Ethanol Fuel

Ethanol Powered Cars

The ethanol powered cars use ethanol or ethyl alcohol as the fuel for running the vehicle. Ethanol fuel is a biodiesel alternative to gasoline. As ethanol is easy to manufacture, the ethanol powered cars gained good wide acceptance in the green car market. Ethanol powered cars are eco friendly and deliver power at good fuel efficiency. The consumer’s concern in shifting to more sustainable home grown sources of fuel to cut dependency on foreign oil imports has led to wide range of acceptability for ethanol fuels.

Type of fuel used

The ethanol fuel can be made from common crops like sugar cane and corn. Pure ethanol as well as ethanol mixed with gasoline is used as fuel in cars. Ethanol is produced in large scale by fermentation of sugar. Another form of ethanol, bio-ethanol is produced from the starch or sugar in a variety of crops. Ethanol is a renewable source of energy and so the use of ethanol as a car fuel is widely seen as a replacement to fossil fuels.

The performance of ethanol powered cars

The ethanol fuel consumption in car engines is more than that in gasoline engines. But increased power output and better fuel economy is achieved in an ethanol fuelled car engine through higher compression ratios. The ethanol powered engines deliver more torque than the gasoline powered engines. The mileage of an ethanol powered car is around 20% higher than that of gasoline only car engines. Ethanol powered engines with dual fuel direct injection technology using pure alcohol and gasoline are found to deliver more power at better fuel efficiencies. The direct injection technology increases the octane rate of ethanol and increases the overall performance of the ethanol powered cars. The thermal efficiency of ethanol powered cars is found to be same as that of a diesel fuelled cars. The miles per gallon of an ethanol powered car is found to be same as of a gasoline powered vehicle. The ethanol cars show the problem of cold start during winters and low temperatures. This is overcome in an ethanol powered car using an engine heater system. The engines can be pushed to the maximum to get the most efficient use of ethanol. Ethanol’s higher octane is used to increase the engine’s compression ratio. Ethanol enriched fuel can reduce pre-ignition problems like knocking and pinging. The ethanol enriched gasoline meets all the vapor pressure standards and thus alleviates the starting trouble problems in hot or cold weather. Also ethanol does not harm any seals or valves. Also they do not increase corrosion.

Pros and cons of the fuel

Ethanol offers many environmental and energy security benefits. This renewable fuel can be produced domestically. Ethanol powered cars emit less pollution reducing the smog forming emissions by more than 50%. Though the ethanol fuel cars emit greenhouse gases that cause global warming, the amount of gases emitted is less. Modern farming used for cultivation of ethanol yielding plants relies largely on diesel powered equipments that emit greenhouse gases. Distilling ethanol requires large quantity of electricity which may be generated from coal, another source of greenhouse emissions. The ethanol fuel generated from corn is found to have lesser greenhouse emissions compared to that of generated from gasoline. Inefficient production techniques of ethanol leads to greater chance for a situation where the energy used for production is more than the energy released on fuel combustion leading to negative energy balance. Ethanol can be more expensive than gasoline depending on the area of usage and the method of production. Massive ethanol production can result in an increased smog formation in that area thus creating a threat to the environment. The use of food crops for generating ethanol is blamed for rising food prices and hunger. Ethanol is cheaper than the traditional fuel as blending ethanol with regular unleaded gas means the direct cost to the customer is lower. Another possible problem with the use of ethanol in engines is the possible damage to engines in winter when gas would crystallize and clogs filters. The cons of ethanol powered cars can be briefed out as increase in food cost, deforestation and soil erosion, impact on water, and negative energy balance under certain conditions of production.

Ethanol Fuel Use in different countries

The countries that top the chart among ethanol fuel producers are United States, Brazil, European Union, China, Canada and India. Brazil is one country with the largest and most successful bio fuel programs in the world. They use ethanol as a replacement to gasoline for fuelling vehicles. Most of the cars running there are ethanol fuel powered cars. The use of ethanol blends as fuel was increased with the launch of various ethanol powered cars capable of running on any proportion of ethanol and gasoline. Other countries also increased the production of ethanol fuels and started opting for cars that run on ethanol because of the fuel efficiency and lesser pollution. The United States produce and consume large quantity of Ethanol fuel. Better ethanol fuel infrastructure is available in Germany, Sweden and France. China as Thailand support the ethanol powered car market. The ethanol fuel economy is getting stabilized with more number of filling stations offering pure as well as various blends of ethanol.

Environmental benefits and drawbacks of Ethanol

The energy balance which is defined as a comparison between the energy input into the process of producing the fuel and the energy released by burning the fuel is found to be most favorable for ethanol fuels. The fermentation process used to generate ethanol fuel and the combustion of the fuel emits a greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. But this is balanced by the greater uptake of carbon dioxide by the plants as they grow to produce biomass. Also the scale of greenhouse gases emitted is less compared to that of gasoline combustion. Ethanol acts as an attractive additive to gasoline fuel to reduce the air pollution. Large scale farming required to produce ethanol generating crops require large amounts of cultivated land. If the land is acquired through deforestation, it makes a negative impact on the ecological balance. Increased use of pesticides and fertilizers for growing large amount ethanol yielding crops, also result in hazardous environmental impacts.

Reliability of Ethanol Powered Cars

The ethanol powered car’s engine is free of any debris and deposits as the fuel burns completely leaving no residue. This makes the ethanol fuel engines last longer and run smoother.

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