The main points to remember about using E85 are as follows:
– It’s cleaner. Less damage in terms of emissions and the bad stuff released is supposedly absorbed by the trees in the growing process.
– It allows for more fun. A higher octane level means more bang for the buck.
– It’ll make your car thirstier. Fuel consumption suffers.
My lifelong everlasting friends over at Consumer Reports have just done some E85 testing. Autoblog Green have a brief blurb on it here. In addition to ABG’s story, Kraig from New Hampshire has emailed me his summation of the report:
The October 2006 issue of Consumer Reports just arrived at my house and contained an article on E85 titled “The Ethanol Myth”. Using a Chevrolet Tahoe (Full size SUV with a 5.3 liter V8), they found that using E85 exacts a 27% fuel economy penalty versus regular gasoline, effectively raising the cost per mile in fuel by almost a third. In acceleration tests, they found that the E85 blend provided quicker acceleration to speed than did gasoline, but by only a small margin. [0-30 mph — 3.4 sec vs. 3.5; 0-60 mph–8.9 sec vs. 9.1; quarter mile in 16.8 sec at 84.6 mph vs. 16.9 sec at 84.5 mph]
The article does mention things already mentioned on your site including the relative inefficiency of corn-based ethanol (prevalent in the US) and the promise of newer technologies such as cellulosic ethanol production. CR’s take is that this technology is still developing and that no one solution will solve all of the US’s or the world’s energy needs as we try to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Their warning to consumers is that E85 is not inexpensive to use in terms of cost of fuel or gas mileage, but it is less expensive than the higher purchase cost of a hybrid.
I’ve just popped over and had a look at Saab’s Biopower press release info to take a look at a few things and if the car were on the market, I’d suggest that Saab could have an opportunity here to show people how Biopower,when properly set up on a sensible vehicle, can live up to some of the promised benefits. More than a Tahoe can, at least.
Firstly, there’s no arguing about the fuel consumption. Saab’s own press material claims a reduction in the city cycle in the order of around 30%.
Consumer Reports managed to measure significant reductions in emissions with the Tahoe, a claim that Saab also make and one that’s to be expected. It’s the central selling point of the fuel (though one could argue that the more popular current issue of oil independance has overshadowed it temporarily)
The performance figures are where the real difference lies. CR measured a negligible power boost in the Tahoe:
the E85 blend provided quicker acceleration to speed than did gasoline, but by only a small margin. [0-30 mph — 3.4 sec vs. 3.5; 0-60 mph–8.9 sec vs. 9.1; quarter mile in 16.8 sec at 84.6 mph vs. 16.9 sec at 84.5 mph]
Whereas Saab claim a much bigger differential with the 2.0t Biopower 9-5:
Running on E85, the Saab 9-5 2.0t BioPower engine delivers 180 bhp and 280 Nm of torque, compared to 150 bhp and 240 Nm when using gasoline, a significant 20 per cent increase in maximum power and 16 per cent more torque. This gives even sportier performance. In the 9-5 Sedan, zero to 100 kph dash can be accomplished in 8.5 secs and 80-120 kph in fifth gear in 12.6 secs, compared to 9.8 and 14.9 secs when running only on gasoline.
Now, my question is: Is this significant difference in relative peformance between the Tahoe and the Saab just because CR did their speed tests in a big-ass Chevy Tahoe, which is going to be as slow as a wet week anyway? Or is it becuase turbocharging is the best way to take full advantage of the higher octane rating in the E85? If so, then maybe Saab has another opportunity to show some people how it’s done.
If they could somehow tweak the tuning to close the MPG gap then more’s the better. That one’s purely theoretical, but maybe there’s something in that performance issue to be sold.