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The Reason Why Some Ethanol-Gasoline Blends Outperform E0 in All Internal Combustion Engines

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Zipping up the bag on BTU BS

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Marc Rauch

By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

In 2015, I wrote and published "The Irrelevance Of BTU Rating - Big Oil's Gimmick To Hoodwink The Public." Three years later I wrote and published a follow-up paper, "The Irrelevance Of BTU Rating - Revisited." These two reports explained why using simple BTU comparisons between gasoline and ethanol when determining engine performance (as expressed by Miles Per Gallon or Hours of Operation) is entirely irrelevant.

The illuminating information contained in these papers is that engine optimization is the key factor since optimizing an internal combustion engine to use ethanol rather than gasoline will provide equal or better results than a gasoline-optimized engine running on gasoline. And, because ethanol engine optimization conducted en masse at the time of manufacture can be accomplished at no discernable financial loss, then ethanol-optimized engines should be ubiquitous in order to gain energy independence, save consumers money, cut down on pollution, and lower health risks.

But wait, don't go away because there's more to this story.

Since the early 20th century (that's like around 1901) many tests and studies have been conducted that prove that higher ethanol-gasoline blends (E30 to E50) will provide equal or superior performance even in gasoline-optimized engines. The studies include the famous U.S. Geological Survey/U.S. Navy tests, the French Buses report, the Wayne State University test, the Glacial Lakes E30 Challenge, and my numerous tests with non-flex fuel and flex fuel vehicles.

Although the results of these tests have been reported, the reason for the positive results has been a puzzle to even the most ardent ethanol supporters. This phenomenon has simply been explained as these blends creating a "sweet spot."

Now, for the first time (even though BTU ranking is irrelevant since engine optimization overcomes all other issues), I'm going to use BTU comparisons to show how and why the "sweet spot" ethanol blends produce equal or better results than non-ethanol gasoline in non-flex fuel and flex-fuel engines.

In 1936, William J. Hale, PhD., wrote a book titled "PROSPERITY BECKONS - Dawn Of The Alcohol Era." Dr. Hale was the father of Chemury (a branch of applied chemistry), a university professor, and researcher at Dow Chemical Company. In his book, he states that due to the inefficient burning of gasoline (as evidenced by the remnants of charred matter and gummy deposits) that gasoline loses about 25% of its energy content. On the other hand, because alcohol (ethanol) burns clean it doesn't lose energy content. Based upon this, Dr. Hale writes: "Thus, the custom of comparing fuels on their potentially available British Thermal Units becomes at once obsolete."

The bottom line to this is that it is incorrect to say that because ethanol has only 76,000 BTUs, and gasoline has 116,000 BTUs that ethanol will deliver 33% less energy content (and 33% less MPG) than gasoline when used in an internal combustion engine. A fairer effective comparison would be to say that gasoline is only effectively providing 87,000 BTUs, which quite considerably narrows the potential energy difference between gasoline and ethanol.

Therefore, taking into account the effective BTUs of inefficient gasoline, the effective BTUs of an E30 blend would be 84,000 BTUs, or just about 3.5% less energy when used in an internal combustion engine. On a vehicle that presumably delivers 25 miles per gallon of gasoline, the loss of 3.5% would result in a loss of roughly 0.8 of one mile. This is a negligible amount, especially when you consider that the price of E30 could be at least 20% less than regular grade E0 or E10 and provide the purchaser with a net gain of 16.5%.

Wait, don't go away because there's more to this story.

What I just described entails the very small loss of mileage by using a "sweet spot" blend like E30 compared to ethanol-free E0. But what I have personally experienced, and what the tests conducted by educational institutions and the government have found, is that the use of a "sweet spot" blend will provide more, not less, miles per gallon. The question is why is the real-world experience better? The answer to why MPG from a "sweet spot" blend can be better than E0 or E10 is because of the increased octane in the "sweet spot" blend.

Here's how it's calculated. Regular grade E0 gasoline would typically have an 87 octane rating. Mid-grade would typically have an 89 octane rating. Premium would typically have an octane rating of 91. E100 has an octane rating of 109. Therefore, regular grade E30 blend has an octane rating of about 93 - much higher than regular, mid, and premium grade blends. Higher octane fuel is used (sometimes required) to attain higher performance. If premium 91-octane gasoline can deliver higher performance, imagine what super-premium E30 can do!

Now, consider this: If you can save 20% on E30 compared regular grade E0 or E10, you'll save even more compared to the price of mid-grade and high-performance E0 or E10. In some areas of the country, like California, your net saving and better MPG can be 40% or more.

Taking into account what I wrote and published in my two previous reports about the irrelevance of BTUs, and now this report, it all adds up to higher level ethanol-gasoline blends being the more economical choice. Adding in the environmental benefits of replacing filthy poisonous gasoline with clean, safe ethanol this is the only smart choice.

Go forth and be smart!