Ethanol fuel, the other race fuel for your car

Posted by at 5 May 2014, at 20 : 20 PM

Ethanol fuel, the other race fuel for your car

Just because ethanol fights global warming, and makes tree huggers happy doesn’t mean we should be against it. Now, I won’t get into politics here. I am only talking about it as an alternative when it comes to performance. Doesn’t mean that I think we should use it for regular cars. The potential of ethanol as an alternative to expensive racing gas is very promising. I will show you some examples of it being used successfully and some of the downsides of it.

E85, the most common of ethanol fuel blends is actually three grades of fuel. Class 1 (pure) contains 80-84 percent ethanol while the rest of the mix is regular gas. Class 2 or E75 is 75-79 percent ethanol, and Class 3 or E70 is 70-74 percent ethanol. All three blends may be marketed as E85 at different times of the year. This is done to offer better cold starting performance, which is one of ethanol’s downsides. Pure ethanol has low vapor pressure, so greater amounts of gasoline are used for colder weather, which is why all three classes of ethanol can be marketed as E85 at different times. Since ethanol is pretty new to the scene, it’s not thoroughly as documented as gasoline, which is why it’s octane varies from 100-106.

The octane of ethanol is high, which is a good thing for all those running high-compression and high-boost applications. But the motor octane of ethanol (which is the more extreme standard used to measure ethanol) is low when compared to racing gas of similar octane. This means that E85 is resistant to knock, but sensitive to preignition. This means when you’re running E85 or any type of ethanol blend, you need to dial down the heat by switching spark plugs and watch for sharp edges on the piston domes and chambers.

Another change when switching from any type of gas to ethanol is the amount of fuel delivery. If you compared gas and ethanol there is about a 25 percent difference in energy density by mass. One gallon of pure ethanol contains about 66 percent as much energy as a gallon of gasoline. A gallon of E85 contains about 71 percent as much energy as a gallon of unblended gasoline. You can compensate for this by delivering a greater mass of ethanol to make up for the difference.

This means the fuel economy is worse, but it can be adjusted by tuning. On some of the flex-fuel vehicles, you can switch back and forth from gasoline to E85, but for guys like us, it’s a lot harder. It requires lots of technology. So once we switch our engines to run on ethanol, you have to change the calibration back again for it to run on fuel.

The benefits of ethanol is the fact that when everything is taken care of and tuned, the right setup will make as much power as gas of a comparable octane, and most of the time a little more. In some engines the power increase can be as much as 5%. With a higher octane you can run more boost, more compression and more spark advance without damaging your engine. These are things that we’re all looking for when it comes to performance. Also, it doesn’t leave all the gunky deposits like gas does, which keeps your engine running at its optimal performance level.

Karl Jacob converted his Dodge Viper to E85 to demonstrate that high performance could be environmentally friendly. In his Viper, which is totally street legal, he ran the standing mile at 220.7 mph. The company who took on the project is SVS, Viper specialists out of Chicago who customized the intercooled twin turbo system to run on three output settings between 800 and 1,100 hp. Here’s what Jacob said when he was asked about ethanol. “The great thing about E85 is it enables us to transition to a biofuel with a lot less pain than other fuels. You can buy an $800 kit to convert your car; you can buy a brand-new car that runs on E85. I think for a lot of people who are into performance, they’re just not gonna switch to a biofuel – or to any fuel-unless there’s a performance benefit. What we’re proving here is that E85 is a superior fuel to gasoline for performance.”

Ethanol fuel gas station stop go building

It looks like to me that if you’re into performance, and especially running any type of boost, it’s worth a try. Considering that for $800 (+-) bucks you can buy a kit to convert gas into ethanol, it’s worth a shot. That is unless you want to switch back and forth between gas and ethanol. You can’t have both unless you are really a genius and know how to manipulate the engine. Anything that gives you a chance to run higher compression while not damaging the engine seems a perfect fit, especially if you’re going to be running over 800 HP. I’ve heard that driving a car running on E85 is a lot different than a gas powered car, but to comment on that, I’d have to drive it myself. This just seems all too good to pass up. So you can see why I chose this as my post. If you have never considered ethanol because you associate it with greenpeace, then the fact that you can add horsepower and torque this easy has got to make you at least think about it. I’m not trying to get you to run E85. Everybody knows what’s best for their vehicle. In the name of performance, I thought I’d let you know that this is just one more option you have when it comes to adding power, and with a car guy, that’s always a good thing, right?

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