Reader Question: Higher Horsepower on Corn Juice?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Chuck asks: Debating with a friend on performance of the VW Golf flex fuel vehicle sold in Brazil. Claims to develop higher horsepower on ethanol than gasoline. Seems unlikely given the lower energy density of ethanol.  Does state it gets about 70 percent of the mpg on E100 than it does on gasoline. Your thoughts?

My reply: Your friend is – as Ed used to say – correct, sir! Ethanol – alcohol – was/is used as a race car fuel because it has higher octane than gasoline, which allows for more cylinder pressure (i.e., high compression/turbo/supercharging) which increases the output of the engine. The catch is you burn much more fuel to get the power. A range tax, as it were. A 30 percent reduction in mileage is a pretty high range tax. It amounts to about a third less range. But since IC cars begin with much more range – almost any new car can go at least 300 miles before it needs to be refueled and can be refueled in less than five minutes, unlike idiotic electric cars that take at least five times as long – it might be an acceptable tradeoff if the ethanol is cheaper than gasoline and so makes up for the range tax in the form of lower fuel costs.

Brazil uses sugar cane to make ethanol (so the headline is a bit off) and that makes much more economic sense – for them, because they produce a tremendous quantity of sugar – whereas ethanol made here is made of corn, which makes much less economic sense.

Hence the need to mandate that our fuel be dosed with ethanol.

I say let all fuels compete on their merits – without mandates. If, as the ethanolians claim, corn (or sugar) squeezings are a superior fuel then the market will amen their claims via people choosing it over gasoline.

Who could object to such a thing?

. . .

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