Can E85 Fuel Really Improve Your Car’s Performance?

E85 fuel, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, has been gaining popularity in recent years as an alternative to traditional gasoline. E85 is praised for its potential to increase horsepower and torque output, but is it all just hype or can E85 really give your car a performance edge? In this post, we’ll take an in-depth look at what exactly E85 is, how it compares to normal gasoline, and most importantly – whether using E85 can actually improve your vehicle’s performance.

What is E85 Fuel?

Higher octane ratingAllows for advanced ignition timing which increases horsepower and torque output
Increased fuel flowMore fuel can be injected and burned, resulting in more power
Improved thermal efficiencyMore heat energy from combustion is converted into mechanical energy
Cleaner engine internalsMinimizes deposits for optimal engine efficiency

First things first – what exactly is E85 fuel? As mentioned above, E85 contains 85% ethanol that is blended with 15% gasoline. The ethanol used in E85 is ethyl alcohol, the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. The remaining gasoline is needed for cold start capability since pure ethanol is difficult to ignite in cold weather.

Some key facts about E85 fuel:

  • Contains 85% ethanol, 15% gasoline
  • Higher octane rating than regular gasoline, around 100-105
  • Considered a renewable fuel made from corn and other plant materials
  • E85 flex-fuel vehicles can also run on regular gasoline

So in summary – E85 is a high ethanol, high octane fuel alternative designed for use in flex-fuel vehicles. The higher ethanol content allows E85 to resist engine knock better than regular gasoline. Now let’s look at why this matters for performance.

E85 Benefits for Engine Performance

Red sports car filled with E85 fuel at gas station Engine with E85 fuel system components highlighted

There are a few key reasons why E85 holds the potential to improve vehicle performance:

1. Higher Octane Rating

As mentioned above, E85 typically has an octane rating around 100-105 vs 87-93 for regular gasoline. The octane rating determines a fuel’s ability to resist uncontrolled combustion events known as engine knock or detonation.

Why is this important for performance? Higher octane fuels allow an engine computer to safely advance ignition timing. Advanced ignition timing lets the air/fuel mixture combust earlier, increasing combustion pressures and allowing the engine to generate more horsepower and torque output.

So by being more knock-resistant, E85’s higher octane rating can directly translate to better performance.

2. Increased Fuel Flow

One downside of ethanol is that it contains less energy per gallon than gasoline – about 30% less. However on the plus side for performance applications, the lower energy density allows more fuel to be injected and burned while staying in a safe air/fuel ratio window.

More fuel burned equals more power produced. E85’s increased fuel flow allows the engine to pump out more horses.

3. Higher Thermal Efficiency

E85’s high ethanol content also allows for increased thermal efficiency compared to gasoline, especially at higher engine loads. This means more heat energy from combustion can be effectively converted into mechanical energy at the wheels.

4. Engine Internals Stay Cleaner

The high oxygen content in E85 also helps the engine produce cleaner, more complete combustion events. This minimizes carbon deposits on valves, ports, and pistons – keeping engine internals cleaner for optimal efficiency and performance.

Real World Performance Gains with E85

The theoretical benefits of increased knock resistance, fuel flow, thermal efficiency and engine cleanliness directly translate to real world horsepower and torque gains:

  • Typical results of switching to E85 show increases of 30-60 horsepower and 30-100 lb-ft torque depending on the vehicle
  • High performance turbocharged or supercharged engines designed for maximum power output can see horsepower gains well over 100 hp when optimized for E85
  • Just going from regular gasoline to E85 has shown 0-60 mph time improvements of over 1 second in some vehicles!

While exact results will vary depending on engine design, E85 clearly has massive performance potential – the capability to add a huge extra punch of power and acceleration for street or racing applications.

Downsides and Considerations of Using E85

Of course with any fuel there are also some downsides and compromises to consider with E85:

  • Lower fuel mileage – expect around 15-30% fewer miles per gallon depending on engine calibration
  • Not all fuel stations carry E85, availability is limited
  • Fuel system compatibility concerns – ensure your vehicle is designed for high ethanol content
  • E85 is hygroscopic meaning it absorbs water easily leading to potential corrosion issues
  • Requires extra fuel tank sealing procedures to prevent vapor leaks

While these downsides can be addressed with proper E85-compatible vehicle preparation, they do prevent most drivers from running this high ethanol fuel  a daily basis. E85 remains a specialty fuel best purposed for increasing vehicle performance in racing applications.

The Verdict: An Exceptional High Octane Racing Fuel

When it comes to maximizing engine power output, E85 ethanol fuel checks all the right boxes:

  • Extremely high octane rating resists knock for safe advanced ignition timing
  • Increased fuel flow rate allows more horsepower-producing fuel to be burned
  • Excellent thermal efficiency advantages, especially under load
  • Helps maintain clean engine internals free of deposits

The result is incredible real-world horsepower and torque gains consistently over 30% when switching from gasoline to optimized E85. While it lacks the easy availability and fuel mileage of gasoline, for maximum performance applications E85 proves itself an exceptional racing fuel for unlocking a vehicle’s true power potential.

So if you’ve been searching for extra power beyond basic bolt-on mods, E85 represents an upgrade path capable of adding as much power as a turbocharger kit or supercharger system for just the cost of a fuel switch. Just be sure any fuel system modifications and engine tuning changes are done properly to safely accommodate E85’s unique fuel properties.

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