|07-08-2005, 10:52 PM||#1|
E85 fuel FAQ
Introduction to my experiment with E85 circa 2004
This is a summary of past posts from various forum discussions
I have been running a high ethanol fuel blend in my WRX for nearly 2 years now, with no problems traceable to the fuel. The car really likes the high alcohol blend, with an obvious improvement in performance comparable to high octane so called "race fuels".
The Stock WRX ECU can handle up to approximately 33% E-85, by volume before you get a check engine light for "too lean" due to the fuel trims being pushed to the max rich settings. Add just a bit of pump premium and the CEL will clear.
I recently shifted to STi 550 injectors without any special changes in the engine management. Due to the cars larger injectors the car now prefers a higher blend. I am now running about 95% E-85, but have run the car on blends as low as about 30% E-85 without any serious problems. At lower blends the car has some surging due to the over size injectors at higher throttle settings, but can be easily driven as a daily driver if you stay out of the >60% throttle position transition to open loop.
The one problem is that currently E-85 sites are a little difficult to find, but the more of it we use the more available it will become.
The folks backing E-85 production are pushing as hard as they can to get stations to make it available, but its a slow process. They need customers to start asking station owners if they plan on carrying it to motivate stations to add a pump/tank.
There are currently dozens of FFV's out there that are designed to run on the stuff if folks can find a place to buy it. Simple way to drastically reduce oil demand as well, and put money in our economy instead of some other countries coffers.
I currently drive 20 miles each way to get to the nearest E-85 stations, but it is still a good deal as I am paying $1.59.9 / gal for the E-85, vs about $2.05.9 / gal for premium. ( some E-85 vendors charge at a premium fuel rate of about $2.00/gal)
With the added octane of the E-85 you can actually splash blend it with mid grade gasoline with out problems.
When I suspect it will be difficult to locate E-85 from the pump I just make a point of topping off the tank before it drops below 3/4 full. This keeps the ethanol blend up to a high enough level to avoid any drivability issues with my oversize injectors.
Is the WRX warrantied to run on E85 ?
NO it is not, but my experience shows its not a major issue either.
I think it is important to note that they don't recommend greater than 10% ethanol, ie they warranty the car will run fine with up to 10% ethanol but greater than that your on your own. But they do not say you should avoid higher blends of ethanol and other tests have shown modern cars can run on upto about 30% blends with no problem.
They do specifically mention that methanol is not to be used over 5% concentration, and that is due to corrosion issues with methanol, which is Much Much more prone to corrosion than ethanol.
So far I have seen no "real" problems with the E-85. There are two minor CEL issues.
1 If your running over 35% on a stock ECU and fuel injectors you will push the fuel trims to full rich and get a "too lean" CEL.
(edit 10/02/2005 --- emission CEL has not re-appeared in quite a long time. I am beginning to suspect it was due to a loose vacuum hose resulting from the injector upgrade that got fixed as I was working on other things )
As mentioned above any "damage" should be easily remedied, ie replacing a hose, or some O rings, possibly changing to a different fuel pump. It is very difficult to predict long term corrosion, or materials compatibility so I've decided to bite the bullet and be the test dummy and see what if anything breaks.
Based on my tests, the short term conclusion is you can run concentrations of >10% fuel ethanol for periods in execess of 1 year with no detectable damage. We'll just have to see how things go in another year or so.
Hopefully this winter I'll get the time to pull the fuel pump and look over the interior of the fuel tank to see how its doing.
What is the history of large scale conversions to high ethanol fuels
When Brazil began making a wholesale conversion to high ethanol fuels back in the late 70's following the energy crisis, they made several studies on the ability of normal cars to run ethanol blends. They found that the cars of that period could run up to about 22% blends on the stock system with no problems, which is why they settled on a 20% blend as one of the fuels available. The issue was one of control authority of the ECU to compensate for the leaner mixture. Some could handle more than others. As I stated, it appears the stock ECU on the 2002 WRX is good up till about a 33% - 35% blend.
During the 70's and 80's when oxygenated fuels and "gasahol" first saw wide use here in the U.S. there WERE fuel component compatibility problems. My 1969 VW fuel lines really didn't like the ethanol and began to leak like a sieve, some carburetor needle valves softened, some carburetor floats would soak up the ethanol and get too heavy to function as a float. There were lots of problems with clogged fuel filters on cars that had been running on gasoline only for decades and had lots of varnish build up in the fuel system. The ethanol in gasohol was a very efficient fuel system cleaner and all that crud got carried to the fuel filters. Once the fuel filters were replaced those problems disappeared.
At that time All the auto manufactures moved to ethanol compatible fuel line components, ie. o rings, rubber hose etc. They warranty that they are good to 10% but my experience shows they are satisfactory to much higher concentrations. The VW showed its compatibility problem in a matter of months after we went to ethanol blended oxygenated fuel here in Denver. Engineers typically don't solve a compatibility problem by making the new component "sorta compatible" they change compounds to materials that are not effected by the chemical in question.
The Denver area has been using ethanol oxygenated fuels (ranging from 5% - 10%) concentration for over 30 years. Every modern car works just fine with these low ethanol blended fuels. Rubber hoses and O rings last for the life of the car.
The electrical conductivity issue is not significant in the case of ethanol. It is detectable with a dialectic constant tester. It DOES become a significant issue with methanol blends which is why methanol blended fuel is so aggressively corrosive. The main issue with methanol is it aggressively attacks certain metals like magnesium and zinc. One of the reasons everyone is looking at ethanol is the 30+ years of successful use of high ethanol fuel blends in Brazil and low ethanol blends here in the U.S. with essentially zero problems after they changed fuel line and O ring and seal materials in the fuel system.
Water 48 - 88
Keep in mind that absolutely pure water is a good enough insulator it is used to cool electronic components. It does not become an effective conductor until is dissolves minerals that act as charge carriers (electrolytes).
Will my O2 sensor work with E85 and high ethanol blends?
The O2 sensor is not an issue, all it cares about is if your at stoich combustion at low throttle settings, it doesn't much care how you get there, so no need to change it.
Air-fuel ration: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air-fuel_ratio
Oxygen Sensor: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen_sensor
What about the evaporative emissions system in my car
The higher vapor pressure of ethanol gasoline blends is not ideal for the evaporative emissions system and the vapor recovery canister. For full emissions compliance these will need to be modified. Currently there are no kits available to upgrade this part of the emissions system.
As I mentioned above the only -- real -- problem so far is simply some nusince CELs.
"too lean" if your over 30%+ on the stock injectors
If your emissions test requires no CELs present, you simply need to go to a lower ethanol fuel blend for a while to allow that nuisance CEL to clear, and the dash warning light to go off.
what would be needed for a complete conversion kit to run 100% ethanol fuel
For full conversion to alcohol fuels the change list typically looks something like:
1. Go to an compatable fuel pump (walbro 255 l/h pumps seem to work well with E85)
2. Replace fuel lines with alcohol compatible lines. (not needed on WRX based on current experience)
3. Possibly replace filter (not needed on WRX based on current experience).
4. Replace injectors with large enough ones to feed proper fueling. (+30% flow over stock)
5. Replace injector/FPR o-rings with compatible o-rings... viton maybe? (not needed on WRX based on current experience)
6. Add a spark/flash suppressor to the fuel tank inlet tube. (does not appear to be a significant hazard based on current experimenter experience)
7. Ensure the fuel tank material is completely compatible with alcohol. (not needed on WRX based on current experience)
8. Reflash or other engine management option for ideal tune to use E85's capability (optional at low to moderate boost)
With ethanol on the WRX, you only need (according to my current experience base) is numbers 4, 8.
(edited to remove comments about emissions CEL which proved to be due to other causes and has never returned)
What about fuel system corrosion?
Corrosion does not appear to be an issue with modern OBDII cars. They are all certified by the manufactures to be safe to use on 10% ethanol fuel blends, and industry insiders say they are safe for much higher percentages. You don't install components that are "sorta safe" with a chemical, you put in a fuel hose etc. that is ethanol safe for concentrations well above what you expect to use. Not to mention that folks have been talking for years about raising the ethanol level to 20% or more.
Occasional use would be no problem at all based on my experience. I have never cut open the fuel filter (still have the OEM filter in place) I'll open it when I replace it. I want to put enough time on it to have conclusive evidence if there are problems.
(edit circa 2007 I cut open a fuel line and it looked like new, not changes or damage on stock rubber fuel lines in 2002 WRX)
The engine is not an issue with either, WI using a water alcohol mix or straight alcohol injection. In those systems alcohol and water are not used in significant quantity or for long duration. The Buick GN folks and lots of folks in the DSM crowd have done it for literally decades with no problems for the engine.
Many years ago there were studies that indicated engines that ran on alcohol ALONE as a fuel, had issues with lubrication and valve seat wear. Keep in mind, those studies were done a long time ago, when engine oils were much less sophisticated than they are now, and some engine manufactures in the 1940's,1950' and 1960's made stupid engineering decisions and did not use hard valve seat inserts like stellite in the cylinder heads. This resulted in valve seat recession problems if you did not have lead additives in the fuel to protect the valve seats.
What about oil contamination?
Modern lubricants, especially the synthetic oils are much much different than the oils used during those studies, and modern engines run at higher temperatures today which will quickly boil any traces of alcohol out of the oil.
In cold weather I run an 180 deg thermostat to assist quick warmup I have left it in during this past summer and so far the engine has no heating issues with the 180 thermostat on the E85 fuel.
(edit experience shows modern synthetic oils work very well with E85)
Is Ethanol less corrosive than Methanol?
Methanol is much more corrosive than ethanol. It attacks certain soft metals that are not much used in modern fuel systems. Years ago, the carburetors were made of un-anodized aluminum and if methanol fuel was used, you had major problems with electrolytic corrosion between the aluminum and copper components used in the fuel system, since they were in continous contact.
That sort of corrosion only occurs when you have a current path between the dissimilar metals AND, a conductive path through the fluid in the system.
In Brazil where they have run high ethanol fuels since 1939, they found that to convert older cars designed for gasoline, long before ethanol blends were common, needed several changes to convert the cars over. This led to changes in valve materials, piston rings choices, nickel plating of the fuel tanks etc.
Modern cars in the U.S. are designed for use with ethanol up to 10% concentration in the fuel. That has led to several changes in component materials over the last 30 years that the U.S. has used ethanol enhanced fuels. All modern fuel lines and such are designed with the expectation that some ethanol will be in the fuel.
My experiment is an intentional effort to push the envelope and see what happens. Over the last 2 years I have run high ethanol fuels ( normal pump fuel here in Colorado contains up to 10% ethanol anyway) for months at a time.
At mixtures below 33% by volume of alcohol ( about 39% E-85 by volume) I had absolutely no problems of any kind. At higher mixtures > 33% alcohol, I got a nuisance CEL for too lean which could be eliminated by added gasoline to the mix or as I have recently increased the injector size. (Increasing fuel pressure would also increase the effective size of the injectors).
The only issue with near 100% E-85, is the car starts a little harder in cold weather. When it gets very cold I drop the mixture to about 80% or so to solve that by adding about 2 gallons of gasoline to the tank of E-85.
I have done no oil analysis at this point, walbro 255l/h fuel pump and 550 injectors show no signs of problems to date.
(last updated 6/10/08)
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Last edited by hotrod; 07-02-2008 at 04:11 AM.
|07-08-2005, 10:53 PM||#2|
Where can I buy E85?
Distribution is currently a problem, it is most available in the mid western states, but there is a concerted effort to get an ethanol fueling infrastructure built, it just takes time, and recognition by the gasoline vendors that there is a market. Marathon oil has already added E85 to their formal product line so things are moving in that direction.
Current high fuel prices can only help that process, as will lots of people calling up gas stations and asking them when they plan on pumping E85 for FFV's.
E85 already contains inhibitors and such to minimize corrosion, and most of the problems with ethanol usage were solved 20 years ago when most of the country moved to ethanol addition to gasoline following the oil crisis in 1973 and high oil prices that continued up until 1981.
Where can I buy E85
For information on distribution points check out:
How about fuel mixtures for E85 what is needed ?
The one interesting thing to note is that the stock pig rich mixtures at WOT on the stock ECU of the WRX are very close to max power mixtures on E85 blends. If you play with the blending ratio to find your magic number you can take advantage of this by giving the car a fuel blend that is max power rich at stock ECU WOT mixtures. *** just take your time and work up the blend slowly ***
After a few folks have dyno runs on various blends we can probably pick out a "best starting point" blend that will get you very close. We could also work out the other supporting mods to make best use of E85 for minimum cost.
It basically takes about a +30% increase in fuel flow to get the same equivalent mixture with E85 that you had with gasoline.
For example an adjustable fuel pressure regulator can increase your effective injector flow to partially compensate for the fuel changes.
As mentioned above, lean is still a bad thing, and with alcohol fuels due to the higher power levels a serious leanout is more lethal. With conservative mixtures alcohol actually burns so cool that on E85 FFV there is some concern about getting the cat to light off.
If you sneak up on a fuel blend slowly you should be just fine. I would venture to say for the near stock folks, up to 30% is probably safe as long as you give the ECU a few miles to make the major part of the fuel trim accomodation before you start beating on the car. You'll know when the ECU starts to get happy as the midrange torque is noticably better.
I also strongly suspect that a well tuned car with no cats can probably pass the emissions sniff test on high E85 blends.
How does ignition timing change on E85 ?
Timing on ethanol blends will not change very much. MBT timing for both gasoline and E85 are very nearly the same at light to moderate engine loads. At high engine load the E85 will want just slightly more advance. The big difference will be fuel/air mixture. The E85 will give improved torque with much richer mixtures than gasoline. Both gasoline and E85 will give best thermal effeciency at about 15% rich of stoich, so the equivalent of 12.78:1 on gasoline would be about 8.5:1 on E85, but E85 will continue to give better torque numbers up to about +40% rich of stoich or 7:1 mixtures, so on a utec you would want to richen up your WOT high load cells and add a tweak of timing to get the most out of E85 from what I've read.
Are you sure you don't mean that E85 will allow more advance?
Just passing on what I've found in the various sources. Logically you are correct, but one source says simply that MBT timing is the same for E85 and gasoline, and another report says at low loads the E85 and gasoline like the same MBT timing but at high loads MBT timing for the E85 is slightly more advance.
I suspect this is due to them not running ideal max power mixtures but cannot confirm it. Burn speed for E85 changes quite a bit with mixture, so if they were just a little bit lean or rich of ideal the burn rate would be lower.
Lots and lots of variables not well covered in some of the sources and in general they are focusing on emissions issues not max power torque so that would incline them to use less than best power timing advance. In a couple of the reports they also had limited control authority over timing and may not have explored the extremes very thoroughly.
what data is available on combustion speed for E85?
Just about a year ago (2003), I was finding conflicting information on alcohol fuel burn speeds and contacted The National Renewable Energy Lab here in Denver, they did a search and could only find a couple of references on it, one that showed ethanol fuels burn faster, so the literature is not very rich in data on the subject. Most reports are not entirely applicable to our needs like tests on lawnmower engines and alcohol fuels have some significant limitations
Still digging for info but that is my best information at the present time.
The report that mentioned the slight increased advance requirement on heavy load E85 fuels was :
"Final Report Control of Exhaust Emissions from Small Engines Using E-10 and E-85 Fuels"
On page 12 it says :
"Tests were conducted to assess the impact of MBT ignition timing on fuel economy and exhaust emissions. The spark timing was varied until the least advanced timing was achieved for the maximum torque for a given setting of the engine throttle. The A/F ratio was adjusted to achieve near stoichiometric operation. ... " The MBT timing for E-85 fuel was a few crank angle degrees advances compared to E-0 fuel when the engine was delivering high loads, typically 100 - 75%. Not much difference was observed at lower engine loads."
I'm assuming that this explains the timing change as they were using what would be closed loop fuel mixtures on the WRX. So in load cells that would continue to use closed loop fueling you would want to have slightly more ignition timing than you would with gasoline. In the case of WOT open loop fueling where your running a max power rich fuel mixture, I very strongly suspect the fuel burn speed would be noticably faster, and you would use less ignition advance than on gasoline and reap the benefit of less negative work on the late stages of the compression / early period of combustion prior to TDC.
In a power point presentation presented by the EPA at the SAE Government and Industry Meeting in Washington D.C. on May 13, 2003 titled:
"Ethanol-Gasoline Blends: Fuel Economy and Emissions Benefits"
On page 9 of the presentation is a nice chart comparing laminar burn speeds of gasoline and Ethanol.
It shows the following burn speeds:
Mixture fuel/air---- 1:1 ------------ 1.1:1
Gasoline --------- 26 cm/sec ------- 30 cm/sec (max about 31 cm/sec)
Ethanol ---------- 41 cm/sec ------- 45 cm/sec (max value)
Clearly at +10% - +15% rich mixtures where ethanol shows max thermal efficiency it burns significantly faster than gasoline. Which could be quite important to a very over square bore engine like ours!!
what is the ideal fuel air mixture for E85
If you are tuning with a wideband O2 sensor you will want to switch it to Lambda mode to get valid fuel air mixtures with blended fuels. If you can only get gasoline AFR's, simply divide the gasoline AFR's by 1.5 to get the true AFR for 100% E85. If running a partial mixture you can make proportional changes based on the percentage of E85 in the mix.
Here are some comparisons of stoichiometric fuel mixtures for different fuel blends:
======== stoichiometric AFR ===== max power rich AFR
Gasoline ---------- 14.7:1 -------------------12.5
100% E-85 ------- 9.73-9.8:1 ------------- ~ 9:1 - 8:1
100% fuel ethanol - 9:1 ------------------- ~ 7.2:1
One source specifies that the proper fuel tune (stoich) for a VW Golf running 22% ethanol was 12.7:1 (this reference was probably from the Brazil tests)
Ethanol reaches max torque at richer mixtures than gasoline will.
Using a 99% ethanol mixture MEP increases with mixtures up to 40% excess fuel where with gasoline MEP is reached near 20% excess fuel. Over all thermal efficiency for both gasoline and ethanol is reached near 15% excess fuel.
E85 burns faster than gasoline at best mixtures so it is an inherently more effecient fuel. It also produces more exhaust gas for a give weight of fuel air mix giving higher average cylinder pressures inspite of lower EGT's. With streight E85 in a properly tuned car its good for about +5% power / torque increase. I suspect on a turbocharged car the benefit is larger.
My source lists stoich for E85 as 9.8:1 ( "Burn rates and emissions from ethanol gasoline blends" )
Here's a little reference chart I whipped up when I was working out my dyno numbers.
Fuel AFRst FARst Equivalence Lambda ---- ----- ----- Ratio ----- =======================--==================================== Gasoline stoich 14.7 0.068 1 1 Gasoline Max power rich 12.5 0.08 1.176 0.8503 Gasoline Max power lean 13.23 0.0755 1.111 0.900 =======================--==================================== E85 stoich 9.765 0.10235 1 1 E85 Max power rich 6.975 0.1434 1.40 0.7143 E85 Max power lean 8.4687 0.118 1.153 0.8673 =======================--==================================== E100 stoich 9.0 0.111 1 1 E100 Max power rich 6.429 0.155 1.4 0.714 E100 Max power lean 7.8 0.128 1.15 0.870 =======================--====================================
E85 fuel ethanol content seasonal changes
E85 fuel blends change content seasonally just like all gasolines blends change with the seasons. This seasonal change in blend for E85 is primarily to improve cold weather starting, where the changes in gasoline during cold weather is to improve cold weather starting. In the summer months, gasoline must be blended to reduce vapor lock and to reduce evaporative emissions.
The recommended dates for changing E85 fuel blends are listed in a chart in the E85 handbook on page 22, which is in the "E85 Fuel Specification" tab.
The Volatility class specifications are broken down on page 10.
Volatility class 1 --- minimum ethanol 79%
Volatility class 2 --- minimum ethanol 74%
Volatility class 3 --- minimum ethanol 70%
As you can see each region has a different start date and recommendation for seasonal blends depending on local weather climate.
Here on the high plains east of the rockies in Colorado we run the class 1 fuel blend from mid June -- mid Sept, run class 2 fuel from mid Sept -- mid Oct and run the class 3 fuel blend from Mid Oct -- mid April, then back to the class 2 blend from mid April to mid June. The standard only specifies a minimum ethanol content, vendors can run higher ethanol content if it is economical. If it is cheaper for the fuel blender to add more he can. Ethanol content is bottom line driven by local weather conditions, and cold starting problems for local drivers just a gasoline blends are modified to give easier starting in cold weather.
In the Southern part of Texas they would never go to a class 3 blend, and in Wisconsin, they would only have the class 1 blend for about 2 months in the summer. In Florida they would be on class 1 almost all year long and in North Dakota and Wyoming and Montana, they would be on class 3 almost all year long.
Power available on E85
Many sources make a big deal about E85 having less thermal energy per gallon that a gallon of gas. They frequently draw the false conclusion that you cannot make more power on E85 than you can on gasoline. E85 actually has a higher specific energy at stoichiometric fuel air mixtures than gasoline, and at proper max power mixtures releases more thermal energy in the cylinder for a given amount of air to burn. Since an internal combustion engines power output is primarily air supply limited this means you can make 5% to nearly 30% more power on E85 than you can on gasoline.
(edit 6/10/08) Current experience shows turbocharged cars like the WRX and DSM families can run upwards of 30 psi boost on E85 tunes without knock. The only case I know of where knock was logged was on a 500+ whp DSM running 35-39 psi boost!
Ethanol specific energy at stoichiometric fuel air mixtures is actually higher than gasoline allowing a higher release of energy per lb of air burned than gasoline.
Typical gasoline Thermal energy 19,000 BTU/lb max power fuel air mixture 12.5:1
Typical E85 Thermal energy 13,475 BTU/lb max power fuel air mixture 6.975:1
Typical ethanol Thermal energy 12,500 BTU/lb 6.429:1
If you are consuming 100 lbs of air, lets see how much fuel energy you release for each of these fuels using gasoline as the base 100% reference.
100/12.5 = 8 lbs of gasoline @ 19,000 BTU/lb = 152,000 BTU = 100%
100/6.975 = 14.337 lbs of E85 @ 13,475 BTU/lb = 193,189.9 BTU = 127% more heat energy
100/6.429 = 15.555 lbs of Ethanol @ 12,500 BTU/lb = 194431.5 BTU = 128.9% more heat energy
Typical fuel energy contents:
gallon of gasoline = 125,000 Btu
1 gallon of ethanol = 84,400 Btu
1 gallon methanol = 62,800 Btu
1 gallon of gasohol
(10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) = 120,900 Btu
1 gallon of E-85
(85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) = 90,500 Btu
1 gallon of kerosene or light distillate oil = 135,000 Btu
1 gallon of middle distillate or diesel fuel oil = 138,690 Btu
My long term average on gasoline was 24 mpg, my mileage on the same setup on E85 was 22 mpg, my current mileage on gasoline is about 22 current mileage on E85 is 18 mpg.
Current setup upgraded turbo-
gasoline mileage 22 mpg = 5682 BTU/mi
E85 90,500 Btu /gallon / 18 mpg = 5028 BTU/mile (daily driving with periodic high boost acceleration)
E85 90,500 BTU/gallon/ 19.3 mpg = 4689 BTU/mile (driving mostly off boost as daily commuter)
Old setup stock turbo -
gasoline mileage Gasoline 125,000 Btu/ gallon / 24 = 5208 BTU/mile
My old setup, @ 92% of gasoline milage or 22 mpg
E85 90,500 BTU/gallon/22 = 4114 BTU/mile
A 5% increase in engine power is common on NA engines with minimal conversion changes, and much higher numbers are possible if compression or boost is used to take advantage of E85's higher fuel octane.
Last update 6/10/08)
Last edited by hotrod; 04-01-2011 at 11:51 PM.
|07-08-2005, 10:54 PM||#3|
Testing ethanol content with the water test
The proper way to do the water test is specified on page 27 of the handbook.
2.1 + 1.94 x (total vol - lower meniscus) = hydrocarbon
ethanol = 100 - hydrocarbon
Ethanol bonds very strongly with water so the percentage is not a direct relationship as seen above in the formula.
For example, If you add 10 ml of water to 100 ml of standard pump gasoline, and end up with 17ml of phase separation -- you have a full E10. (yes I know the math does not work but this is due to ethanol's bonding properties) In this case 10 ml of water and 10 ml of alcohol bond to form a mixture of 17 ml of water alcohol mix.
Choosing proper injector size for Subaru WRX E85 conversions
(turbo max air flow CFM at target boost) x 1.38 ~= static injector flow cc/min each injector on E85
(assumes a 4 cylinder engine with similar fuel needs to the Subaru WRX)
What is your test history to date (6/2005) with E85 ?
I just tallied up my usage over the last 2 years, (the first year I was very cautious and did not use very much). I've put about 500 gallons of E85 and 100% fuel grade ethanol through the cars tank --- that's some where around 40 fill ups, or around 9,000 miles or so on high ethanol (ie greater than 10%) blend fuels.
I am intentionally running the E85 with no special fuel system modifications. In a few years or when ever problems crop up, I'll pull things apart and see what has happened. So far I have absolutely no evidence of ANY kind of degradation on my 2002 WRX. The only non-stock component I'm running in the fuel system at the current time is a walbro 255 L/hr pump, so I cannot absolutely tell you how the stock pump likes the stuff.
Update ( Jan-Nov 2007)
I made a full conversion over the winter bringing the car back on the road with decapitated OEM injectors flow tested at 810 cc/min, an Aeromotive adjustable fuel pressure regulator which gives me the ability to dial in any fuel pressure I want from 35 psi to 70 psi with the turn of an allen wrench. A slightly improved ECUtek reflash, and the Mistubishi 16G turbo off a 96 Australian WRX. At 17 psi I produce 281 AWHP compared to 240 AWHP I was hitting on 100 octane Sunoco GT100 and 250 AWHP I could hit on Sunoco GT+ 104 octane race gasoline at higher boost pressures.
I have successfully tuned a usable home made FFV setup by optimizing the tune for a 50/50 blend of E85 and gasoline. At moderate boost levels the ECU is capable of making the necessary adjustments and open loop fueling is acceptable (see detail notes in the FFV segment below).
I have currently moved to a 100% E85 tune since I now have adequate availability of E85 and can run it all the time with little difficulty. In a cost per mile basis my current tune is equivalent to getting 30.5 mpg on pump premium (20 mpg on E85 at $2.19 vs pump premium at $3.35/gallon). On a cost basis the car is consistently cheaper to drive on E85 than it is on gasoline.
Why is E85 a better fuel ?
Ethanol and is a very turbo friendly fuel for many reasons.
1. It has a much higher evaporative cooling power than gasoline so the intake air charge in the cylinder is significantly cooler that it is with a comparable mixture of gasoline --- that means higher VE.
2. Its octane as blended in E85 is about 100, its blending octane when added to gasoline is rated at 118, so it is a very cost effective octane booster.
3. Ethanol burns faster than gasoline but has a slightly longer ignition delay during the slow burn phase of combustion so the engine does not do as much negative work fighting rising cylinder pressures due to large ignition advances. The total ignition advance for E85 is almost identical to the ideal advance for gasoline so it does not cause the ECU problems when you mix them.
4. At proper mixture you actually are releasing more energy in the cylinder due to the higher quantity of fuel you can burn. ( Ethanol can burn effeciently at much richer mixtures than gasoline can) That means about a 5% increase in energy release all by itself.
5. Peak combustion pressures are actually lower for ethanol than for gasoline but the cylinder pressures stay higher longer, so you have more (longer) crank angle that is usable by the engine. This lower peak cylinder pressure also helps with detonaton control.
6. It will, at proper mixtures lower EGT's by around 200 deg F, but due to the higher quantity of exhaust gas products it produces you do not lose any spool up (in fact I would wager spool up is better).
7. It is much cheaper ( if you go to a station that is not trying to price gouge).
How much will my miles per gallon of fuel drop with E85?
The only negative to E85 is that it gives a lower fuel milage on a gallon for gallon basis to gasoline. The actual difference in energy content between straight gasoline and E85 is about 27%.
The drop in mileage is not as significant as you would think based on that difference due to the higher efficiency of the ethanol as a high performance fuel. This winter I was getting about 92% of the fuel milage I would get on gasoline on 100% E85.
The lower mileage is not really a big deal, ethanol has lower energy per gallon but your reduction in milage is not nearly as large as that difference would imply. Due to the higher torque,you use slightly smaller throttle openings to get the same level of performance, and due to the greater quantity of combustion products (more moles of gas) per lb of fuel the engine efficiency actually goes up slightly. My long term fuel mileage average is in the vicinity of 24.5 mpg, with pump gas, and with 75% ethanol blend, I was getting just over 23 mpg driven normally. Recently I have been flogging the crap out of the car to sort out new boost controller settings for my new turbo (went from a 13T to a 16G). Given I now have a larger turbo and all that is hardly a noticeable fuel mileage drop. I have gotten around 300 -345 miles/tank on straight gasoline when I was bone stock, and I expect to get from 280 - 310 miles per tank on the E-85 based on my notes of fuel consumption and accounting for the unusually hard driving I have been doing the last week working on the boost controller settings.
In very cold weather <20deg F I don't go above about 90% E85 to improve cold starting and speed up engine warm up a bit. Other than that the car loves E85 and so does my wallet ---- $1.89/gallon (6/2005) for 100 octane fuel is hard to argue with. It only drops my fuel mileage a small amount. I get 93.76% of my gasoline milage when driving conservatively in my WRX with the larger injectors and high ethanol fuel blends.
will a wide band O2 sensor accurately read fuel air mixtures with E85 blends ?
To get an accurate AFR reading you need to switch the meter to Lambda or equivalence ratio setting rather than AFR. Most O2 sensors assume you are running gasoline and will report a stoichiometric mixture as 14.7:1 which is the proper value for gasoline. E85 has a Stoichiometric mixture of between 9.7 - 10:1 and a max power mixture of about 6.98-8.5:1 or so, where with gasoline it is 12.5:1-to 13.1.
If you must use an O2 sensor that only reports gasoline AFR information simply divide the numbers it reports by 1.47 - 1.50.
On gasoline, my ECU is supposed to give a mixture of 11.5:1 and on 100% E85 the dyno's wide band reported an AFR of 11.6:1. That means that my true AFR on the E85 was about 7.8:1 which is right in the middle of max power mixtures for E85.
Last edited by hotrod; 04-01-2011 at 11:48 PM.
|07-08-2005, 10:54 PM||#4|
The energy balance question
Some sources say that fuel ethanol requires more energy than it returns is this true?
No not really based on recent studies using very detailed analysis of actual energy inputs currently used, in modern farming and state of the art ethanol plants the numbers come out as below. Note that gasoline actually delivers less energy than was expended getting it into your tank.
It has a negative energy balance. Which is exactly the claim the anti-ethanol lobby is blaming fuel ethanol with as a good reason not to use it.
Fuel ethanol returns:
+31% (Wang - 2002)
+34% (Shapouri - 2002)
+21% (Graboski - 2002)
Fuel ethanol with state of the art production techniques can return +68% (Wang - 2002)
Gasoline energy balance (GREET V1.6)
Conventional gasoline -19%
Reformulated Gasoline -20%
A USDA study released in 2004 found that ethanol may net as much as 67% more energy than it takes to produce. Argonne is one of the US Department of Energy's largest research centers.
Report on the new study :
The cellulose based ethanol production will actually return nearly 100% energy because it will use its own waste product stream for process energy.
Using the cellulose based process also eliminates the argument that more land will be required to grow corn than is available. Fact is many crops can be used to brew ethanol.
A list of common production sources of the above include.
It can also be commercially prepared from cellulose treated by enzymes. Sources include:
grasses (switch grass)
We're not talking about the total substitution of ethanol for gasoline, but a concerted effort to displace as much as possible. The U. S. is already the worlds second highest consumer of fuel ethanol behind Brazil. Every barrel of fuel ethanol burned replaces 3/4 of a barrel of petroleum on a energy content basis. At current oil prices nearing $70 per barrel that is a significant amount of money payed out to U.S. suppliers for a commodity instead of to foreign suppliers. Given that money rolls over 5-6 times in an economy before it get sequestered in a long term capital investment, that means $350 dollars of net benefit to our economy for each barrel of fuel ethanol consumed vs a negative $50 of loss of revenue to the overseas supplier.
Yes I know that much of that money gets passed through the hands of U.S. companies but the end point is still the overseas oil producer.
Even more important, the energy inputs for fuel ethanol production are in large measure low quality heat requirements that can be met with domestic sources of energy which we have in great abundance, like Coal or waste heat from other processes.
How does fuel ethanol rank on Green house gas production ?
Using E85 you have a very favorable green house gas production picture. The CO2 produced when burning the ethanol portion of the fuel is totally recovered by the next seasons crop. This is the definition of a renewable fuel.
In short your "Net" green house gas production is only 15% of what it would be on straight gasoline. That is the equivalent of getting 6.7 times your normal gas mileage.
[edit 02/11/07 - 06/03/07]
how to make a simple conversion to a FFV with your Subaru see posts
#806, 809, 819, 821 ( page 33), post 828,(page 34), post 869 (page 35) post 918 (pg 37)
post 944 (page 37 cold start problems due to summer/winter blend switch over.
post 946 (page 38 -- emissions test on E85)
discussion regarding walbro fuel pumps and E85
IMPORTANT update on FFV auto tune
post 950 ( page 38 very lean on open loop running Autotune if you turn down fuel pressure )
The Jan 2008 HotRod Magazine has an article on E85 that is quite positive on its use as a performance fuel.
(although nothing new in the article that has not known for several years by E85 experimenters)
They have the results of a back to back dyno test of 100 octane race gasoline vs E85 on a 402 CID LS2 , 10.2:1 compression ratio, crate engine, done by Wheel to Wheel Powertrain in Madison Heights Michigan.
Gasoline (100 octane race gas) 540 hp @ 6000 rpm, 509 ft-lb torque @ 5200
E85 ------------------------ 546 hp @ 6000 rpm, 524 ft-lb torque @ 5200
With a turbocharger kit installed fueled on E85 :
13 psi boost -- 850 hp @ 5900 rpm, 833 ft-lb torque @ 5000 rpm
no comparison to gasoline you can't run that kind of boost on it with this engine.
fuel line sizing -- see post #1296 page 52
Seasonal fuel blends -- see post #1367 page 55
Injector sizing --- see post #1409 page 57
Last edited by hotrod; 07-02-2008 at 04:34 AM.
|07-08-2005, 11:04 PM||#5|
Join Date: Jan 2004
Very informative, i've been following most of the threads on this subject and am very interested in it. I noticed you stated that this setup is not ideal for evap emissions system. Just out of curiosity, have you tried an emissions test yet with the setup? And if so, what were the results? Keep the info coming.
|07-08-2005, 11:08 PM||#6|
I have not had to get an emissions test to date ( exempt as new car) so I cannot provide any factual info on that. I do suspect based on prevailing research it can only help the emissions that are currently evaluated in our emissions test. Ethanol is well known to lower HC and CO emissions and if not run too lean makes little change in NOx emissions.
Last edited by hotrod; 07-02-2008 at 04:22 AM.
|07-09-2005, 02:17 AM||#7|
Join Date: Oct 2002
Thanks for being a trail blazer, Larry. Although more long term testing must be done before people feel confident about running E85, the whole thing is especially exciting for those of us living in corn growing states.
|07-09-2005, 03:03 AM||#8|
Join Date: May 2003
2002 Impreza Wrx
Nice..... Does some type of lubricant need to be used for pump longevity with higher concentrations of the fuel, doesif the fuel already has the lubricants, or does it not need them like many alc injection systems?
|07-09-2005, 06:25 AM||#9|
I am running the Walbro 255 l/h pump and so far no sign of ANY problems.
I believe the "conventional wisdom" about how corrosive ethanol is, way off mark. As modern cars got certified to handle 10% ethanol blends, most all the early problems were eliminated. Even if there are some minor compatibility issues, they certainly are not major as I've got over 2 years of testing ethanol blends and the last year I've run almost exclusively E85, ranging from 50% to 100%.
I'm still running the stock fuel filter (never changed) at 48,000 miles so if there is any crap in the lines and tank, it is so small as to be meaningless in a real world sense.
When I do my next set of upgrades I will likely pull the fuel filter and examine it carefully looking for hints about what might be unhappy with the fuel. The fuel lines are steel so they should not have any issues at all. Some fuel tanks have internal coatings that degrade with long term exposure to high concentrations to ethanol. So far no sign of those sort of issues.
When I pull the fuel pump to get a close look at the inside of the fuel tank I am not expecting to find any significant problem. Even if there is, all you would need to do is take the tank down to an industrial plating house and have it nickel plated on the inside (same resistance to corrosion as stainless steel)
Last edited by hotrod; 07-02-2008 at 04:22 AM.
|07-24-2005, 01:14 PM||#10|
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Frankiln, WIVehicle:
Very interesting post larry, great info, but I just have a question about tuned cars. My car has a protuner custom map tuned with 93. If I started to use a 50/50 mix of 93 and E85, would that royally screw things up? If so, should I get it re-tuned with the 50/50 mix?
|07-24-2005, 03:57 PM||#11|
Yes with a 50/50 mix you would need to add about 10% -12% more fuel to get the same effective mixture as gasoline only.
The higher octane of the E85 might allow you to get away with the same tune but you would be leaner than your tune on gas. Only way to know would be to work up in small increments and see how the car likes it.
Even a 20%-30% mix of E85 makes a noticable difference.
|07-24-2005, 04:49 PM||#12|
*** Banned ***
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Connecticut, USAVehicle:
02 WRX Sedan
|07-24-2005, 05:02 PM||#13|
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: 1000 Oaks, CAVehicle:
The mixture you are running you could probably go to the smog place catless and pass with flying colors.
|07-24-2005, 08:41 PM||#14|
*** Banned ***
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Connecticut, USAVehicle:
02 WRX Sedan
|07-25-2005, 12:48 AM||#15|
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: 1000 Oaks, CAVehicle:
Secondly the combustion of ethanol, in a perfect sense, would create C02 and H2O, but as we all nothing ever works perfectly. When ethanol combustion does not complete it tends not to create Carbon monoxide and NOx but instead produces Aldehyde's in greater excess than gasoline. Many of todays emission control systems do a wonderful job at destroying or neturalizing many of these poisonous chemicals. More technical info about ethanol fuels can be found here or here the second link acutally has a test on a 1978 cab w/o any pollution control devices
In theory if you were utilizing a 100% ethanol fuel and were tuned to use it correctly I would like to see if you would pass a smog test with out any catalytic converters. Obviously you would fail the visual but I wonder what exactly the emissions would be.
edit because I can't spell
|07-25-2005, 05:04 PM||#16|
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Salt Lake City, UTVehicle:
2000 Impreza 2.5RS
Blue Ridge Pearl
The main problem w/ ethanol is that it's production is much more costly in terms of energy. I'm all for alternative fuels, but the fact that ethanol production is ONLY sustainable w/ gov't subsidies is a huge problem in my book. It seems cheaper but that's because the gov't pays for it's production w/ your tax dollars therefore you're paying alot more than you think. It may also be cleaner to burn in a car, but ethanol production requires huge amounts of energy from power plants that usually burn coal or oil. Now, if they were wind, solar, wave, etc powered that was clean, I might have a different view, but it really still would be much more costly in almost every sense of the word...
|07-25-2005, 05:09 PM||#17|
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: 1000 Oaks, CAVehicle:
|07-26-2005, 01:07 AM||#19|
Patzek and others that claim the contrary have been repeatedly discredited for using bogus numbers that in some cases represent the state of the art 30 years ago and worst case assumptions about fertilizer rates.Patzek spent nearly a decade working for Shell Oil Company as a researcher, consultant, and expert witness. He is the founder and current director of the UC Oil Consortium, an organization funded mainly by the oil industry to the tune of $60,000-120,000 per year, per company.
That said, lets start another thread on the "economics of ethanol" and avoid filling up a technical FAQ in the Engine Management & Tuning Forum with political debate.
Last edited by hotrod; 07-26-2005 at 01:32 AM.
|08-04-2005, 03:55 AM||#20|
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Midland, TXVehicle:
Java Black Pearl
SAAB makes a turbo'd car that runs on E85. That is actually tuned for it and runs faster on the stuff.
Maybe the emissions systems from this SAAB will transfer to the WRX? Since all the saabaru stuff, maybe? I dunno...just a thought. Have you looked into it?
Great FAQ btw. Its saved in my favorites. Contemplating getting a tune for 50/50 of this stuff.
|08-05-2005, 08:40 PM||#21|
I am hoping the same thing, as all the hardware should transfer, provided the ECU doesn't need sensors that can't be easily grafted onto earlier Subaru's.
|08-05-2005, 09:03 PM||#22|
Join Date: Mar 2003
96 3MI Racing LLC
search FIRST, then PM!!!
wow, very thorough thread...I've become very interested in running E85 in my car but have the issue of local pumps and will begin asking for it availability...as well as my friends
I also have a email sent to E85fuel.com about engine spec differences on the FFV vehicles vs. the regular gas cars...I will let you know what they say.
I also have a utec which I would plan on having an ethanol map and a "regular" gas map for those ehtanol availability issues
|08-05-2005, 09:47 PM||#23|
Join Date: Jan 2002
Chapter/Region: South East
Location: Cary NCVehicle:
2002 09 Mazdaspeed 3
Thanks for putting all the info in one place. I have been running 3 gallons of E-85 with 11 gallons of 93 for the past 4 months with no problems at all.
|08-05-2005, 10:39 PM||#24|
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Midland, TXVehicle:
Java Black Pearl
I also contemplated an E85 map. But not a single pump has it in TX.
|08-06-2005, 07:31 PM||#25|
Join Date: Mar 2003
96 3MI Racing LLC
search FIRST, then PM!!!
so time to start campaigning it
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