The Riddle of Gasohol
Recently the Thai Government has been promoting the use of locally derived ethanol (from agricultural sources) at varying concentrations in petrol. Known as Gasohol the benefits are : Cheaper fuel, less reliance on foreign imports, conserves existing fuel reserves and pollutes less.
Unfortunately the advantages are equally mirrored by the draw-backs. Namely that food prices increase as fields previously used for the local market are taken up for the production of gasohol sourced products. The second problem is that hydrocarbon-based fuels have a very dense chemical structure and alcohol-based fuels are not as dense. In layman's terms this can mean that the you would need to use more organic/alcohol based fuels to go the same distance as 91 or 95 octane fuels.
"The average Thai consumer's purchasing decision is cost based, and he/she has little to no knowledge on the technical issues. Put simply gasohol is not compatible with a vast majority of vehicles on Thai roads, and in fact is unsafe in many."
As many expats already are aware there were three main fuels available in Thailand: Diesel
Now that gasohol has entered the scene there are two 'new' fuels to choose from: 91 Gasohol and 95 Gasohol, both mixes at 10% concentration.
According to a source in BMW, they are working on a solution to fix the wear and tear problems imposed by gasohol but the solution will be at least 2 to 3 years away.
91 Octane is still available for those of us who value the performance and state of our bikes/cars and this gives near-similar performance compared to 95 Octane. Unfortunately even this budget fuel is under threat by the powers-that-be who have declared that it is to be phased out by 2012 in favour of 20% Ethanol Gasohol (E80).
Whether the government will see sense, manufacturers will be able to guarantee engine compatibility or the unfortunate bikers and petrol heads will have to replace our machines with ones that are fuel-injected/compatible remains to be seen. It could well be that in the near-future there will be a glut of cheap bikes up for sale!
Thai politics are a changing entity so watch this space for updates!
This section is hosted by our resident columnist Johnny B. who has been living in Thailand for seven years now and currently is based out of Bangkok.