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Ethanol in Fuel = GOOD for Performance?! FF#29

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Volvo Repair Database Ethanol in Fuel = GOOD for Performance?! FF#29

Post by matthew1 » Thu Jan 31, 2013 7:38 pm

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Missed last week? Air Fuel Ratio: It Matters. Take the Fast Friday Poll.

Surprise! E85 is Not Boring :shock:
Alternative fuels might not sound terribly exciting when it comes to performance and power but E85 has proven to the performance community it has some real benefits even if reducing our use of fossil fuels isn’t necessarily one of them. For more info on that you can read up here about E85 production and its impact on fossil fuel usage (Could Some Midwest Land Support New Biofuel Refineries?). For the rest of this article we’ll focus on the main benefits and detriments of using E85 in engines that were originally designed for gasoline use only.

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Pros & Cons of E85 in Your Volvo
E85 by nature has less energy density than gasoline, which means you have to use ~34% more of it to get the same amount of power as you would from a similar mass of gasoline. While E85 is typically 30-35% less costly than gasoline this alone is not enough to justify its use from a standpoint of cost savings alone. There’s also the consideration of additional engine wear that is attributed to E85 usage over time. Depending on engine construction and model year of vehicle the vehicle components may be more or less resistive to E85 and its effect on rubber/plastic engine parts as well as the cylinder head and pistons themselves. Most fuel injected vehicles from 1980 and on by law are required to tolerate up to 15% ethanol content in the regular fuel supply while most will handle upwards of 30% without issue. Past 1995 and nearly all passenger cars can tolerate 85% ethanol with regard to rubber/plastic in the fuel delivery system. However Ethanol is also hygroscopic which means it is prone to absorb water from the air and condensation so there can be a concern of water entry into the fuel delivery system which can create problems down the road if you live in a high humidity environment. Rusted fuel pumps, injectors, and fuel lines can be a concern if the vehicle sits for long in a humid environment. Lastly is the concern around corrosivity or reaction to aluminum components in then engine. Methanol is corrosive when it comes to aluminum and related parts, ethanol is not. This confusion is typically where people get the idea that E85 will be corrosive and damaging to an engine. For most applications there will be only minor additional wear to the engine if the ECU is properly tuned for E85 usage.

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What We All Want to Know... Is There Power In It?
When it comes to using E85 I can’t tell you enough how nice it is to tune for cars with this fuel. Burn temperatures are lower, initial octane rating is much higher than gasoline at ~105, and it’s not uncommon at all to gain 40bhp+ by using E85 alone with no other changes aside from tuning. It does require larger injectors in most cases and some considerable re-tuning of the ECU to take advantage of the octane. For those who might remember the days of adjusting ignition timing at the distributor and feeling the gain of power by just a few degrees of ignition advance, E85 allows for as much as 7-8 degrees of additional ignition advance which can translate to some serious power gains! For bigger builds with larger turbos, higher boost targets, and serious power goals E85 can be a real God send.


Bear In Mind Content And Quality
E85 content and quality is not always the same from one area to another. Actual ethanol content and additive packages can vary from state to state and county to county. So if you can use the same supplier consistently you’re likely to get the most consistent product. Brazil has been leading the charge with E85 production and is one of the largest exporters of the stuff and with usage starting as early as the 1970’s they’ve developed quite an infrastructure that supports it. Nearly all vehicles in Brazil are flex fuel compatible with some toleration E100 (ethanol at 100%). Usage worldwide is generally broader than we might think here stateside but at the end of the day, this tuner's take on E85 is more along the lines of an inexpensive high performance fuel as compared to race gas at the track. While it won’t solve or energy needs anytime soon it certainly has its place in the performance arena and some of the higher horsepower builds out there.

The subject of E85 is broad and wide and we certainly won’t cover all the aspects here. We can however get a better picture of what E85 offers to the performance enthusiast and its real world viability in the performance sector. Want more info? Post up in the comments!

Robert Lucky Arnold


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Re: Ethanol in Fuel = GOOD for Performance?! FF#29

Post by matthew1 » Fri Feb 01, 2013 4:05 pm

Lucky, like the "fuel is different today" revelation you triggered in my head last week in Fast Friday #28 Air:Fuel Ratio - It Matters, this one is again fuel-related and "news" to me.

I don't think I was alone in avoiding E85 fuel whenever possible, which apart from my time driving in Iowa, is very easy here in Colorado. I read about it enough to know it delivers worse fuel economy for not much $ savings at the pump. I considered it a product from the same bureaucratic pit that the MPG-draining mandatory MTBE winter additive came from.

So... thanks for this newest FF topic, it's new information to me. Question: do customers ever bring up E85, aware of its potential benefits, saying it's a reason they're coming to you for a tune? Or is it more of a hidden bonus?


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Re: Ethanol in Fuel = GOOD for Performance?! FF#29

Post by LASteve » Fri Feb 01, 2013 6:49 pm

This is pretty interesting.


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Re: Ethanol in Fuel = GOOD for Performance?! FF#29

Post by ARD-Lucky » Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:25 am

yes actually I have more than a few folks out there running on strictly E85 fuel with proper tuning and the cars make some significant power. The latest is a 98 S70 T5 with 18T and our Blue tune making 315whp at 19 psi. The owner isn't one much for forums but perhaps I can encourage them to post up a video :)



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Re: Ethanol in Fuel = GOOD for Performance?! FF#29

Post by washdup » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:23 pm

There was a recent thread by a guy in Sacramento with a stock '98 T5 (just bigger injectors and home-done retune, IIRC) doing consistent 13's in the 1/4 mile using E85. Very impressive.

So Lucky let's get real-world here, I've got ARD Blue, 18t, t/b exhaust, and white injectors. What all would be needed to run E85? How much fuel economy reduction would be expected? Also, once tuned for E85, can the car still use regular petroleum fuel if needed?



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Re: Ethanol in Fuel = GOOD for Performance?! FF#29

Post by ARD-Lucky » Mon Feb 04, 2013 1:42 pm

I saw that thread as well, very cool stuff!

As for your setup the main changes would be larger injectors and timing remapping to take advantage of the added octane.

As for fuel economy, you'll see a bit less but not as bad as you might think if you are calculating dollars per mile.

You could use regular petrol but you'd likely need to carry a separate tuned ECU that would accomodate for that.



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Re: Ethanol in Fuel = GOOD for Performance?! FF#29

Post by binglax09 » Mon Feb 04, 2013 4:42 pm

Nice post! something that I have tried to bring up over at VS but Chuck has a sheer hatred for the E word. Thus, the topics go down in flames once he get's involved.

I have run E85 on stock tune and it actually worked just fine. Although cold starts are a real issue as the ECU needs to call for more fuel. Have you programmed that into the map?

I have done a lot of research on this in terms of agriculture and running it in varies motors and found that even with lower energy density, ethanol actually is a much better burn "efficiency" thus the 30% figure is not always true. Yes you increase fuel flow but you are gaining efficiency thus with the correct tune should see only 20%-25% decrease in MPG if that. Just from what I can remember as it was a few years ago that I did my homework.Efficency will also greatly increase with increased compression. Diesel engine can be run on ethanol as well which will help the MPG issue that everyone dwells on.

Water: Having water mixed into ethanol actually adds cooling to the motor up to a set percentage. Unlike petrol, ethanol will mix 100% with water. rust? maybe, but that would have to be A LOT of water. We see issues now with E10 because once the 10% ethanol absorb as much water as it can, the water will start contaminating the petrol which does not mix with water. It separates, causing the cloudiness and blobs of junk. E85 on the other hand has PLENTY of ethanol content to take care of the water absorption in a much better manner without contaminating the fuel.


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Re: Ethanol in Fuel = GOOD for Performance?! FF#29

Post by precopster » Wed Feb 06, 2013 5:11 am

Here in the Melbourne (Australia) CBD we have afew outlets of E85 (but not nearly enough for long interstate trips)

I am very interested in this fuel with the possibility of running in my newly acquired '01 XC70.

Lucky do you have a tune for this ECU which is a sole E85 tune? How much improvement in HP should there be with this setup and how can I easily return back to the previous state of tune if required? Can I buy another ECU and have it setup as E85 once my original ECU is copied?


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Re: Ethanol in Fuel = GOOD for Performance?! FF#29

Post by ARD-Lucky » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:45 am

We can tune for E85 as a sole conversion but for now I'd say hang on just a bit until our remote loader is complete. So far the cables are done and we're finishing the software interface so we're moving along :)

Cloning of ECU's can be done but for now all cloning must be done here in our offices. There is the ability to remote clone the ECU's but the process currently needs refined to make it more customer friendly. With the remote loader however you can load either map file to your ECU as you like whether for gasoline or E85!



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Re: Ethanol in Fuel = GOOD for Performance?! FF#29

Post by precopster » Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:07 pm

This is indeed great news for doing direct comparisons during back to back fills on consecutive weeks.

At the moment I have afew issues to work through before it's roadworthy so afew months until I'm ready to move on this.

So if I don't change injectors what improvements in HP on the B5244T should I expect Lucky?


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