With the enormous attention being given to air pollution and the need for alternative fuels, E85 has become an attractive short-term solution to these problems. While it will neither completely cure the green house gas problem nor eliminate the use of petroleum, it can greatly reduce both. Ethanol gives slightly less energy per gallon, but also produces much less carbon dioxide when burned.
E85 ethanol gets its name from the ingredients that go into it. While most gasoline and ethanol blends that are burned regularly in most cars has between 10 and 20 percent ethanol, E85 ethanol is made up of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. This is enough gasoline to keep the ethanol from freezing to easily in all but the coldest climates. It is enough ethanol to require adjustments to the ignition system on cars.
Cars that can utilize E85 ethanol frequently have two tanks. One for a more traditional gasoline blend and one for the alternative fuel. This is necessary because E85 ethanol is not always easy to find. So, when it is available, the car can run on the cleaner more environmentally friendly fuel. When it is not available, the car can convert to gasoline.
This change is effected by the driver by switching tanks. The car is able by monitoring sensors to make the adjustments by computer to change the spark and timing to allow for the best performance based on which fuel it sense going through the engine. This makes for a smooth transition and assures that the car will continue to run with reasonable power and performance.
Ethanol can be manufactured by fermenting any carbon-based tissue. Plant tissues high in starch and sugar are the most popular. Currently, corn is the grain of choice because it is plentiful and moderately priced. However, concerns about running short of animal and human food may cause other plants to be substituted. In some countries, the husks from sugar cane are utilized to produce the ethanol.
If the plant tissue is cooked under pressure before being fermented, more of the tissue can be used for food for the yeast that produces the alcohol. Over the years, almost every grain, potatoes, fruit, and many other plants have been used to generate mash for distilling.
The fermented brew is cooked slowly over a controlled heat to extract the alcohol from the mixture. Since water and the other things in the pot boil at 30 or more degrees higher than alcohol, it is easy to remove the ethanol by controlling the cooking temperature.
By using 85% ethanol, we can help the farmer, the environment, and the energy shortage all at once. Many countries are finding E85 ethanol to be a great alternative fuel. Some countries like Brazil have made a complete or nearly complete switch to burning pure ethanol. This virtually eliminates the dependency on foreign oil sources if enough plant material can be gleaned to drive the production of the necessary quantities of ethanol.