With all the questions about E85 and the recent conversations we have had with our customers we thought now might be a good time to do a write up based on our experiences. In this article we will look at the benefits and drawbacks of using ethanol based fuels as an alternative to racing fuels as well as running it as your primary fuel.
Miracle Corn Fuel
First, if you don’t have any experience with E85, start here for some background information. As a whole E85 is some pretty amazing stuff. It allows certain performance cars to make a lot of power very safely and efficiently. On some of our customer cars we have seen increases between 25 % and 40 %! This translates to between 100 and 200 wheel horsepower! This is due to the fact that ethanol based fuel allows us to tune with much higher boost pressures and sometimes more advanced timing settings. The two primary reasons for this is because E85 has a higher octane rating and a natural latent heat absorption property. The end result is nothing short of amazing when compared to traditional 91 and 93 octane fuels. In our experience E85 is actually superior to a lot of racing fuels at less than 1/4 the cost.
Fuel System Compatibility
Because ethanol fuels have a different composition than traditional gasoline its important to inspect your car’s fuel system when making the switch to E85. Rubber hoses and seals are the most likely to be affected. If you notice concerns with any of these parts replace them with ethanol compatible components as needed. Additionally, depending on the age of your car, you might notice a black residue or goo in the fuel system. The cause of this residue is not defined but it is speculated to be a byproduct of some stations fuels. This byproduct can plug up fuel pumps, filters, and injectors which can lead to lean conditions that could potentially damage your engine. Proper instrumentation such as an air fuel gauge can keep you informed of your engines current status and should be monitored closely at all times.
The single largest detractor to using E85 in your performance car is that the quality of fuel is very inconsistent. Even though the pump your buying the fuel from is marked as E85, which stands for an 85% blend of ethanol, the reality is that you could be getting anywhere between 51% and 83%. In fact federal regulations specify that allowable fuel ethanol content in E85 can range from 51% to 83%. Click Here for more info. The reason this is a problem is because when your car’s ecu is tuned its being programmed based on the current blend of fuel. If your car is running on E70 during your tuning session but then you go fill up after and end up getting a significantly stronger or weaker concentration of ethano. The results of this change can vary between poor driving characteristics and potential engine damage. So the question becomes, how do you prevent this? The answer is to monitor your fuel’s blend. This can be done with something as simple as a test tube or as complex as a digital sensor and gauge. The key is to ensure your car always has the same content of ethanol as it was tuned with. Some modern performance ecu’s can actually incorporate these sensors and make the changes to your tune automatically. AEM, Haltech, and PRO EFI are just a few of the companies than have embraced this technology. With these types of systems we actually have the ability to tune your car’s ecu like the OEM manufactures (Ford, Chevrolet, etc) do and therefore it can adapt to changing content blends automatically. This is by far the safest and most effective way to use ethanol blended fuels.
Preparing For E85 In Your Car
If your planning on using ethanol based fuels in your car please keep these things in mind.
- You need more fuel to support comparable horsepower as regular gas. This means running larger fuel injectors, fuel pump, and fuel lines. Each car is different, make sure to consult with your Beyond Redline sales rep to get the right parts for your application.
- The benefits of E85 are mostly realized on high compression and forced induction cars. Naturally aspirated cars do not have as much to gain unless your getting into some very race oriented builds.
- While E85 is amazing, it does not make your engine bullet proof. Always respect your engines hardware limitations.
- Ethanol content changes all the time. Depending on which station you buy it from, the time of year you purchase it, or how much regular gas is left your tank, you most likely won’t see the same content twice. This is why content monitoring is so important.
In summary, E85 and similar fuels are an incredible alternative to racing fuels and provide fantastic results on cars that are properly set up for their use. However this article is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to educating yourself. Please contact the knowledgeable staff at Beyond Redline to further discuss your specific application. We have extensive experience in this area and would love to work with you on your car. With our expertise we know we can help you create more power than you ever imagined.
Green Bay, WI 54303