Minnesota Late Model racer Dustin Reeh switched from methanol to E85 and reduced his weekl
These issues, however, are well known and documented, and OEM engineers have successfully addressed them for ethanol through the development of low-cost, production-ready flex-fuel vehicles that can handle high concentrations of ethanol fuel. Since methanol is toxic and corrosive and has significantly reduced volumetric energy content, methanol is not recommended for use in production flexible-fuel vehicles.
To summarize the cons of ethanol usage:
• Corrosive: Ethanol can be hard on non-synthetic and natural rubber fuel system parts. Engineered solutions are widely available to address this issue.
• Land/labor viability: Considerable land is required to grow the crops, and labor for growing and transporting the crops is required. By using the proper ethanol feedstock, this issue may readily be addressed.
• Lower energy content than gasoline: The inherent lower volumetric energy content discussed with E85 relative to gasoline results in decreased mileage. Methanol is far worse because of its lower energy content. However, power potential versus gasoline is increased in both cases.
The Bottom Line
To reduce our reliance on foreign oil, renewable fuels will play an increasingly vital role in the future. This country has a long history of ethanol development, and recent technologies-such as cellulosic, catalytic biomass conversion, or perhaps even algae-based methods-will result in the production of a fuel that sidesteps food crops and concerns about global climate change. Most importantly, renewable fuels are expected to be sustainable energy sources that simultaneously create domestic jobs and boost economic growth as they prevent money from leaking out of our country to pay for foreign oil at home, thereby building our economy.
The properties of ethanol make it an ideal substitute relative to racing fuel: lower volatility and levels of toxicity, high natural octane, high heats of vaporization, and higher overall efficiency. But don't take our word for it.
Take the example of Dustin Reeh, the 33-year-old WISSOTA Late Model racer from Rochester, Minnesota. "We ran methanol in 2007 and 2008. Then at the beginning of last year I bought an E85 carburetor from Quick Fuel," says Reeh. "It cost about $800, but I had a $400 fuel savings (by switching to E85). Now that's based off of 18 to 20 races per year, but I have a $400 a year fuel savings, so in two years I paid for that carburetor." That's not all either. "On top of that, I'm paying $2.30 per gallon versus Methanol at $4.50, and racing gas, depending on where you're at, is 6 to 8 bucks a gallon."
While saving money was part of Reeh's motivation there was another aspect as well. "The methanol carburetor that I had was about 5 years old-I bought it used and needed to upgrade it anyway. During the 2008 season, I bought a Race Pumps fuel pump, which as you know, is good for anything from gas to alcohol; so basically I already had the setup. I had the fuel pump. I had the regulator. Switching from alcohol to E85 wasn't a huge change-there was some stuff I changed but the biggest motivator was I had to change the carburetor anyways."
Another plus was that one of Reeh's main sponsors is a farmer. "I have one sponsor and they're farmers. It's a big plus to them because we're using their stuff to go racing."
Saving money, fuel flexibility, and keeping your sponsors happy is great, but does the stuff work?
"To tell you the truth, it's very compatible with the alcohol. With the WISSOTA Late Models, you're allowed to run gas, ethanol, or methanol. I haven't had it on the dyno so I don't have exact numbers for you, but power-wise it's every bit as good as the methanol."
In the course of the switch, Reeh did upgrade his cylinder heads and went to a triple pass radiator. But there was one issue. "There's not a lot of information out there about racing with E85. So, it was a lot of trial and error at the get go.