Ethanol Blends in Racing and High-Performance Engines Make More Power

The introduction of biofuels as an integral part of our motor vehicle fuel system was driven by the need to reduce our dependence on imported oil. While this has been happening, the auto racing community and high-performance enthusiasts alike have also discovered that ethanol has many valuable power-enhancing properties. So why do racers and other gearheads use ethanol to get across the finish line faster?

There are some very good reasons why ethanol blends are the answer to your performance prayers. Let’s take a look:

The Economics Are There: Ethanol Blends Cost Less

There is an old saying in the high-performance world: “Horsepower costs money – how much do you want to spend?” What this means is that the pursuit of more power and speed usually requires you to spend big to reach your goal. Performance modifications to an engine can cost a lot. But so does the high-octane petroleum-based racing fuel that you will need to burn to get all of that power out of your modified engine. Racing-grade gasoline, with an octane rating of 100 to 105, can cost you between six and twelve dollars per gallon or more. And high-performance engines use a lot of fuel. Ouch!

On the other hand, E85 ethanol, which contains around 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, costs less than standard pump gas in most areas. Based on which of the three available E85 grades you select, you will receive fuel with an octane rating between 100 and 106. Depending on your engine, the fuel switch alone can give you way more power, compared to standard pump gas. You can increase your compression ratio, your turbo boost pressure, and your spark advance, without risk of engine damage, to take full advantage of this benefit.

At the time of this writing, the price difference between E85 and standard E10 in the state of Iowa was 26 percent, with E85 selling for a statewide average of $1.79 per gallon, compared to an average of $2.42 for E10. That is a difference of 63 cents per gallon, in E85’s favor! So this becomes a case where more performance costs less! Another bonus is that E85 is totally legal for road use, unlike many racing fuels.

Ethanol Blends Have an Extra Cooling Effect For More Power

There are other performance benefits from running on E85. Compared to gasoline, E85 has a greater “latent heat of vaporization,” which can be expressed as BTU per pound. For comparison, ethanol is rated at 396 BTU per pound, with gasoline at 150 BTU per pound. This is a major performance advantage for ethanol.

What this means is that E85 cools the intake air/fuel mixture, increasing its air density for more power when the spark hits it. This is a similar, but smaller version of the effect generated by water injection, alcohol injection, or an intercooler setup on your engine. This also results in a cooler-running engine, which can eliminate any overheating issues. The difference made by this cooling effect alone could be up to five percent more horsepower.

Ethanol Blends Can Easily And Quickly Boost Your Performance

If you are in search of some extra horsepower from your ride, without breaking the bank, consider running a higher ethanol content fuel. You get a nice power boost, the price is right, and it helps your engine run cooler, too!

To find an E85 or an E15 fuel station near you, check out this link.

Professional Racers Also Like Ethanol Blends

Hobbyists and backyard mechanics are not the only ones who have discovered the benefits of ethanol-blended fuel for improved performance. Big-time racers like those in NASCAR like it, too!

NASCAR Adds Ethanol To Its Racing Fuel For All Its Racing Series

Sunoco has been the official fuel supplier to NASCAR since 2004. Sunoco provides the racing fuel for all of NASCAR’s three national series, currently the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

In 2011, NASCAR switched to a 15 percent ethanol fuel blend, called Sunoco Green E15. Tests have shown increased horsepower, decreased emissions, and cooler running engines using this 98-octane ethanol fuel blend.

The final formulation of Sunoco Green E15 was the result of long hours of work by Sunoco’s scientists, as well as over 100 members of NASCAR’s Research and Development Center, most of the race teams, and their engine shops. Many different fuel blends were exhaustively tested in the lab, on the engine dyno, and on the track. Some teams even tested ethanol blends up to E30, with no issues. After more than eighteen months of testing, Sunoco Green E15 was selected.

The use of Sunoco Green E15 resulted in an output gain of about 10 more horsepower over the previous fuel, with 100 percent reliability on the track.

E15 has proven itself to be a great fuel for NASCAR. After seven seasons of use, the E15 racing fuel has been used in over nine million miles of racing, with no reported engine problems or added maintenance issues.

INDYCAR Switches to Ethanol

Up until 2005, the Indy Racing League (IRL), now known as INDYCAR, had run on 100 percent methanol in their premier open-wheel racing series, which includes the prestigious Indy 500 race. IRL engines are highly stressed, with huge power outputs, and are unable to run reliably on gasoline.

Looking for an improvement, the IRL switched to a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent methanol for the 2006 racing season. In 2007, they moved to 100 percent ethanol, and have continued with it ever since.

The benefits of using ethanol over methanol included a boost in octane, from methanol’s 107 to 113 with ethanol. Ethanol also has more energy density than methanol. This meant that the racecars got better mileage, and as a result, their fuel tanks could be reduced in size from 30 gallons to 22 gallons. That’s a win-win for ethanol!

The Performance Benefits of Ethanol Are Real And Practical

Whether you are a professional racer, or you are trying to get some more power out of your own performance car, the benefits of running a higher ethanol blend are proven and real. For so many reasons, ethanol is your ticket to a higher-output, better performing, and cooler-running engine.

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