The title sponsor of the event is Engine Builder Magazine. Before this issue went to press we spoke with Engine Builder's editor Doug Kaufman regarding the future of retrofitting earlier American V-8s to operate on E85, and things sound pretty good. The engine rebuilding industry is well aware of E85, and AERA member aftermarket parts manufacturers as well as engine rebuilders are gearing up to meet the challenge. This is great news for guys searching for a custom-built V-8 in their classic truck that will deliver better fuel mileage in addition to extra horsepower. Since this is the first year for the E85 Power Shootout, the six competing engines will be dedicated to E85, but hopefully next year the event will expand to include Flex-Fuel motors. It would be a real eye-opener for everyone to see a toe-to-toe comparison of the two fuels.
E85's main ingredient is ethanol by 85 percent, or to put it into terms more familiar to high-performance freaks, alcohol. The remaining 15 percent is composed of regular unleaded gasoline. Blend the two together and you have the high-performance fuel of the future.
Contrary to the impression one might get from GM's "Live Green, Go Yellow" campaign, ethanol can be obtained from many sources other than corn alone. At the Regional Transportation Center in Chula Vista, California, it's the cheese. The ethanol mixed in the RTC's E85 comes from cheese whey distilled by the Golden Cheese Company of Corona, California. The truth of the matter is, anything that ferments can be turned into cellulosic automotive-grade ethanol. The following is an excerpt from a report on ethanol generated by the state of California almost 10 years ago:
"While most ethanol currently is produced from corn, it can be produced from agricultural waste, forest waste, and other types of 'biomass.' An increase in ethanol use in California could stimulate the formation of businesses that convert these waste products to ethanol. Because some agriculture and forest wastes are burned, air-quality improvements could occur in some areas if these wastes were instead converted to ethanol."
The most surprising source of automotive-grade ethanol originates from reclaiming millions of gallons of beer waste that would otherwise be poured into the sewer. Here's an excerpt from the Denver Post:
"Coors Brewing Company is doubling its current production of 1.5 million gallons of ethanol per year from beer waste by adding a second ethanol processing plant at its Aurora, Colorado, brewery. The ethanol is sold under a contract with Valero Energy Corp., which distributes the ethanol to Diamond Shamrock stations."
As far as we know, Colorado is currently the only state with a brewery that isn't dumping millions of gallons of beer waste down the drain. From Wisconsin to the West Coast there are countless breweries. In California there's Miller Brewing and Anheuser-Busch, just to name a couple. One can only imagine how many million gallons of beer waste have already been poured into California's sewers instead of recycling to fill the gap created by the switch from MTBE to ethanol as an oxygenate.
Now that you have a better idea where E85 comes from, we'll tell you where you can find it. Minnesota leads the nation with well over 200 stations that sell E85. There are just 11 states in the U.S. that don't sell E85. California is at the bottom of the barrel with only one station to serve a population that exceeds 35 million people and spans 1,000 miles.
So there you have it in a nutshell, CCT readers. With the presence of 10 percent ethanol (E10) already in North America's fuel supply and likely to grow to E20, we thought you guys might like a heads up on the future. It's good news for everyone since most custom classic trucks are already equipped with aftermarket fuel tanks that can handle ethanol. We figured with the ever-looming threat of the smog Nazis trying to legislate vintage trucks off the road, we could get the jump on them by converting to E85 and make a bunch of extra horsepower doing it.
To learn more about E85 or to find out if you can buy it in your state, log onto www.e85fuel.com.
High-quality 600-grade stainless...
High-quality 600-grade stainless steel tanks like this one from Tanks Inc. are perfect for storing E85. Tanks Inc. also manufactures poly fuel tanks.
Gm's E85-capable L-59 small-block...
Gm's E85-capable L-59 small-block Chevrolet engine can be installed in any custom classic truck. On the highway using E85 we've recorded over 21 mpg with an L-59-powered full-size truck.