What is E85 and why is it important for racers?

What is E85?

E85 is an alternative fuel produced by blending 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. It is:

  • Clean-burning w/ reduced tailpipe emissions
  • Domestically-produced
  • Renewable fuel that contributes to decreased dependence on imported oil
  • Oh, and for the racer in you it has drastic performance benefits for the appropriately equipped car (more on that further down)

Ethanol is a renewable fuel that can be produced from a wide range of organic materials, but in the U.S., it is most commonly produced from corn. It is currently found in almost all gasoline in America. Ethanol is a natural, non-toxic alcohol that burns cleanly and reduces greenhouse emissions by as much as 59%. It is made in America in rural farming areas all across the country.

Where does it come from?

Ethanol is made from crops and other plant material grown right here in the U.S. Most is currently made from field corn, but new technologies are allowing ethanol to be made from other materials such as switchgrass, wood chips and agricultural waste. Standard corn ethanol uses the starch from the corn kernel. The rest of the proteins and nutrients are then saved and used as a valuable livestock feed called distillers grains.

Does ethanol work in my car?

All cars made after 1980 can run on blends of E10 or higher (keep in mind that almost all gasoline being sold today is blended with 10% ethanol). Vehicles called flexible-fuel vehicles (FFV's) are designed to run on any gasoline/ethanol blend up to 85 percent ethanol (E85). Most auto makers have flex-fuel models, and the cost difference is negligible. You may already have an FFV and not even know it. In addition, all light-duty vehicles made in 2001 or later have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use E15.

Additionally, ethanol compatibility has seen a huge uptake in the aftermarket and tuning world.  With just a few modifications a turbocharged vehicle can be adapted to reap the performance benefits of E85.  The perfect example is the SlipStream Project Car: Pineapple Express.  A 2002 Porsche 996 Turbo that has been upgraded with Undercover Tuning's flex-fuel kit and ProEFI's 128 ECU that continually measures ethanol content and auto-adjusts tuning on the fly.

So what are the performance benefits?

Once your car is set up to take advantage of this renewable fuel source, the benefits are exponential.  Practically speaking, E85 will help your car burn cleaner, run cooler and is essentially 105 octane fuel.  Let's pause right here, a 5 gallon pail of traditional high octane racing fuel can run upwards of $70, where as Ignite E85 from Omega Fuels is $50 with a guaranteed ethanol content of 85%. E85 allows your to run more timing, which yields more power gains.

To reap the full power benefits of ethanol based fuels you'll need to increase fuel flow. Despite having a higher octane rating, E85 has a lower overall energy density than pure pump fuel. Pure gasoline contains approximately 125,000 BTUs per gallon, while E85 contains approximately 84,000. This means that a greater volume of E85 must be utilized to realize the same energy content. 

So your fuel consumption will increase, especially when running your car at full-tilt.  However, Omega Fuels is committed to the expanded use of clean-burning ethanol and guarantees to keep their pump E85 priced much lower than standard ethanol fuels (quite the opposite of other filling stations taking advantage of this fuels scarcity).  The cost savings provided by Omega Fuels are designed to offset the MPG lost, while still allowing you and the environment to benefit from E85.  Their pump E85 is roughly 25%-30% more affordable than the traditional premium unleaded fuel you'd find in PA, NJ or NY.

Lets see just how much cleaner E85 is:

What octane ratings mean:

Addressing the elephant in the room:

As of yet, there are about 800 filling stations selling E85 in the USA and many of those are located in the central region of our country.  Even when you find "E85" at the pump there is often no guarantee of its true ethanol content.  Further, this content at the pump can fluctuate from season to season, or even visit to visit.

Even just a few years ago, those wanting to realize the performance benefits of E85 would have to take a measuring kit to the station to determine the ethanol content or rely on making their own 85%/15% blends.  Both time consuming and risky.

More recently, we have begun to see huge advances in aftermarket E85 fuel systems and ECU support across some of the leaders in the game, ProEFI, Cobb and Syvecs to name a few.  These innovations allow for the car and the ECU to automatically detect ethanol content and adjust timing in real-time.

Omega Fuels has made it their mission to provide the public with alternative fuel options.  Starting with a pump location in South Hamptom, PA and an online store for door-to-door orders, Omega is paving the way to increase access to quality ethanol-based fuels for the North East region of the USA.  They are the first station within the entire region to install a blender pump for dispensing alternative fuels.  This means that Omega can offer variations of ethanol content to meet your specific needs.

Visit www.omegafuels.net for more information.

One more video with all the highlights and history of E85: