E85 - The Race Fuel You Can Get At The Pump For Under 2$
Most fuels you purchase at the pump today contain approximately 10% Ethanol, but at select gas stations you will be able to find E85 fuel. This fuel should contain approximately 85% ethanol. There are many performance benefits to using E85, especially when you have a forced induction or high compression engine.
The issue with many high compression or forced induction applications running "pump gas" (usually 91 or 93 octane depending on where you live) is detonation. Detonation is where you have an uncontrolled combustion event before the piston is on the "power stroke". This can lead to catastrophic engine damage. When the engine is tuned to run on this octane fuel, the engine tuner is usually limited by how much ignition advance, or timing, he can apply to the ECM. The octane rating of the fuel (87,89,91,93) is essentially its ability to resist combustion. Therefore, 87 octane will ignite or combust easier than 93 octane. This is why performance-oriented cars are usually required to run on "premium". When you run forced induction or high compression the cylinder temperatures and pressures will be higher, which can lead to detonation, also known as "pinging" or "knocking", with a lower octane fuel.
This is where E85 can benefit those high-performance applications. E85 has a lower energy rating than gasoline by about 33%, so how can this lead to more horsepower? Well, since it has a 33% lower energy rating, you must use about 33% more fuel to make the same horsepower. This added fuel quantity, along with the ethanol-alcohol based composition burns cooler than gasoline. This offers a huge cooling effect to the cylinder which lowers the "heat" factor in detonation. This allows the ECM to be tuned with more ignition timing, which in turn tends to allow for an increase in horsepower. On forced induction applications, it usually allows for more boost without fear of detonation. This can have a substantial effect on forced induction and high compression engine horsepower output. E85 has actually been measured to have an octane rating of about 110, which is right up there with most racing fuels, but at less than 1/4 of the cost.
Running a E85 Flex Fuel sensor allow you the flexibility of using regular octane pump gas or E85 if available, as well as any blend of the two. It works by sensing the ethanol content of the fuel being supplied to the engine and sending a variable voltage signal to the ECM. The ECM is calibrated to interpret this signal, and parameters are programmed into the ECM to control functions, such as ignition timing, to give you the most amount of power safely, on the fuel supplied to the engine.
There are economic benefits to running E85 as well, like supporting our own farmers in the USA. About 40% of the United States corn crop is directed toward ethanol production for automotive fuels.
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