The potential of large-scale lignocellulosic biomass hydrolysis to fermentable sugars using ionic liquids has increased interest in this green chemistry route to fermentation for fuel-ethanol production. The ionic liquid 1-(1-propylsulfonic)-3-methylimidazolium chloride compared to other reported ionic liquids has the advantage of hydrolysing lignocellulosic biomass to reducing sugars at catalytic concentrations (≤0·032 mol l−1) in a single step. However, effects of this ionic liquid on co-fermentation of glucose, xylose and arabinose to ethanol by recombinant Zymomonas mobilisAX101 has not been studied. Authentic glucose, xylose and arabinose were used to formulate fermentation media at varying catalytic 1-(1-propylsulfonic)-3-methylimidazolium chloride concentrations for batch co-fermentation of the sugars using Z. mobilisAX101. The results showed that at 0·008, 0·016 and 0·032 mol l−1 ionic liquid in the culture medium, cell growth decreased by 10, 27 and 67% respectively compared to the control. Ethanol yields were 62·6, 61·8, 50·5 and 23·1% for the control, 0·008, 0·016 and 0·032 mol l−1 ionic liquid respectively. The results indicate that lignocellulosic biomass hydrolysed using 0·008 mol l−1 of 1-(1-propylsulfonic)-3-methylimidazolium chloride would eliminate an additional separation step and provide a ready to use fermentation substrate.