The Advantages of Ethanol for High-Performance Cars

Updated on January 18, 2019
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My passion for automobiles and engines started as a hobby and has since become my work.


There are many reasons for a performance car owner to be interested in ethanol, whether it be price, better performance, or conservation of the environment.

Using Ethanol Fuel for High-Performance Cars

As car enthusiasts, we like to look for every possible advantage in terms of getting the most out of our high-performance vehicles. If we can boost the performance of our car even slightly, we are interested. Few variables have more impact on your vehicle’s performance than the type of fuel you put into the tank. Thus, it would be wise for every owner of a high-performance car to consider the benefits of ethanol blends and other biofuels.

With each passing year, ethanol becomes more and more popular. It is generally more affordable than traditional gasoline, and it is starting to appear at an increasing number of gas stations across the country. While E10 used to be the highest blend of ethanol available at gas stations, E15 and E85 are now available in a growing number of states. One of the most exciting things about ethanol is that it has benefits which appeal to the general population as a whole, as well to high-performance car owners.

The General Appeal of Ethanol Fuel

There are many reasons for a performance car owner to be interested in ethanol. Prior to that discussion, however, let’s touch on a few reasons why the general public should be excited about fueling their vehicles with an ethanol blend.

  1. Lower cost: In general, purchasing ethanol fuel is less expensive than typical gasoline. Even with fluctuations in the market, over time it is likely that a person purchasing an ethanol blend will spend much less on fuel than someone buying regular or premium gasoline.
  2. Environmental advantages: For those who want to take an active part in conserving the environment, opting for ethanol is an obvious decision. Since it is mostly made from corn, ethanol is a renewable energy which is not nearly as damaging to the environment as petroleum-based products.
  3. Growing approval from carmakers: Some drivers have been hesitant to adopt the use of ethanol because of concerns that it may damage their engine. Those concerns are quickly being dismissed as more and more automakers approve the use of ethanol in their engines. In fact, E15 has been approved for use in all vehicles since 2001. Of course, it is wise to check your owner’s manual before putting any kind of fuel in your tank.

There is a lot to like about using ethanol and ethanol blends as fuel for your vehicle. These are positives which any car owner can appreciate, whether they happen to be interested in high-performance vehicles or not. If you are interested in high-performance, however, you will want to read on, as we are going to deal with this subject specifically for the remainder of the article.

Bio-ethanol derives from corn, making it a environmentally friendly option.
Bio-ethanol derives from corn, making it a environmentally friendly option. | Source

An Unlikely Match: Environmentalists and Car Enthusiasts

Ethanol fuel brings together two groups which otherwise seem to have very little in common: high-performance car enthusiasts and environmentalists. If you love to drive fast, rev your engine, or burn rubber, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about your carbon footprint. On the other hand, if you are focused on doing your part to save the planet, you likely don’t spend your weekends flying around a local racetrack in a gas-guzzling supercar.

Ethanol could change this dichotomy, being a rare product which is appreciated by car lovers for its performance benefits and applauded by environmentalists for its renewable qualities. The buying power of these two very different demographics could make ethanol a huge retail success.

Affordable Power

The appeal of ethanol for the high-performance car owner is obvious: additional power at a lower price. Buying high-octane fuel is a common practice for someone looking to extract those last bits of unrealized power out of their engine, but this type of fuel usually comes at a cost. Standard gas has an octane rating in the 80s. Buying premium gas can bump that rating into the 90s, giving a driver a small performance boost.

But what if you could enjoy an octane boost without spending more money? That’s where ethanol fuel comes into the picture. Not only can you put higher octane fuel into your tank without emptying your pockets, but you will usually save money. The octane rating of E85 (a blend which is between 70 to 84 percent ethanol with the rest made up of standard gasoline) comes in around 105. To achieve that octane rating with petroleum-based fuel, you would have to purchase racing fuel, which is not only hard to find, but usually sells for two or three times the price of standard gas.

The price of E85 frequently comes in at 10 to 20 percent lower than the cost of standard gasoline. That means you can spend less money than you would for low-end fuel, and fill your tank with a fuel that offers an octane rating beyond 100.


The Availability Issue

So what’s stopping you from running out this afternoon and filling your tank with an ethanol blend? Well, maybe nothing, depending on where you live. In some parts of the country, ethanol fuels are easy to find. These locations tend to be in the parts of the country where corn is grown in large quantities–in other words, the midwest. You will find plenty of stations offering ethanol options in states such as Ohio, Michigan, and Minnesota. In other states, there are no available locations at all. Even large states like California have been slow to join the trend.

With so many factors working in its favor, though, it seems inevitable that more and more states will begin to fill up with stations that offer ethanol blends. After all, this is a product that appeals to many different and diverse groups. From environmental benefits, to performance benefits, to the fact that it offers another market for farmers growing and selling corn, there is a lot to like about ethanol. Thus, it would be quite a shock if ethanol fuels were not widely available in many more regions in the coming years.

Trade-Offs of Using Ethanol

If you are tuning your vehicle for maximum performance using an ethanol blend, you will likely need to deliver more of that fuel to the engine in order to hit your power targets. With that in mind, your economy numbers are going to take a hit. Since you paid less initially for the fuel than you would have for standard fuel, the fact that you need to burn more of it along the way does not seem like such a big deal. Even with the added fuel consumption, it is still possible that you will come out ahead. And you will definitely come out ahead in terms of performance.

Another minor concern for high-performance car owners is that there may need to be some minor technical changes made to your engine in order to get the most out of an ethanol blend. It is true that your engine can run well on an ethanol blend as it is, but some tuning may be necessary to optimize everything from start to finish. This likely isn’t going to be seen as a drawback to someone who is serious about their car.

The Final Word

It's easy to see there are many advantages to using ethanol in a high-performance vehicle. Not only can you get affordable performance, you can also use a product which is good for the environment. If you take driving seriously, ethanol is an option you simply can’t afford to ignore. As you learn more and more about what this type of fuel can do, and as it becomes more accessible, it is almost certain you’ll want to try it out for yourself.

How Ethanol Is Made

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Daily Driver


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    • profile image

      Dave Cooper 

      2 years ago

      We used a kit he found online. I can't remember the brand but I'm sure if you do your research you'll pick the right one. I didn't know anything about e85 until that project, but my son takes very good care of his car and hasn't experienced any issues.

    • Matt D Lucas profile image

      Matt Lucas 

      2 years ago from Oakland, CA

      did he use a conversion kit? im pretty good at this stuff but itd be nice to know what worked. ive heard different things about ethanol and dont want to mess my engine up. right now its just a daily driver but i want to start racing.

    • profile image

      Dave Cooper 

      2 years ago

      I'm a car enthusiast and hobbyist so when I learned about the potential benefits of ethanol blends I figured why not give it a shot. My son and I converted his 09 Nissan GTR to e85 a few summers ago and were impressed by obvious engine performance. He hasn't lost a race since!

    • Matt D Lucas profile image

      Matt Lucas 

      2 years ago from Oakland, CA

      Ive been thinking about converting my subie wrx to e85.. problem is finding it here in california. Not easy to come by but might do it anyway. thanks for the info.

    • WheelScene profile image


      2 years ago from U.S.A.

      Ethanol seems to be very popular with tuned/custom/race cars these days. I am surprised it is not available at the track. There is only one place in my area that sells Ethanol so I like that you brought up the availability issue.

      Thanks for sharing.


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