ALCOHOL IS MORE EXPENSIVE TO RUN AND YOU WILL SACRIFICE PERFORMANCE
For some time there was a “misrepresentation” gaining momentum on the internet (as well as in written form) about the cost of using various fuels in a racing engine. Specifically, we have seen breakdowns in written form that greatly exaggerate the cost of using alcohol both directly and indirectly. With that in mind, we will offer our findings over the years and use one of our best customer examples as a reference to drive that point home.
For comparison’s sake we have done the math by averaging the cost of each type of fuel from several sources/brands as well as the amount of fuel used from a random sampling of our alcohol injection customers. Keeping in mind that not everyone’s combination will use the same amount of fuel each pass we derived a best case (typically 1/8 mile) and worst case (typically ¼ mile) scenario for each. We then averaged the results to come up with a final number for easy comparison. You will see below that our math clearly shows that the use of alcohol in a racing engine is, by any account, 33% cheaper than using racing gasoline. We intend to keep this topic active and realistic so we welcome your fuel consumption figures and/or feedback and will adjust the usage numbers if warranted.
BASIC FUEL CONSUMPTION COMPARISON
Alcohol with Top Lube (Top Lube NOT Mandatory)
Average Cost $2.50 per Gallon
Usage 1.5-2.0 Gallons per Pass
Worst Case $5.00 per Pass
Best Case $3.75 per Pass
AVERAGE $4.38 per Pass
110 Octane Gasoline
Average Cost $7.50 per Gallon
Usage .75-1.0 Gallons per Pass
Worst Case $7.50 per Pass
Best Case $5.63 per Pass
AVERAGE $6.56 per Pass
Alcohol injection’s characteristics of RUNNING COOLER, LOWERING ELAPSED TIMES IN VIRTUALLY EVERY APPLICATION, BEING LESS DEPENDENT UPON ATMOSPHERIC CHANGES AND BEING MORE COST-EFFECTIVE TO BURN THAN RACING GASOLINE makes it the clear choice for sportsman drag racing or truck pulling applications. When operated correctly, an alcohol burning engine doesn’t need to be treated any differently than a gasoline engine as far as maintenance. Absolutely no extra costs are incurred with its use regardless of what you have heard or read elsewhere. This isn’t just our opinion based upon a couple of racers we scrounged together and gave some free product. It is a fact from almost every customer that has purchased a new system since the inception of KillerRONS.
Interestingly enough, our math also shows that E85 offers the most cost-effective fuel to burn in a racing engine. While being more affordable, E85 will not offer the same performance and consistency of alcohol but it will outperform racing gasoline. Our findings show that the main drawback of E85 fuel is its lack of availability in all locations and the blend is not always the same depending upon the time of year.
E85 85% Ethanol (from the pump)
Average Cost $2.65 per Gallon
Usage 1.0-1.5 Gallons per Pass
Worst Case $3.98 per Pass
Best Case $2.65 per Pass
AVERAGE $3.32 Per Pass
The above information was backed-up recently by Maryland's Jim Hanrahan who offered up his information when switching from 110 octane racing gasoline to alcohol and eventually to E85 fuel in his 511” BB Mopar. Hanrahan had this to say, “I have done lots of fuel measurements and cost analysis and race gas is the most expensive. My numbers are averaged on 5 passes down the ¼ mile plus warm-up time. I drive to and from the pits and our local track has a long shutdown area and long drive back to the pits. My 511” drinks some fuel so my example should be a worst case scenario for both fuels.”
Alcohol with Top Lube
(5 Passes x 1.5 Gallons per Pass) + 1.0 Gallon Warm-Up to Start Day x $2.50 per Gallon = $21.25
$4.25 per Pass
110 Octane Racing Gasoline
(5 Passes x .70 Gallons per Pass) + .5 Gallon Warm-Up to Start Day] x $7.75 per Gallon = $31.00
$6.20 per Pass
E85 Pump Gasoline
(5 Passes x 1.0 Gallons per Pass) + .5 Gallon Warm-Up to Start Day x 2.65 per Gallon = $14.58
$2.92 per Pass
PERFORMANCE FOR HANRAHAN
Hanrahan alsohad this to say, “I tell everyone that performance comparisons between fuels really needs to consider temperature (density altitude). In cool weather (55* F), the differences will be small, and in hot weather (90* F) the differences will be larger. This is because alcohol fuels change performance less with changes in temperature. In general, on a warm day, E85 was about 0.15 seconds quicker than gasoline and alcohol was about 0.30 seconds quicker than gasoline. At 55 degrees, E85 and alcohol were only a couple hundredths apart.”
Hanrahan may even be more correct than even he knows and this is something that we are well aware of at KillerRONS. There have been literally hundreds of occasions where engine builders have touted equivalent or exceeding horsepower numbers for their engines with a gasoline carburetor over alcohol. Then the customer takes the engine and installs in the car and starts the season in great atmospheric conditions and posts some pretty good times. The problem with this scenario is that the luxuries of these great conditions are short-lived. In the gasoline burning engine, once the temperature begins to raise so do the elapsed times. It is not uncommon to see a .25 difference in elapsed times in these applications whereas an alcohol burning engine varies around a tenth with a 3000’ change in the density altitude. We like to call this "Seasonal Performance" which you can read about elsewhere on this site.
For now, if you take this information and apply it to a summer-time race where the temperature can change dramatically from day to night or a weekend event where you may make a single pass per day with differing conditions you will quickly realize which is the better option. KillerRONS.COM’s James Monroe had this to say, “I was fortunate enough to be the 2010 NHRA Division 3 Top Dragster Champion. There is NO QUESTION in my mind that the use of alcohol in my engine was a major factor in this success. For whatever reason this class is a heavily gasoline dominated field and the above mentioned consistency is exactly what I was afforded throughout the season. I can think of occasions where my Sunday competitor was dialed up or down .05 from their qualifying times on Friday and Saturday whereas I was within a hundredth or two. On the strength of the advantage of having a better race car I was able to win at least the first two rounds at EVERY divisional event. I sure hope these engine builders continue to tell my direct competition on the race track that gasoline is the way to go!”
YOU SHOULD EXPECT “MILKY OIL” WHEN USING ALCOHOL
This couldn't be further from the truth. It is UNACCEPTABLE to have fuel in your oil and if it does happen the root of the problem needs to be identified and reversed immediately. There are a few basic reasons for possible "milky oil" that we will cover below.
The main cause is not getting the engine (specifically the oil) warm enough. This is normally a result of improper use of the shutoff cable supplied with all fuel injection systems. The fuel shutoff cable is often overlooked by the new user but it is probably THE single most important piece to a properly functioning injection system. Being that the throttle body sitting on top of the engine is oversized to deliver maximum air flow to the manifold and cylinder heads the system's idle mixture needs to be set-up rich to overcome the transition when the throttle is opened quickly. This means that if you idle the engine for any extended amounts of time (especially during warm-ups) there is a risk of this extra fuel finding its way past the rings and into the oil. This is easily prevented by using the shutoff cable at all times when you are not on the racing surface itself. When you are warming the engine for the day, driving to the lanes, coming back from a pass, etc. you need to pull the cable slowly until you hear the engine RPM's tweak up to 2000-2500 RPM. With proper use of this cable even the inexperienced user can make his oil look great as well as save fuel and build heat in the engine more quickly. We recommend getting the oil temp to at least 160* during the first warm-up of the day. If you do not have an oil temp gauge it is recommended to get the water temp up to 170-180* instead. After the initial warm-up a starting line water temp of 155-160* is a good spot to be. One other note to touch on regarding the cable is that any time you shut the engine off you should pull the fuel into the fully "OFF" position and then kill the ignition once it revs up and levels off. When you go to fire the engine back off put the cable back into the fully "ON" position.
The second cause of “milky oil” is an overly rich fuel system due to an oversized fuel pump, oversized nozzle jets or grossly rich idle mixture setting. Although the above shutoff cable technique can overcome some of this condition it cannot account for the time between the burnout box and the finish line when your cable is in the "ON" position. This condition can be rectified by installing the proper sized fuel pump and/or nozzle jets and having an idle mixture within the acceptable parameters. You can read more about the idle mixture (commonly referred to "barrel valve setting") by visiting this page on our website.
The third cause is trouble with the engine that is preventing proper ring seal. Causes may be worn, scuffed or out of round bores, worn piston rings, improper piston ring gap, poor honing or improper assembly.
The final reason is something that we have come across a few more times than we are comfortable with recently. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD ANYONE BE UTILIZING A CARBURETOR VACUUM LEANOUT WITH ALCOHOL INJECTION. Although good for a carburetor, this technique of adding air to the mixture does nothing for alcohol injection except push more fuel into engine and ultimately the crankcase.
YOU CANNOT USE ALCOHOL IN SPREADPORT ENGINES
Alcohol injection will work as good or better than a gasoline carburetor in most any normally aspirated engine regardless of runner positioning, valve angle or chamber size. Between KillerRONS and Steve Schmidt Competition Engines there is literally daily experience with 10*, 12*, 14* and 18* engines and to date there have been zero issues related to the use of alcohol injection.
Especially of interest to us is in the statements coming from within the industry where there is a perceived inability of these engines to burn the volume of fuel required when utilizing alcohol. The reality is that these engines, when compared to a conventional headed engine, make more power while using less fuel in an alcohol injected application. In other words, the same displacement engine with a more efficient 10* or 12* cylinder head will pull more air at a greater speed and the more efficient chamber will waste less fuel (less consumption) than the same displacement engine with conventional valve angle cylinder heads.
The small chamber size in these heads is often a concern for those supposedly "in the know" with the use of alcohol fuel. The fact of the matter is that there is little to NO MERIT to this concern. These cylinder heads are more than capable of performing the task. Arguably, the more efficient chamber design in these heads makes them better for the job due to the fact that these engines typically utilize a flat top piston. Simplistically put, the fuel doesn't have to find its way around the dome to get to the spark plug. NTPA (National Truck Pulling Association) engines with 650" of displacement are built for alcohol with chambers in the 50-55cc range and some are as small as 40cc. These engines make in excess of 1600 HP and 1100 FT/LBS of torque and utilize alcohol injection.
Lastly on this topic the reader must understand that our experience is understandably relegated to mechanical injecting alcohol into these engines. Due to the design of our system and others like it, we are able to deliver the fuel "downstream" close to the intake valve in an extremely atomized state. This is a major bullet point in the reasoning behind injection being the absolute best way to deliver alcohol to these engines.
YOU MUST UTILIZE A VACUUM PUMP ON AN ALCOHOL BURNING ENGINE
The answer to this question is absolutely not. It is estimated that more than half of all injection users employ a simple header evacuation system. It is important that these evacuation systems be free flowing and lack obstructions. Often times we will ask customers to remove the filter media or “check balls” from the breathers to allow the engine to breathe more freely. KillerRONS.COM's James Monroe actually ran alcohol injection for 14 years before utilizing his first vacuum pump on an engine. That said, a vacuum pump certainly has its place and can be utilized with the Ron's mount kits. A vacuum pump kit can net an extra 3-5% horsepower and aid in "blow-by" control on higher horsepower engines. KillerRONS.COM offers complete vacuum pump systems from Star Machine that you can read about here.
YOU CANNOT USENITROUS OXIDE WITH ALCOHOL
We believe this bit of misinformation was perpetrated in the nitrous industry by companies that either did not have the technology to use alcohol as an enrichment fuel or did not have the knowledge to calculate the required nitrous fuel ratios. The double intercooling effect of alcohol and nitrous together packs the cylinder with fuel and oxygen...the necessary ingredients for power! Mike Wood, CEO of Nitrous Express, states, "Alcohol as a nitrous enrichment fuel is the absolute best option in regards to detonation protection and this ultimately makes it the easiest to tune in the nitrous world." This has been verified by the fact that we have had very little (if any) tuning issues with customers since we began selling alcohol-enriched nitrous systems several years ago. It must be noted that a very competent ignition system should be used to fire the dense nitrous/alcohol mixture.
We are proud to say that Mike Chitty was the 2008 NHRA Division 5 Top Sportsman champion using an alcohol enriched nitrous system and our very own James Monroe captured the 2010 NHRA Division 3 Top Dragster crown doing the same thing. Both racers report no tuning issues and no tuning changes were required throughout their seasons. Interestingly enough both racers also utilized a 12* BBC cylinder head which some would lead you to believe is simply impossible with alcohol and nitrous..
IF YOU DO USE NITROUS WITH ALCOHOL YOU MUST ENRICH WITH GASOLINE
We also believe this little "non-factoid" came straight from the nitrous industry. While it is possible to run a differing enrichment fuel from the main fuel system it is neither necessary nor advantageous. Mike Wood also had this to add, "Having been in the nitrous world since 1978 I have tried almost every combination of nitrous enrichment and have found that alcohol over alcohol is the safest and easiest to tune combination." Mike's words are on good authority as there may not be anyone on the planet who has more experience with nitrous oxide. You would not consider enriching a gasoline carbureted engine with alcohol so there is no reason to consider enriching an alcohol engine with anything but alcohol.
In a related thought you may have heard someone say that you should expect lower horsepower output levels with the use of alcohol over alcohol and this is simply not the case. This can usually be attributed to the end user's refusal to tune properly or his/her satisfaction with an overly rich tune-up feeling that it is a safer way to run nitrous oxide. You should expect the same performance gains with alcohol enrichment as you would with gasoline enrichment in your racing engine.
YOU CANNOT FINISH LINE RACE WITH ALCOHOL INJECTION
Honestly, we are not exactly sure where this statement could have found its roots. After much deliberation we have narrowed this down to the ultra-quick throttle response supplied by an alcohol injection unit. Anyone who has had experience with alcohol injection (whether they liked the system or not) will attest to this responsiveness. So responsive, in fact, that sometimes there are complaints that it is too quick off idle making it more difficult to do a burnout especially for those who do not use a burnout rev limiter. With that in mind there are basically two adjustments that can be made to an alcohol injection unit. The first being the nozzle jet and main pill combination (sometimes hi-speed bypass) and the second being the idle mixture itself. If a system is too "lean" in one of these areas there can be a slight hesitation off of idle as there is a lack of fuel to mix with the large intake of air into the engine. This hesitation off idle can be in the burnout, at the starting line and possibly in quick "rips" at the finish line. At the very MOST this hesitation is more prevalent in the burnout or starting line and is rare at the finish line. In close to twenty years we can only recall this complaint twice in isolated single occurrence instances. Regardless, this burnout and starting line symptom is easily rectified by a "richening" of either the tune-up itself or the idle mixture. We assume this would fix the finish line anomaly as well.
We decided to dig a little deeper and speak with some of our very best racers. In choosing who to speak with we tried to choose those respected in the sportsman racing scene. We also tried to choose those who have had many years of experience with alcohol injection and preferably some experience racing with carburetors. The question posed to these racers was, "Have you ever felt like the alcohol injection let you down while finish line driving and caused a round loss?"
The first call was to Scott Albrecht who is one of the best bracket racers in the Eastern part of the country. Albrecht is someone who frequently finds his way to the winner's circle at the Atco Raceway big money series weekends. Scott used alcohol injection units on his race cars for many years. He has also sold many systems through his engine business and is part of the reason our products show so much dominance at these events each year. As of recently Scott has been working with a respected gasoline carb builder in the area and has driven cars (and won) with these carbs atop. Albrecht's answer to this question was "I do not drive the car any differently whether I have a gas carb or alcohol injection on the engine. If I need hold four hundredths I do that and do what is necessary to get rid of it. I can only think of one occasion where I had no throttle at the stripe with alcohol injection and I attribute that to a "lean" condition. I can also say that I have had the same thing happen with a gas carb." The statement about not being able to drive the stripe with alcohol injection has no basis as far as Scott Albrecht is concerned. He went on to say, "In fact, the injection has so much torque you can feel like the front left tire can come off of the ground while ripping the throttle at the stripe."
The next call was to Stephen Hughes who has too many big money race wins to mention and will forever be known as the 2000 Million Dollar Race Winner. Due to the fact that Hughes was not using our alcohol injection at the time of his biggest win makes him a perfect candidate for this question. Stephen stated, "Since I switched to the alcohol injection in 2005 I cannot think of a single instance that it did not do what I needed it to do at the stripe." This Texas based racer has won more than his share of events over the last few years and has had good success "super class" racing his alcohol injection.
Jeremy York is one of the most under-recognized top bracket racers in the country. Jeremy doesn't race a majority of the big money races but when he shows up with his silver and orange dragsters the "players" know he is someone who will need to be dealt with. York has been using alcohol injection for nearly ten years and has an uncanny ability to make the right decisions at the stripe. Jeremy said, "I have driven Flying Toilet and Terminator cars and believe that the Terminator is a little quicker as far as response time but neither has done anything unexpected. After second thought my Toilets were on lower powered engines so that could be some of what I sense with the two systems. No issues here"
Jim "Shorty" Rader is the 2010 NHRA Division 3 Super Pro Champion and is a three-time track champion since installing his first alcohol injection unit around the year 2000. Shorty finds no basis in this statement and had the following to say. "The alcohol injection can actually get you out of trouble at the stripe if you make a mistake. You can actually accelerate the car if you have lost momentum and still have time to get back out in front."
KillerRONS.COM owner James Monroe and consultant Scott Offermann have four track championships and three division championships between them and neither can think of any instance that alcohol injection failed them at the stripe. If the above racers don't convince you that this statement is incorrect ask an alcohol injection racer at the track and see if this has ever been an issue for them. Odds are they will not know what you are speaking of.