The magic of E85

 Pic by: Kartik Bhattacharjee

Pic by: Kartik Bhattacharjee

First of all, why is e85 so damn popular? 

The short answer is 3 simple things

  • Price
  • Detonation resistance/Power
  • Can be used with stock components

Although there are many other reasons that e85 is becoming the go-to race fuel we will focus on these main topics. 


In the beginning, there was corn (Lol)

Ethanol hasn't always been popular,  it was looked at, as this corrosive, and unpredictable fuel by skeptics. Shops seemed to keep e85 at a distance. Partially because of the little knowledge they had about the fuel and partially because everyone assumed that you needed full braided steel lines and many other expensive supporting mods to even run the fuel.  The few that were giving e85 a shot were in some ways shunned for it, which put a massive damper on experimentation with this somewhat new fuel. Fast forward to today we now know that ethanol isn't coherently "corrosive" unless it has been accumulating water/moisture. Once e85 has accumulated moisture it can develop a slight corrosive nature which can be easily identified by a milky look to the fuel and a white powder on the inside of the fuel tank. You have to realize though that this does not happen overnight, it takes time. If the fuel, however, is being stored inside of a pressurized fuel tank, the process of moisture accumulation takes even longer. Furthermore, if you are driving your car on a regular basis with ethanol, you have little worries.

Price of e85:

The average price of e85 is fairly cheap for the benefits it supplies. The cost is very comparable to regular 93 octane, and when you start looking at ethanol based fuels, and other race fuels such as c16 the price margin becomes very apparent. In the United States e85 can range between $1.40 and $3.00 depending on your state, compare that to c16 which is on average in the $16 range per gallon... sheesh.


Detonation Resistance & Power:

The beautiful thing about e85 is its detonation resistance. E85 burns much cooler than most other fuels. This cooler burn promotes a more efficient or "full" burn and decreases the cylinder temps inside of the engine. So it not only works to cool the engine but it allows for a much better combustion to support higher hp levels. Here is an example. In the 300zx world its well known that the vg30de is a stout motor, but only in recent years have people started going the na-t route. So far the general consensus after numerous experimentation is that 400whp with the na (10:5:1) compression on 93 octane is the stopping point because of the risk of detonation. But if you add e85 to the mix you can find guys north of the 500 hp range with na (10:5:1) compression without pre-detonation. Hell, a guy by the name of Elliot Dawson has even pushed the VG close to 800hp on corn juice. Not to mention, e85 is so good at cooling that it can even support a non-intercooled setup on the 300zx motor up to around the 500hp range with stock twins from the tt. And the benefits aren't exclusive to turbo and supercharged vehicles. In Na applications e85 can allow for advanced timing, and a much more aggressive tune that otherwise wouldn't be capable on pump gas.

 Elliot Dawson making 783whp on a stock internal vg, on e85.

Elliot Dawson making 783whp on a stock internal vg, on e85.

E85 can be used with a lot of stock components:

In 2018 most vehicles on the road, have a ethanol compatible fuel system, you can see flex fuel systems in most modern vehicles, and can even find a lot of 90's imports able to run ethanol on the stock lines. One thing to keep in mind is that you should always do research on your individual car before going e85, AND this is a big and.. DO NOT FILL UP ON E85 WITHOUT A TUNE, unless your car came with a flex fuel setup from factory. That should go without saying but, just in case there is the public service announcement haha. 

There are upgrades needed to run e85 other then a tune. Most vehicles will not have a large enough fuel injector to support any power on e85. lets say your car came stock with 370cc fuel injectors and your car makes 280hp, well in order to get the benefits of ethanol such as advanced timing and increase boost, you will need to upgrade injector size to something like a 740cc, so that you have some headroom. 

If your vehicles fuel system isnt ethanol compatible, then you will probably have to look into, fuel pumps, injectors, and ethanol safe fuel line. this can end up being as expensive as you want. A stainless steel full AN line system will be quite costly, but if thats the way you want to go then by all means. 


Stay driven. 

By: Ocean Nickel


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