Ethanol-fuelled racecars outrun conventional speedsters

A group of automotive researchers from the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and industry have shown that a fuel-injected racing car engine fueled by E-85, an ethanol-based fuel, outperforms the same engine with a carburetor and leaded racing fuel.

Specifically, the group, dubbed Project Green, demonstrated during benchmark testing a seven percent improvement in the torque and speed of a General Motors' CT525 LS3 fuel-injected engine with a catalytic convertor attached to the exhaust system and renewable E-85 in the fuel tank, said Forrest Jehlik, principal mechanical engineer at Argonne's Center for Transportation Technology. The General Motors engine is a popular choice among circle track racers.

"The testing disproves two widely and firmly held beliefs in the circle track racing community - that carbureted engines are inherently more powerful than engines equipped with a fuel injection system; and that E-85, which is less expensive than leaded racing fuel, is not well-suited as a fuel for race cars," said Jehlik, who leads the benchmark testing for Project Green.

Racecars on the speedway
Argonne engineers found that ethanol-fueled engines can go just as fast as traditional racecar engines with environmentally unfriendly leaded fuel.

Aside from the garages of classic and vintage car collectors, race tracks are about the only venues these days where engines with carburetors are in active use. Fuel injection systems began replacing carburetors in earnest in the early 1980s because they allow for greater fuel efficiency as a result of precise and even fuel distribution to each cylinder.

Moreover, tailpipe emissions from cars with fuel injection engines are lowered due to the precise metering of fuel, thereby reducing the amount of oxides of nitrogen, hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide combustion byproducts.