You might have seen a bunch of ads on TV over the last few years about using e10 fuel in your car and the benefits of switching to ethanol. But is this fuel good for you and your car? And which fuel should you really being using anyway?
Ethanol based fuels such as e10 and e85 are truly not a new idea and stem much from the use of alcohol-based fuels in racing from years ago. Even through the 80’s and 90’s it wasn’t uncommon for race cars to race using methanol, nitro-methanol, av-gas variants and more.
These fuels offered many great benefits to these teams and can usually provide a much higher power output than ever dreamed of using petrol. This is really comes down to 2 key factors though, the increased cooling factor and a much higher octane rating proportionally. In race cars, this higher-octane rating allows engine tuners to add make more and more power while reducing the chances of pre-detonation.
Pre-detonation is incredibly dangerous to the motors of cars and occurs when the fuel and air in the motor self-combusts before it’s meant to and without the help of the spark plug. Contrary to popular belief, these higher-octane fuels don’t make power because they burn any better but, because they burn slower and more controlled instead of exploding.
This is where the cooling aspect comes in to play for performance cars. Though it might seem a rather counter intuitive thing to say, the cooler burning of ethanol compare to petrol also allows for engine tuners protect motors and prevent major damage.
At this stage, ethanol seems like a great fuel, however, there are some major drawbacks to this type of fuel that you should consider.
While petroleum is a derivative of crude oil and does not readily cause corrosion, ethanol-based fuels often cause oxidation (corrosion) in metal fuel systems and degradation in rubber fuel lines. For many performance enthusiasts, switching to ethanol means completely replacing the fuel system to deal with these issues, something that is not commonly accounted for by manufacturers.
In addition, ethanol has a far worse calorific value meaning that, for the same distance travelled, you will use more ethanol. This gets to the point that, if you’re using e85 in your car, you will likely use 40% more fuel than just using petrol.
So, should you run your car on any kind of ethanol fuel?
Unless you own a race car, the answer is going to be a solid no.
Realistically, any money you could save from using e10 based fuels will be made up twice over by the poor fuel economy and when you inevitably have fuel system issues down the track. Our advice is save the alcohol for the pub for now.