Target Grade Level / Age Range:

High School: 9-12


50 Minutes


As a result of this lesson, the student will …

  1. Recognize that the quality of fuel used in any motor vehicle engine is very important to its long life and proper operation.
  2. Identify the benefits of using ethanol in automobile performance.
  3. Identify the user guidelines for properly filling vehicles with blends of fuel.


  • Writing surface
  • Projector
  • Screen

Suggested Companion Resources


  • Antiknock Index: In some countries octane rating is measured with RON. In other countries octane rating is measured with MON. The antiknock index is an average of the two.
  • Olefins: unsaturated hydrocarbons containing a double bond, including ethylene and propylene

Interest Approach or Motivator

Search or other similar gas price websites to determine where the most expensive and the least expensive gas is in the United States. You can determine this before class or if you are able to project the website to the class you may do this while having the students guess. Ask students why there are two or three choices of prices at the pump when they fill up. Ask if any of the students or their guardians use the ethanol blend when they fill up. Continue the conversation leading into why someone might choose the ethanol blend.


OBJECTIVE 1. Recognize that the quality of fuel used in any motor vehicle engine is very important to its long life and proper operation.

Hand out the worksheet to students to lead them through Objective 1. Facilitate a guided and interactive discussion using the PowerPoint as a key. The quality of the fuel that we put in them plays a large role in how well they will run and how long they will last.

  1. The quality of fuel used in any motor vehicle engine is very important to its long life and proper operation.
    1. Auto manufacturers today are recommending ethanol-blended gasoline for the vehicles they sell.
      1. A survey revealed that nine out of ten auto dealers use ethanol-blended gasoline in their personal vehicles.
      2. Customers surveyed reported benefits including: reduced knocking and pinging, improved gas mileage, better acceleration, and improved starting qualities.
      3. Independent automotive technicians also trust their family cars to ethanol blends.
    2. If the fuel is not right for the air temperature or if fuel changes to a vapor incorrectly, drivability will suffer.
    3. Gasoline is most commonly rated based on their Antiknock Index (AKI), a measure of octane quality. The AKI is a measure of a fuel's ability to resist engine knock (ping).
      1. A typical average octane number of 87 would contain a research octane of 92 and a motor octane of 82.
      2. Different blends can affect engines differently, depending on the octane requirement of that particular engine, and explains why engines can perform differently with a change of fuel.
      3. Ethanol is believed to reduce engine knocking at the E10 blend.

This defines some of the common terms used when talking about fuels and gives us a background to work from for the rest of the lesson. As we continue, let’s use our decision making brains and be thinking of what we might do the next time we are with someone when they are going to put fuel in a vehicle.

OBJECTIVE 2. Identify the benefits of using ethanol in automobile performance.

One student will be Eddie Ethanol and the other Terry Technician. Ethanol will instruct Technician pertaining to Objective 2.

We now understand that quality fuel is important to keep an engine running in top condition and aids in the lifespan of the engine. But what are some benefits of ethanol and are there fueling recommendations we should know about? Students should be divided into pairs. Student 1 will be Eddie Ethanol. Student 2 will be Terry Technician. Display the first set of information from slide #4. Eddie Ethanol students will teach the material to Terry Technician.

  1. Ethanol has many benefits to a vehicle engine and system besides environmental and price influences.
    1. Ethanol is a good cleaning agent. In newer vehicles it helps keep the engine clean. In older vehicles it can sometimes loosen contaminants and residues that have already been deposited in a vehicle’s fuel delivery system. Occasionally, these loosened materials collect in the fuel filter, and can then be removed simply by changing the fuel filter.
    2. All alcohols have the ability to absorb water. Condensation of water in the fuel system is absorbed and does not have the opportunity to collect and freeze. Since ethanol blends contain at least 10 percent ethanol, they are able to absorb water and eliminate the need for adding a gas-line antifreeze in winter.

Display the second set of information on slide #5 and have Terry Technician students teach the information to Eddie Ethanol students.

  1. Ethanol is a fuel for old and new engine technology. Automotive engines older than 1969 with non-hardened valve seats may need a lead substitute added to gasoline or ethanol blends to prevent premature valve seat wear. Valve burning is decreased when ethanol blends are used because ethanol burns cooler than ordinary unleaded gasoline. Many high performance racing engines use pure alcohol for that reason.
  2. Modern computerized vehicles of today, when operating correctly, will perform better than non-computer equipped vehicles. Improved performance is due to the vehicle’s computerized fuel system being able to make adjustments with changes in operating conditions or fuel type.
  3. Some of the chemicals used to manufacture gasoline, such as olefins, have been identified as a cause of deposits on port fuel injectors. Most gasoline contains detergent additives that are designed to prevent fuel injector and valve deposits.
Objective 3. Identify the user guidelines for properly filling vehicles with blends of fuel.

Present the next set of information on slide #6. Have Eddie Ethanol students teach the material to Terry Technician students.

  1. To help ensure proper engine operation and keep fuel costs to a minimum, follow these guidelines:
    1. Purchase fuel from a busy station to be sure fuel is fresh and less likely to be contaminated with moisture.
    2. Keep the fuel tank above one-quarter full, especially during cold weather, to help reduce condensed moisture and gas line freeze-up.

Present the next set of information on slide #7. Have Terry Technician students teach the material to Eddie Ethanol students.

  1. Do not purchase a fuel with a higher octane rating than is necessary.
  2. Do not purchase fuel from a retail outlet when a tanker truck is filling the storage tanks. Dirt, rust, and water may be stirred up.
  3. Do not overfill the gas tank. After the nozzle clicks off, add just enough fuel to round up to the next dime. This will prevent damage to the vehicle’s fuel evaporative system.

We now understand how important quality fuel is in engine operation. We have also witnessed the benefits that come with ethanol and have a list of recommendations when it comes to fueling a vehicle. All of these are factors to keep in mind and use in the decision making process the next time we go to put fuel in a vehicle.


Give students eight minutes to take the ethanol knowledge you have learned today and transform it into a nursery rhyme. Think of all the nursery rhymes you know and then decide which one would work best for the challenge you have been given. They do not need to include all the information from today but make sure to include at least one characteristic, benefit and recommendation pertaining to ethanol use.

Allow students to prepare their nursery rhymes and help them as needed. Upon completion have the students share their nursery rhymes with the class. Have students thank each other and mention they will continue to learn about ethanol in future lessons.

Answers to Assessment:

True or False.

  1. True
  2. True
  3. False
  4. True
  5. True

Multiple Choice:

  1. C
  2. A

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Extension Activities

  • Bring in print copies of vehicle owners manuals or go online and find several copies of different manuals. Look through the fuel sections within the manuals and determine what different types of manufacturers recommend for their specific vehicles when it comes to fuels. Then compare results for commonalities and differences.
  • Work with local vehicle dealerships to design a flyer that could be given out at events that share the benefits of ethanol use. Include manufacturer tips about proper and safe ways to fuel a vehicle. These could be given out at public events, local dealerships and at local gas stations.
  • Shadow or interview a local vehicle dealer and technician to learn more about vehicle maintenance and upkeep. Ask questions related to this lesson dealing with ethanol use, benefits and fueling recommendations. Use the additional information to put together a report and to evaluate whether this may be a career option in the future.


  • Adapted from Renewable Fuels Instructional Materials: Copyright © 2009 by National FFA Organization. Used by permission.
  • E-Moments® is a registered trademark of the National FFA Organization. Copyright © 2004 by National FFA Organization. Used by permission.
  • New materials, updates and revisions were funded in part by a grant from the Iowa Energy Center as a special project of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation.


Will Fett

Organization Affiliation

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • Theme 1: Agriculture and the Environment
    • Evaluate the various definitions of “sustainable agriculture,” considering population growth, carbon footprint, environmental systems, land and water resources, and economics
  • Theme 4: STEM
    • Identify current and emerging scientific discoveries and technologies and their possible use in agriculture (e.g., biotechnology, bio-chemical, mechanical, etc.)

Education Content Standards

  • HS-PS1-2. Construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties.
  • HS-ESS3-4. Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.*

Common Core Connections

  • NL-ENG.K-12.2. Reading for Understanding.
  • NSS-EC.9-12.2. Effective Decision Making.
  • SL.9–10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one–on–one, in groups, and teacher–led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • SL.9–10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.