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Is E85 right for you?

5388 Views 23 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  mikewads
E85 has created quite the buzz the last couple of years but we don't know if people are as versed on it as they should be. Here at AMS we are a bit apprehensive about using it for several reasons. Below is a very nice technical memo by our head tuner Chris Black giving some insight into this relatively new fuel.

Is E85 Right for you?

Author: Chris Black - Head Tuner At AMS Performance

E85 in place of traditional race fuel can offer both advantages and disadvantages when using it for your forced induction vehicle. The biggest advantage is it's a cheap and readily available source for much higher octane than premium fuel at the pump. While that sounds great there are a number of things to consider before pumping your tank full of the magic corn juice.

How much Ethanol are you getting?

In Illinois we only have an 85% blend of ethanol at most and for only 2 months of the year. Other states ethanol content schedules vary, but ALL of them do have some variation over the course of the different seasons.

Since the content of the fuel is changing, technically your tune should be changing too, to match the requirements of the current fuel that is in your tank… but it can't. E70 in place of E85 for example will run richer than intended and also have less knock resistance, which is not a good thing for those cars which are tuned for high power. An ethanol content meter should really be installed for the driver to monitor the fuel and make sure it stays within a safe range of ethanol content specified by your Tuner.

Added fuel system requirements

E85 is corrosive and your cars fuel system may not be equipped to run it. Not all fuel pumps or injectors were meant to be able to run such a high ethanol content. Ethanol has much less lubrication in it, which will wear on your fuel system parts faster and may possibly cause a failure if used with parts that are not compatible.
Ethanol also has a much lower boiling point than traditional gasoline, which can cause issues with aeration of the fuel, especially when used in track oriented vehicles. Ethanol 'cleans out' your fuel system, so when adding the fuel to an older system the fuel filter will need to be changed at least once, and possibly more times as the entire fuel system will be shedding any contaminants that it has picked up over the years.

Ethanol may not be the best choice for Race Cars

With the inconsistency of the ethanol content of the fuel and its chemical properties, it is advisable for any vehicle which is a dedicated race car to be using a standard race fuel that will work consistently at all times. Ethanol can be extra corrosive if it's let sitting in a car that is not started up and driven often. In addition Ethanol is 'hygroscopic' meaning it will absorb water over time which can reduce the potency of the fuel and cause further damage to the fuel system. Ethanol can be used for racing applications but careful consideration and monitoring needs to take place when doing so.

Conclusion

For a street vehicle with a conscientious user, E85 is an option that will require some care in maintaining during the use of the vehicle. As long as your car is equipped with the proper gauges to read ethanol content and air/fuel ratio and you have a good understanding of what to look for E85 may be a fuel worth looking in to.
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I'm curious how Chris says the E70 would make a E85 tuned car run lean? There is 15% more pump gas in E70 than E85. If anything the tune will go on the rich side. Now if the car was tuned with E70 and E85 was introduced to the car, then the tune could become too lean.
I'm curious how Chris says the E70 would make a E85 tuned car run lean? There is 15% more pump gas in E70 than E85. If anything the tune will go on the rich side. Now if the car was tuned with E70 and E85 was introduced to the car, then the tune could become too lean.
You are correct and it has been changed. Sorry for the confusion.

Eric
Great info, thanks.
I'm curious what sort of corrosion issues you guys have seen. Pretty much all pump gas at this point seems to be mixed with ethanol to some extent. We've tested gas that claimed not to be mixed and it still had 6-7% in it. Methanol is *highly* corrosive and requires a number of precautions in prepping the fuel system, but I just haven't seen any issues with ethanol on modern cars. I spoke with Walbro engineers 4 years ago and they said their pumps absolutely were not rated for use with ethanol. To date I still haven't seen the failures. In fact every failed Walbro I've seen was running pump gas (not suggesting E85 is *better* for the pump, just saying I haven't seen any failures related to it). Same thing goes with injectors. Originally Precision told us that their injectors weren't rated for use with alcohol, but after many years of everybody and their brother running regular Delphi injectors I still don't see any failures. The only legitimate issue I've seen is in the case of "paper" style fuel filters, they seem to get plugged up and cause flow issues. Not a corrosion issue but still a reason to switch to a stainless element. So anyway, I don't doubt that you've seen some issues over the years, I'm just looking for some more specifics so I can add those items to my things-to-check-regularly list.
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Its actually 'hygroscopic'
This ability to absorb water is one of the reasons E85 is corrosive to some fuel system components.
I have seen proper E85 (85 - 88% content) quite literally strip the zinc plated coating off stock GTR fuel pumps. Looked like they had dropped form a crab trawler in the middle of Tokyo bay and sat on the bottom for a couple of months
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Its actually 'hygroscopic'
This ability to absorb water is one of the reasons E85 is corrosive to some fuel system components.
I have seen proper E85 (85 - 88% content) quite literally strip the zinc plated coating off stock GTR fuel pumps. Looked like they had dropped form a crab trawler in the middle of Tokyo bay and sat on the bottom for a couple of months
Typo on my part, good catch

Chris is gonna pop in here soon and answer your questions HiBoost.

Eric
Some components may not fail immediately simply because ethanol is being used, but it will increase the wear on those components. I did a very unscientific test when e85 was first available in my area and I submersed whatever fuel system components I could find in 1 gallon glass jugs full of e85 for a total of 1 year. In addition I also left one of the jugs with some aeration to see if the ethanol and the gasoline would indeed separate. I was unable to find any major negatives during this time, no major corrosion, no major effects on the fuel line I selected, but it sure does like to eat electrical tape. The components were all very 'clean' after 1 year, which was to be expected.

I don't have any extremely specific answers for you, but I can tell you that we have had more than a few pump failures while running e85. Those pumps were assumed to have failed earlier than expected because of how hard they were being run in conjunction with the fact that we were running a fuel that didn't offer as much lubrication. Running a pump as 90 or 100 psi fuel pressure under boost on a road course with over 130 degree fuel temps is a bit different than running the same fuel pump at 80psi on the street under 100 degrees fuel temperature.

Generally viscosity of fluids tends to decrease as temperature increases. A parallel could be drawn to motor oil in this respect. Where a lower ethanol blend would lubricate better than a higher ethanol blend and save the components from excess wear that may occur and shorten the life of that part.

Another not so well known fact is that ethanol will 'swell' the seals of certain injectors, causing between a 5 and 10 percent difference in quantity of fuel delivered. This happens fairly rapidly, and should not present any problems to a car that has been properly tuned, but the phenomenon still exists. The largest problem with injector seals arises from the use of fuels which contain MTBE, which is yet another discussion. Certain brands of injectors we have used have had more issues running ethanol than others, and a higher failure rate, which I have assumed is due to the lack of lubrication. This is not to say they wouldn't have failed anyways eventually, but I do believe it helped to speed up that process.
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Some components may not fail immediately simply because ethanol is being used, but it will increase the wear on those components. I did a very unscientific test when e85 was first available in my area and I submersed whatever fuel system components I could find in 1 gallon glass jugs full of e85 for a total of 1 year. In addition I also left one of the jugs with some aeration to see if the ethanol and the gasoline would indeed separate. I was unable to find any major negatives during this time, no major corrosion, no major effects on the fuel line I selected, but it sure does like to eat electrical tape. The components were all very 'clean' after 1 year, which was to be expected.

I don't have any extremely specific answers for you, but I can tell you that we have had more than a few pump failures while running e85. Those pumps were assumed to have failed earlier than expected because of how hard they were being run in conjunction with the fact that we were running a fuel that didn't offer as much lubrication. Running a pump as 90 or 100 psi fuel pressure under boost on a road course with over 130 degree fuel temps is a bit different than running the same fuel pump at 80psi on the street under 100 degrees fuel temperature.

Generally viscosity of fluids tends to decrease as temperature increases. A parallel could be drawn to motor oil in this respect. Where a lower ethanol blend would lubricate better than a higher ethanol blend and save the components from excess wear that may occur and shorten the life of that part.

Another not so well known fact is that ethanol will 'swell' the seals of certain injectors, causing between a 5 and 10 percent difference in quantity of fuel delivered. This happens fairly rapidly, and should not present any problems to a car that has been properly tuned, but the phenomenon still exists. The largest problem with injector seals arises from the use of fuels which contain MTBE, which is yet another discussion. Certain brands of injectors we have used have had more issues running ethanol than others, and a higher failure rate, which I have assumed is due to the lack of lubrication. This is not to say they wouldn't have failed anyways eventually, but I do believe it helped to speed up that process.
Do u think we should be adding "2 stroke pre-mix" (castor), to help with the lubrication?
Here is some info i got from a friend who works with fuels...

Info on E85 !!








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Chris - thanks for taking the time to elaborate!

Do u think we should be adding "2 stroke pre-mix" (castor), to help with the lubrication?
I know lots of guys that run methanol use Klotz Uplon top-end lube for this purpose... I haven't researched whether or not people use this with E85 as well...

VegasGTR - Cool slides. I had heard about the graduated cylinder test but didn't know the details. Going to try that out and compare with my buddy's $2500 meter :)
hope this help

nice find!

I need to get that gauge? anyone know where and will it work with Cobb?
nice find!

I need to get that gauge? anyone know where and will it work with Cobb?
In general they use the GM Flex fuel sensor, and then a gauge readout from that, that either the ECU uses like a ProEfi or output just to a gauge.

I don't think the cobb can use external inputs. If it could that would be Awesome.

I use the titration method to check my fuel before I buy a lot of it or race with it. Down here in South Florida the quality of the fuels is pretty good. Got some E88 down at my local station, its good stuff.
In general they use the GM Flex fuel sensor, and then a gauge readout from that, that either the ECU uses like a ProEfi or output just to a gauge.

I don't think the cobb can use external inputs. If it could that would be Awesome.

I use the titration method to check my fuel before I buy a lot of it or race with it. Down here in South Florida the quality of the fuels is pretty good. Got some E88 down at my local station, its good stuff.
Yea Bill, I will be testing via titration method tomorrow my local E85 station for shits and giggles , I always fill up in the same station..
WOW that video was bad ass!!

In Florida we have a decent blend all year round (E85 Blend Chart) since we don't have to deal with the extreme cold. I think we could run blend 1 all year long down here IMO They really need to change that LOL.
Flex fuel turbocharged vehicles are VERY cool. I just finished up an EVO this week. He can run blend of ethanol he chooses and all other ECU settings will change to suit!

Most people use this meter: http://www.zeitronix.com/Products/ECA/ECA.shtml

They are all based off of the GM flex fuel sensor which is a factory part in the cars that come equipped with it.

I've heard of people using the Klotz additive, but in general customers either leave in e85 all the time, or every couple of months they run a tank of pump gas through the car.
Very balanced and well written article, Chris. Good work!
Whats the difference with the different sensors.. I see that you can get a Flex Fuel sensor from a ford tauras for like 150 dollars but a GMC Truck sensor is like 400?

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/flex-fuel-s...=item4aae256264

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/2000-Ford-T...=item4cf98b8a26

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/Flex-Fuel-S...=item230b8e7b92
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