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E85 should be the wave of the future if the ethanol industry can understand it's product and market it for what it is.

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Hedge Fund operator loves E85 .. especially when marketed as a premium fuel

 

As most people know I am a big advocate of the American farmer and the Agricultural industry as a whole, so when I found out earlier this year that I could convert my non-flex fuel vehicle to a vehicle that could run both e85 and 93 octane fuel with some pretty awesome benefits I jumped at the opportunity.  I have to say, I love the outcome and for a few reasons.  But from a broader perspective I think my experience can offer some insights to the ethanol industry as a whole.
 
To begin with the vehicle in question is my baby.  It is a 2009 Cadillac CTS V that I am the proud second owner of.  For you car guys out there you know exactly why, but for the non-gear heads let me explain:  The second generation Cadillac CTS V is nothing short of a 4-door American supercar.  As part of the GM family Cadillac borrowed the most potent Corvette engine they could get their hands on and de-tuned it slightly.  That engine was the LSA which is the same supercharged 6.2 liter V8 found in the top Corvette ZR1 only with a slightly smaller supercharger.  When a Cadillac CTS V rolls off the assembly line it has 554 Hp and 551 Lbs of torque.
 
However, I am a gear head and when I see an opportunity to improve something I do. So I made some light modifications to boost output to 553 hp at the rear wheels. (Quick note - hp at the wheels is less then the stated hp manufactures claim due to loss of hp in the drive train).  And then the speed shop that I had been getting work done at informed me that they had just gotten in the e85 conversion kits and they were producing awesome results to the tune of 50-70 hp gains at the wheels!  So, your telling me I can burn corn and get more power?!?!  I'M IN!!!
 
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This was a bit of a complicated process that took e85 use far beyond that of a typical flex fuel car.  To get the maximum performance and best fuel mileage we had to install a sensor in the fuel tank to tell the car's computer what it was working with and in turn the car's computer would set the fuel/air mixture to the optimal level for the given fuel.  This means we had to tune the car to multiple settings for different fuel mixes.  We also had to replace all gaskets and upgrade the fuel pump.  All together it ended up being right about $2,000 for the conversion, which for the gear heads out there this is by far the cheapest hp you can get.
 
The end result was a 70 hp gain to 603 hp!  And I am so very pleased.  The mpg did suffer on e85, but it was not as bad as I had expected.  The CTS V is a gas sucker as is and with e85 it is more thirsty but not by a whole lot.  Before the conversion when I was running strictly 93 octane fuel I was getting an average of 11.6 mpg.  Now, when running e85 I get an average of 10.4.  This is a noticeable drop but not a tremendous drop.  At the time the savings of e85 vs 93 octane more then made up for it and I have to believe that this will be the case more often then not in the future as well.  Now, with the mpg drop e85 might not make financial sense compared to regular 87 octane fuel but for me regular fuel is not an option.
 
But, what is the point of me explaining this on a forum such as this one?  I assure you it is not just to talk about my car (however I do seem to do that a lot).  My point is that I believe there is a market out there that the ethanol industry either does not see or is not interested in.  I am not just talking about the gear heads either.
 
So far the ethanol industry has targeted the average consumer with little success.  This is mostly because the average consumer is driven by value and e85 compared to regular fuel does not offer much better value most of the time when considering the drop in mpg.  However, these flex fuel cars normally run regular 87 octane fuel and the value proposition for e85 is much stronger when compared 93 octane premium fuel. Further more the average flex fuel car does not change the fuel/air mixture depending on the fuel it is given and burns e85 like it is 83 octane gasoline.  This means that mpg suffers more then it should and the potential increase in performance is never realized.
 
This strongly suggests that e85 might not be for the average consumer and its in not a competitor to regular gasoline.  So, who should the target consumer be?  The premium segment who buy premium cars that take premium gas.  People who buy premium cars that take premium gas do so for performance and luxury.  Give them the opportunity for more performance at cheaper or comparable prices and e85 makes a case that is very difficult to argue with.  Plus, the expense to produce a car that is properly tuned and has a sensor in the gas tank would be much more easily absorbed by the premium car market.  It also means that we could be getting more power out of smaller and more efficient engines which is certainly the trend in the auto industry right now.  And, who knows,  The features that start in the premium car market often have a way of trickling down to the average car market as consumers want to reach up.  This could be the doorway to e85 being massively popular on a much bigger scale.  So, if the ethanol industry is serious about expanding it's customer base despite lower gas prices this is may be road map.
 
The bottom line is that e85 is a premium fuel and should be treated as such.  At approximately 103 octane it offers the best performance for cars that are tuned to use it and a solid value proposition compared to premium 93 octane gasoline.  All sports cars worth their salt should be able to use e85 to it's potential as should luxury cars that use premium fuel.  E85 should be the wave of the future if the ethanol industry can understand it's product and market it for what it is.
 

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I agree almost 100% with what the guy is saying here. When I was down in Florida for the ethanol conference in February, I had a guy in a newer BMW convertible pull up to the other side of the E85 pump next to me and use E85. I started talking to him and he told me that he blends in enough E85 to bring the octane up to 100. That put a smile on my face.

 

Whether or not these folks appreciate the fact that E85 is renewable, domestic, and cleaner burning, they certainly appreciate the power. After all, that's why I decided to go for the Charger when I saw it for sale (that, and it was an impulse buy... but that's neither here nor now). Two years ago, I thought it was incredibly wasteful to slam on the accelerator pedal. If you had told me the 0 to 60 in your car was 7 seconds, I would have said "whoopty-freaking-doo". It was not a virtue to me. When I would slam on it, I would hear dollar signs, not performance.

 

But now, I've done a 180 on that. I appreciate the power that comes with E85. It's not a night-and-day difference, but I know the additional horsepower is a selling point for some folks.

 

The ethanol industry has done almost nothing to cater to this demographic, and that should change. I got into ethanol because of the fact that it's renewable, far better for the environment than oil could ever hope to be, does not support geopolitical tension, etc etc, but I can't complain about the power.

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Yes agreed. However, this strategy will only work if it maintains a 15% price spread. Yes, we all know it's probably better for engines. I have spent far too many hours on gas(bleep) combating the damage myth. And ethanol has rarely promoted this.

 

Remember, sales have tanked solely because of the current pricing. Always have, always will. The bull s**tters have already convinced most of our populous that it is an INFERIOR fuel and a bad one.

 

99% dont need or want a premium fuel. And it seems that the only people who truly believe it is are Subaru owners  :) More of them seem to mod their cars for E-85 than anyone else.

 

This is an excellent article with an excellent point. And encouraging to see it. However, even though we all have been advocating this better fuel, only will a better price make it viable.

Edited by Steve-O

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Great post. The premium fuel and performance side of E85 should definitely be promoted more. I've got a new 2014 Silverado which increases HP by 23 and torque by 33 when using E85. Just like your Cadillac it has the fuel sensor to adjust the tune for any % of ethanol. And the cylinder deactivation kicks in more on E85, I think due the the extra power it produces, so the fuel economy doesn't take as big of a hit. Only 10% less for me after 1200 miles. I can't wait to tow with it to see how well it does. I frequently read GM truck forums and a lot of the guys on there are using E85 just for this reason and don't care as much about the price. They love the extra pep. If you think about truck owners or performance car owners fuel economy and cost are not priority number one.

 

There are still a lot of people out there that think E85 is bad. My entire department at work looked at me like I was crazy and one guy said E85 sucks, its horrible for your engine and you get terrible gas mileage. Its kind of sad people think this way. At least there are a few more people at my work that are now educated on the benefits of E85 :-)

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That's why I'm still using E85 in my 200, even though the spread hasn't been favorable. At $2.00/gal or less vs what ever premium is is worth it to be just based on how that Pentastar V-6 reponds to it. Dad is kinda disappointed that my Sister's new Challenger R/T Classic isn't flex fuel and doesn't have the 8 speed that Aaron's Charger uses just based on what he's seen from my 2p0 on E85 with it's 6 speed auto. Too bad the new Hellcats also aren't flex fuel, if that CTS-V picked up 70 at the rear wheels, the Hellcats could be closer to 100hp at the wheels!

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Too bad the new Hellcats also aren't flex fuel, if that CTS-V picked up 70 at the rear wheels, the Hellcats could be closer to 100hp at the wheels!

Morning Joe.. That surprises me as well that the Hellcats are flex .. simply because they could claim another 40HP or so 

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They're already under rated as it is Dan, there have been a few dyno tests done and even with what should be the proper drivetrain losses for that 8 speed auto, the rear wheel HP is too close to what the advertised at the crank power is for that number to be right........oddly enough, by about 40hp!

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