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The Advantages of Ethanol for High-Performance Cars

Updated on November 17, 2017

There are many reasons for a performance car owner to be interested in ethanol, from price and higher performance to the environment.

The Advantages of Ethanol for High-Performance Cars

As car enthusiasts, we like to look for every possible advantage in terms of squeezing top performance out of our vehicles. If it has a chance to boost the performance of our car – even just slightly – we are interested. Of course, few variables have more impact on your vehicle’s performance than the type of fuel you put into the tank. With that in mind, it would be wise for every owner of a high-performance car to consider the benefits of ethanol blends and other biofuels.

With each passing year, ethanol becomes more and more popular as an automobile fuel. It is generally more affordable than traditional gasoline, and it is starting to appear at an increasing number of gas stations across the country. While E10 was the highest blend available at most gas stations, E15 and E85 are now available in a growing number of states. One of the exciting things about ethanol is the fact that it has benefits which appeal to the general population as a whole, as well to high-performance car enthusiasts specifically.

The General Appeal

There are many reasons for a performance car owner to be interested in ethanol. Prior to that discussion, however, let’s touch on a few reasons why the general public should be excited about fueling their vehicles with an ethanol blend.

  • Lower costs. In general, purchasing ethanol fuel will be less expensive than typical gasoline. Even with fluctuations within the market, over time it is likely that a person purchasing an ethanol blend will spend much less on fuel than someone buying regular or premium gasoline.

  • Environmental advantages. For those who are interested in taking actions that benefit the environment, opting for ethanol is an easy choice. Since it is mostly made from corn, ethanol is a renewable energy which is not nearly as damaging to the environment as petroleum-based products.

  • Growing approval from carmakers. Some drivers have been hesitant to adopt the use of ethanol because of concerns that it may damage their engine. Those concerns are quickly being set aside, however, as more and more automakers approve the use of ethanol in their engines. In fact, E15 specifically has been approved for use in all vehicles since 2001. Of course, it is wise to check your owner’s manual before putting any kind of fuel in your tank.

You can plainly see that there is a lot to like about using ethanol and ethanol blends as fuel in your vehicle. These are positives which can apply to any car owner, whether or not he or she happens to be interested in high-performance. If you are interested in high-performance, however, you will want to read on as we are going to deal with that subject specifically in the rest of this article.

An Unlikely Match

The matter of ethanol fuel brings together two groups which otherwise seem to have very little in common – high-performance car enthusiasts, and environmentalists. If you love to drive fast and rev your engine at every opportunity, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about your carbon footprint. On the other hand, if you are focused on doing your part to save the planet, you likely don’t spend your weekends blasting around a local racetrack. Needless to say, these are two groups of people which don’t tend to spend much time around one another.

Could that be changing? Perhaps – as ethanol fuel is something that those in each camp can appreciate. Ethanol is a rare product which is appreciated by car lovers for its performance benefits, while also applauded by those in the environmental camp for its renewable nature. The powerful combination of these two very different parts of the market just might come together to make ethanol a retail success in the long run.

Affordable Power

The appeal of ethanol for the high-performance car owner is obvious – additional power at a lower price. Buying higher octane fuel is a common move for someone looking to pull those last bits out power out of the engine, but that fuel usually comes at a cost. As you know, standard gas that you purchase from a typical pump will feature an octane rating in the 80s. Buying premium gas can bump that rating into the 90s, and you will see a performance boost as a result. Of course, you will spend more money as well, because performance fuel costs more than standard unleaded gasoline.

But what if you could enjoy an octane boost without spending more money? That’s where ethanol fuel comes into the picture. Not only can you pick up octane without dipping into your budget – you will usually be able to save money in the process. The octane rating of E85 – an ethanol blend which is between 70% - 84% ethanol and the rest standard gasoline – comes in around 105. That’s right, 105! In that octane range, you would have to purchase racing fuel, which is not only hard to find, but also can sell for two or three times the price of standard gas.

Pricing for E85 will frequently come in 10% - 20% below the cost of standard gasoline. That means you can spend less than you would spend for low-end fuel, and fill your tank with a fuel that offers an octane rating beyond 100. It is now easy to see why so many car lovers are so excited about the future of ethanol.

The Availability Issue

So what’s to stop you from running out this afternoon and filling your tank with an ethanol blend? Well, maybe nothing, depending on where you live. In some parts of the country, ethanol fuels are easy to find. These locations tend to be in the parts of the country where corn is grown in large quantities – in other words, the midwest. You will find plenty of stations offering ethanol options in states such as Ohio, Michigan, and Minnesota. In other states, there are no available locations at all. Even large states like California have been slow to join this trend.

With so many factors working in its favor, however, it seems inevitable that more and more states will begin to fill up with stations that offer ethanol blends. After all, this is a product that appeals to many different market segments, as mentioned earlier. From the environmental benefits, to the performance benefits, to the fact that it offers another market for farmers growing and selling corn, there is a lot to like all the way around. It would be a big surprise if ethanol fuels were not available in many more regions as the years move along.


If you are tuning your vehicle for maximum performance using an ethanol blend, you will likely need to deliver more of that fuel to the engine in order to hit your power targets. With that in mind, your economy numbers are going to take a hit. Of course, since you paid less initially for the fuel than you would have otherwise, the fact that you need to burn more of it along the way does not seem like such a big deal. Even with the added fuel consumption, it is still possible that you will come out ahead from a financial perspective. And, of course, you will definitely come out ahead in terms of performance.

Another minor concern for high-performance car owners is that there may need to be some minor technical changes made to your engine in order to get the most out of an ethanol product. Yes, your engine can run well on an ethanol blend as it is, but some tuning may be necessary to optimize everything from start to finish. This likely isn’t going to be seen as a drawback to someone who is serious about his or her car.

In the end, we see that there are many advantages to using ethanol in a high-performance vehicle. Not only can you get affordable performance, you can also use a product which is good for the environment and can be renewed as the years go by. If you take your driving seriously, and we bet that you do, ethanol is an option you simply can’t afford to ignore. As you learn more and more about what this type of fuel can do – and as it becomes more easy to access – it is almost certain you’ll want to try it for yourself.


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    • profile image

      Dave Cooper 2 weeks ago

      We used a kit he found online. I can't remember the brand but I'm sure if you do your research you'll pick the right one. I didn't know anything about e85 until that project, but my son takes very good care of his car and hasn't experienced any issues.

    • Matt D Lucas profile image

      Matt Lucas 2 weeks ago from Oakland, CA

      did he use a conversion kit? im pretty good at this stuff but itd be nice to know what worked. ive heard different things about ethanol and dont want to mess my engine up. right now its just a daily driver but i want to start racing.

    • profile image

      Dave Cooper 2 weeks ago

      I'm a car enthusiast and hobbyist so when I learned about the potential benefits of ethanol blends I figured why not give it a shot. My son and I converted his 09 Nissan GTR to e85 a few summers ago and were impressed by obvious engine performance. He hasn't lost a race since!

    • Matt D Lucas profile image

      Matt Lucas 2 weeks ago from Oakland, CA

      Ive been thinking about converting my subie wrx to e85.. problem is finding it here in california. Not easy to come by but might do it anyway. thanks for the info.

    • WheelScene profile image

      WheelScene 2 weeks ago from U.S.A.

      Ethanol seems to be very popular with tuned/custom/race cars these days. I am surprised it is not available at the track. There is only one place in my area that sells Ethanol so I like that you brought up the availability issue.

      Thanks for sharing.