burning process slightly cleaner than gasoline (lower tailpipe emissions).

On the other hand, due to lower carbon content, ethanol provides 27% less energy (for identical volume) than gasoline, resulting in reduced fuel

economy of E85 vehicles (approximately 22% higher consumption). Increased fuel consumption requires appropriately enlarged fuel tank capacities

(usually a 30% increase), and specific DME calibrations for E85 lower stoichiometric air/fuel ratio (10 compared to 14.7 for gasoline engines).

E85 fuel volatility is typically lower than gasoline (RVP 6-10 psi, compared to 8-15 psi for gasoline). Lower fuel volatility will reduce vehicle

evaporative emissions, but it may cause cold-starting problems, especially with lower ambient temperatures.

Under certain environmental conditions, mainly lower ambient temperatures, ethanol separates from the gasoline/alcohol mixture and absorbs water.

The ethanol-absorbed water molecules are heavier than gasoline or ethanol; they remain at the bottom of fuel tank and, when introduced into the

combustion process, they tend to form an extremely lean mixture resulting in misfire, rough idle and cold-starting problems.

Certain materials commonly used with gasoline are totally incompatible with alcohols. When these materials come in contact with ethanol, they may

dissolve in the fuel, which may damage engine components and may result in poor vehicle drivability.

Some metals (e.g., zinc, brass, lead, aluminum) become degraded by long exposure to ethanol fuel blends. Also, some nonmetallic materials used in

the automotive industry such as natural rubber, polyurethane, cork gasket material, leather, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyamides,

methyl-methacrylate plastics, and certain thermo and thermoset plastics degrade when in contact with fuel ethanol.

In order to safely and effectively operate a motor vehicle running on E85, the vehicle must be compatible with alcohol use. Some manufacturers have

developed vehicles called FFV (Flexible Fuel Vehicle) that can operate on any blend of ethanol and gasoline (from 0% ethanol and 100% gasoline to

85% ethanol and 15% gasoline). Ethanol FFVs are similar to gasoline vehicles, with main differences in materials used in fuel management and

delivery systems, and DME control module calibrations. In some cases, E85 vehicles also require special lubricating oils.

Aftermarket conversions of gasoline-powered vehicles to ethanol-fueled vehicles, although possible, are not recommended, due to internal materials

and DME software incompatibility as well as the high costs of conversion.

[NEW] In order to correctly diagnose various drivability complaints caused by fuel blends with a high level of ethanol content, refer to SI B13 05

10, Testing Fuel Composition for applicable tools and procedures.

WARRANTY INFORMATION

Components damage/malfunctions or any drivability problems caused by the use of fuels containing more than 10% ethanol (or other oxygenates

with more than 2.8% oxygen by weight) will not be covered under BMW warranties with respect to defects in materials or workmanship.
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