Converting a car to alcohol fuel.

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by cschattner, Nov 19, 2015.

  1. cschattner

    cschattner Monkey

    I have been dabbling in the idea of brewing my own alcohol and using it to fuel my car. I cant really find too many pro's and con's and I am sure that it is highly frowned upon to set up your own still and go for it in my county because well they are tight wads. I saw this on mythbusters a few years back and I have always wanted to try it. I have the car that this will be compatible with since it is a 2013 model.
    So if I do try this I will wait till summer to even try it.
    Anyways has anyone even tried this, pro's and con's etc.
  2. Altoidfishfins

    Altoidfishfins Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    Certainly no expert, but years ago I looked into this. Apparently you can distill your own fuel legally. There may be some rules left in place. It used to be that you had to denature the alcohol by one of several methods, which usually meant mixing the alcohol with something else, like methanol or gasoline.

    Reference - Brown's Alcohol Motor Fuel Cookbook, should it "still" be available.

    Other issues you'll run into is the fact that most fuel systems on cars were never designed to use alcohol, and ethanol can cause severe damage unless it was designed for E85. One of my vehicles was designed for that, but E85 was expensive, so I went back to using gasoline.

    If you're going to try ethanol on your 2013 vehicle, make damn sure it was designed to use E85, Flex Fuel, or something similar. Most cars and trucks aren't.

    The other issue with alcohol is the fact that it does not contain the energy of gasoline. So your fuel economy, at least with E85, will be about 30% less. I get 30 MPG with gas, and about 20 MPG with E85 in the same vehicle driving the same route. Since E85 cost more per gallon than gasoline, it was not only just a little more expensive, but a lot more expensive. Of the several gas stations that used to carry E85 around my town a few years ago, I don't know of any today.

    I've read that fuel economy would be comparable if engines were optimized for E85 or pure ethanol. But optimization means about a 13:1 compression ratio, which would make the engine incompatible for all but the highest octane gas.
    Mountainman and pearlselby like this.
  3. pearlselby

    pearlselby Monkey++

  4. Tobit

    Tobit Ham Extra Class

    I'm ignorant but curious, why alcohol instead of biodiesel?
  5. cschattner

    cschattner Monkey

    Because alcohol can be made quicker and easier.
    As I recall the mythbusters episode said that it does effect mpg but it did no damage to the vehicle they used which was a brand new 2013 camaro. I have a 2013 Nissan versa.
    They said it has to be 190 proof. Anything less and it just putters out.
    techsar likes this.
  6. techsar

    techsar Monkey+++

    Distilling alcohol is easier then producing true biodiesel, requiring less equipment...or perhaps the OP didn't want to purchase a diesel vehicle? ;)
    Biodiesel does have it drawbacks, similar to alcohol/gasoline blends. Rubber fuel lines tend to deteriorate much quicker than straight diesel (or gasoline), and the fuel systems get "flushed" of built-up grime. This can run into the thousands to correct in a diesel (injectors, high pressure fuel pumps) whereas the fuel filter will typically catch most impurities in a gasoline powered vehicle.
    Hope this helps...
  7. Tobit

    Tobit Ham Extra Class

    SHTF, I'm taking my VW Diesel pickup and looting every fast food restaurant along the way.. s'all I\'m saying. ;P
    Homer Simpson likes this.
  8. cschattner

    cschattner Monkey

    Definitely a mix of the not wanting to purchase a diesel vehicle and the fuel line problem.
  9. Tobit

    Tobit Ham Extra Class

    I can understand that. In high-school shop class I converted some run lawnmower engines on ethnanol. Never did anything beyond that.
  10. cschattner

    cschattner Monkey

    Sadly small engines are miles apart from a basic car engine.
  11. Tobit

    Tobit Ham Extra Class

    I agree and did not mean to discount this.

    I just thought diesel to biodiesel was the more efficient, sorry if I interloped on your thread.. did not mean to. Following along for further education.
  12. cschattner

    cschattner Monkey

    Oh no your fine. I was just pointing it out for others in case they where thinking it was as easy as a lawn mower engine.
  13. Homer Simpson

    Homer Simpson Monkey+++

    Well that can be true, or false. All common 4 stroke engines require air, fuel, compression, and ignition. The differences start with age and configuration. Take the standard 3.5hp or 5ph Briggs and Stratton that most of grew up mowing the family lawn with, this is very similar to the flat head Ford V8, or the flat head Plymouth 6. Your 8hp Honda Over Head Valve generator engine is quite similar to most any semi-modern carbureted auto engine. All of the principles are the same, just more cylinders. The complexity starts when you start adding computers.

    Most any 4 stroke can be made to run on alcohol, the question is it worth it. Fuel lines, fuel pumps, carburetors, fuel injectors, and such can all be upgraded to alcohol compatible. Heads and blocks can be milled, pistons changed and or special head gaskets used to raise compression. The enemy of alcohol is moisture as alcohol can literally pull the humidity out of the air. Typically carburetor jets will need to be 30 to 50% larger, and alcohol can be very unforgiving in a lean condition. I would definitely experiment with a "disposable" engine first, as it is easy to destroy an engine if you get it wrong. Even starting with a lawnmower will go a long way towards learning the principals that will keep you from ruining bigger engines. In the go-cart racing world horizontal shaft Briggs and Stratton 5hp engines, once converted to alcohol can put out 15hp+ in "full race" trim.

    To me, it is only worth it in this day and age as a novelty and or learning experience. Should the shtf, and gasoline is not available, and you can get away with distilling your own alcohol, then that changes the game, and the knowledge would be quite beneficial. There is plenty of info on the web to keep you reading for days, if not weeks on alcohol conversions, while you look for your first conversion engine.
    Mountainman, Cruisin Sloth and Ganado like this.
  14. cschattner

    cschattner Monkey

    My horse is already trained to pull a buggy lol
    Ganado likes this.
  15. stg58

    stg58 Monkey+++ Founding Member

    Then there are the legalities for producing alcohol.

    TTB | FAQs| General Alcohol

    eCFR — Code of Federal Regulations

    You cannot produce spirits for beverage purposes without paying taxes and without prior approval of paperwork to operate a distilled spirits plant. [See 26 U.S.C. 5601 & 5602 for some of the criminal penalties. You should also review our Home Distilling page.] There are numerous requirements that must be met that make it impractical to produce spirits for personal or beverage use. Some of these requirements are paying excise tax, filing an extensive application, filing a bond, providing adequate equipment to measure spirits, providing suitable tanks and pipelines, providing a separate building (other than a dwelling) and maintaining detailed records, and filing reports. All of these requirements are listed in 27 CFR Part 19.

    Spirits may be produced for non-beverage purposes for fuel use only without payment of tax, but you also must file an application, receive TTB's approval, and follow requirements, such as construction, use, records and reports.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
    Ganado likes this.
  16. cschattner

    cschattner Monkey

    Yep I was reading the licensing requirements, so over regulated.
  17. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    You have to remember the true deterrent to running alcohol in an internal combustion engine, and that is the storage life of the alcohol. Alcohol has an affinity for water. as that water collects in the alcohol/gasoline mix, the components and combustibility is significantly reduced. Also varnishes are produced which effect the fuel injection or carburation systems. This is why many of the shops that service boat engines and small yard care engines recommend Ethanol free gasoline.
    Ganado likes this.
  18. natshare

    natshare Monkey+++

    The biggest problem with utilizing alcohol as a fuel (with the exception of the lower fuel mileage, due to the lower energy density), is that every part of the fuel system and engine has to be capable of handling the high alcohol fuel. Any aluminum parts that are not plated with something like nickel, will soon be eaten up by the alcohol. As was already pointed out, if the vehicle is rated for E85 fuel (85% alcohol, 15% gasoline), you SHOULD be okay.

    Having spent the better part of 2 decades working with fuel, when E85 came out, we couldn't just utilize the same dispensers and parts (hoses, swivels, nozzles, break-aways, etc.), that we had used with unleaded gasoline. And let me tell ya, nickel plated parts don't come without a premium price! If you have something you need to replace, I'd suggest brass, as it's cheaper, and less likely to corrode, when in contact with another type of metal, than steel would be.
    Ganado likes this.
  19. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Brass is a catchall term for a whole spectrum of copper zinc allots/mixtures, and more often than not have lots of other metals mixed in. Go for the lowest zinc content you can find, 'cause zinc will leach out in contact with water.
    Ganado likes this.
  20. cschattner

    cschattner Monkey

    Ah I will have to check to see if my car is set up for E85. I think it is since it is a newer model and they where bragging about stuff like that when I purchased it. I will just double check to make sure.
    Ganado likes this.
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