Monday, March 17, 2008

Fun with Ethanol (the E85 kind!)

Usually, fun with ethanol involves getting wicked drunk.

I'm not talking about the kind of ethanol that you drink, I'm talking about the kind that you put in the tank of your car!

E85 is a mixture of ethanol and gas. In the winter, it is 70% ethanol and 30% gas (87 octane gas, I assume), and in summer it is 85% ethanol and 15% gas.

I recently noticed that the Meijer on the Boulevard in Highland has E85. They sell it for 30 cents less than regular.

This got me thinking. I drive a Saab, and Saab makes a version of my car that runs on E85 (called Biopower). Unfortunately, my car isn't E85 capable.

So I started looking into what would happen if I ran E85 in my car.

According to what I could find on Google, you CAN run E85 in any car. Unfortunately, it will cause the check engine light to come on, and may damage the engine and other parts long term.

But it looks like if you mix E85 and regular, in proportions up to perhaps 50% ethanol, you should not get the check engine light to come on.

So I bit the bullet. On the way home from work the other day, I topped off with E85. I got 5.575 gallons in there, which works out to be 30.4% ethanol.

So far, I've driven about 45 miles. I did some "testing" where I floored it, just to see if I could get the check engine light to come on. It didn't come on.

So I'm going to be doing some experiments:

What kind of mileage do I get on E85 mixtures? Straight up E85 should cause about a 30% decrease in mileage, but lower amounts of ethanol should not be as bad.

How much ethanol does it take before you get a check engine light?

Does any other damage occur by using E85? It has the reputation of dissolving rubber and causing metal to rust (not directly, but because it is very hydrophillic).

But again, from what I've found in my research, the Biopower Saab has the same parts as mine. I think the fuel system is made of materials that will survive E85 mixtures.

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