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Old 31 Aug 2005, 17:23 (Ref:1395678)   #1
driftersx
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running on alcohol??

total NOOB question, i know. but its somethin i never really learned about. i've heard some drag racers run on alcohol.. how is this possible?? is there some mod you have to give your engine to do this, or a special type of alcohol?? whats the catch? any info would be appreciated. - DSX
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Old 31 Aug 2005, 18:26 (Ref:1395722)   #2
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Formula Talbot in the 70s (80s?) were like FFords but had the 1600 Sunbeam engine and ran on alcohol. I know one of the issues is the lines have to be changed as it is corrosive, I think they use copper lines and also they have to be a larger diameter and run bigger tanks as they burn more fuel.

I think it is a very interesting topic for discusssion as i think we have to really start investigating alternate fuels if this sport is to survive as the pressure will surely grow as petrol supplies run ever lower. I am personally into LPG and have two motors converted to it including my latest aquistion a 99 Chevy Blazer, I bought fuel for it on the way home from Torquay the other day at Asdas for 29.9p a litre!. I have some spare units and if I knew more about the implications I would have a go at modifying my race car.

Maybe the clubs should look at allowing alternate fuel powered cars to compete and maybe massage the rules about a bit say by allowing them to run lighter to redress the power loss using alternate fuel.
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Old 31 Aug 2005, 18:39 (Ref:1395729)   #3
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There is nothing magic about alcohol, its still a flammable substance like petrol. Two common types are used; Methanol and Ethanol. Methanol is the most potent and is used in drag racing as well as Indycar etc.

Main issue is that you need about twice as much methanol compared to petrol for the same amount of air. Thus you will need to increase carb jet sizes or fit larger injectors if fuel injected.

Methanol is highly corrosive to most metals, over time it will eat aluminium, copper etc and will also rust steel. Best material to use for the fuel system is stainless steel. There is also an issue with o-rings and any other rubber products that it may contact. Rubbers that are petrol resistant generally swell up and split when exposed to methanol, so you have to change all this sort of stuff as well.

So is it worth all the effort? Methanol has a very high latent heat of vapourisation which means that it gets very cold when it evaporates. This cooling effect increase the air density going into the engine and gives more power. It also has a slightly higher calorific value which means that you get a bit more energy out of it when you burn it. Overall methanol can give up to 10% more power than petrol.
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Old 31 Aug 2005, 22:00 (Ref:1395921)   #4
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The compression ratio might need to go down, as well. The pre-WW2 Bugattis, ALFAs, Mercedes, etc. also ran Methanol. It was necessary to start and warm them up them on gasoline, switch spark plugs and fuel, run the race, then switch back to gasoline to purge the fuel system and avoid the aforementioned corrosion.
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Old 31 Aug 2005, 22:32 (Ref:1395952)   #5
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I've heard methanol produces some rather nasty possible toxic fumes when the engine is cold(?). It also burns clear making it some what harder for marshals to see it burning but can be put out by water.
But it is renewable unlike petrol so personally motorsport should be using it more.
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Old 1 Sep 2005, 00:13 (Ref:1396011)   #6
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But it is renewable unlike petrol so personally motorsport should be using it more.
Except that the energy required to produce it is almost the same as the energy it releases. Same problems with Ethanol.
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Old 1 Sep 2005, 08:48 (Ref:1396190)   #7
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In sprint/hillclimb events, you can run alcohol which is common amongst the lower capacity cars. You must have an orange spot on the side of the car. A lot of filling & draining is needed due to the effects of the alcohol on the fuel system. Seems like it is well worth it as gives approx 15bhp and fuller torque curve on a 2 litre.
It produces aromatics on combustion so smells nice (Pear drops) when a car goes by.
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Old 1 Sep 2005, 12:46 (Ref:1396369)   #8
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Mmm, and Formaldehyde which isn't too good for you to breathe in either...
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Old 1 Sep 2005, 20:13 (Ref:1396721)   #9
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fantastic responses fellas, i appreciate the info. yeah perhaps its not a bad idea to use it as an alternate fuel once the petrol industry goes to crap. but considering its negative effects on the fuel system and mod requirements.. maybe its not such a good idea to fill your tank and run to the pub on methanol eh?.. - DSX
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Old 1 Sep 2005, 21:23 (Ref:1396794)   #10
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Originally Posted by thebear
The compression ratio might need to go down, as well. The pre-WW2 Bugattis, ALFAs, Mercedes, etc. also ran Methanol. It was necessary to start and warm them up them on gasoline, switch spark plugs and fuel, run the race, then switch back to gasoline to purge the fuel system and avoid the aforementioned corrosion.
Nope, the compression ratio has to go up.

I used to have a manual for a BSA A50/A65 motorcycle laying around, and it described the changes required to run on Methanol for racing compared to Petrol.

You have to raise the compression ratio by as much as two points, where an ordinary road engine would have a 9:1 compression ratio, to run Methanol, you would raise it to 11:1.

The calorific value of Methanol/Ethanol is lower than Gasoline, which is why you need more.

You produce more power because the burn is slower.

Yes, Methanol burns and gives off Formaldehyde among it's vapours, nice if you want to be preserved.

Ethanol is more environmentally friendly, and is more friendly to rubbers than Methyl alcohols.

IRL run on Ethanol, ChampCar run on Methanol, though are phasing over to Ethanol over the next few years. There has been great debate about moving NASCAR onto Ethanol too.

Methanol still requires mineral products in it's production, so it's not 100% friendly. Ethanol can be made from just about any plant matter going.

However, both are greenhouse gas friendly. I believe the figures for Methanol are something like a 15-20% benefit, where Ethanol is a 50% benefit in terms of Co2 in to Co2 out.

Modern petrols use Ethanol to boost Octane levels, so leaving your fuel in the tank for long periods of time should be avoided. The ethanol separates out, and falls to the bottom of the tank, eating at seals, etc... More details on ATL's website.

There is a lot of information about Ethanol or Bio-Ethanol on the web. Just a case of sorting the dross from the anorak factor.

The MSA still drag their feed on the subject. It should be an alternative fuel allowed in all championships, subject to SR's to level competition.

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Old 2 Sep 2005, 14:15 (Ref:1397339)   #11
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The MSA still drag their feed on the subject. It should be an alternative fuel allowed in all championships, subject to SR's to level competition.
Yeah, but there's more to it than just making the cars go from the MSAs point of view I'd imagine. For example, the 'being on fire' properties of oil based fuels are very different to alcohol based fuels. Easy to sort out, but might get more complex if you have a mixed grid...
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Old 2 Sep 2005, 18:35 (Ref:1397509)   #12
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You will find that the IRL currently run Methanol the same as CART, in 2006 they will run 90:10 Methanol/Ethanol and 100% Ethanol in 2007.

You don't have to raise compression ratio on Methanol, the engine will run fine without. The reason for raising it is that methanol has a RON of 120+, so there are normally no problems with detonation ( knocking ). The higher the comp ratio then the higher the thermal efficiency of the engine, i.e. it can extract more useful work from the fuel.

The question of calorific value is harder to explain, the raw numbers for methanol in terms of energy per kg burnt is lower than petrol as Racer59 stated. However stoichimetric AFR for petrol is 14.5 compared to 6.5 for methanol ( i.e. you need just over twice as much methanol as petrol for a given amount of air ). If you burn a stoichimetric mixture of methanol you will actually get about 4% more energy than a stoichimetric mixture of petrol.
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Old 3 Sep 2005, 09:37 (Ref:1397795)   #13
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I stand corrected on the IRL situation. I must have mis-read that article, and thought that they already were on Ethanol, with CART moving over by 2007.

Thanks for putting the calorific value info into more laymans terms for us neanderthols.
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Old 3 Sep 2005, 16:05 (Ref:1398025)   #14
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Good stuff, Ian, but the whole story is even more complex. Methanol's high latent heat often leads to greater volumetric efficiency. Combine that with its higher stoich energy and it is common to see as much as 10% greater power and torque on methanol as opposed to petrol.

Here in the US methanol is widely used in drag racing at even the lowest classes, as well as in the top open wheel ranks, but it would be a mistake to think of methanol as an 'alternative' fuel. After all, methanol doesn't occur in significant quantities in nature, except as an 'error' in yeast-based production of ethanol. In fact, virtually all methanol is made in refineries from methane or crude oil.

Ethanol is widely produced from agricultural products in industrial quantities for us as an oxygenator added to gasoline (petrol). However, it is controversial as well. Sure, it's not crude oil bought from half way around the world. But it IS produced at an environmental cost in large-scale agriculture.

There is nothing for free with any fuel. Run an alternate if one wished to, but don't fool one's self that by using a particular fuel one is 'helping the environment'.
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Old 3 Sep 2005, 19:43 (Ref:1398117)   #15
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There is nothing for free with any fuel. Run an alternate if one wished to, but don't fool one's self that by using a particular fuel one is 'helping the environment'
That is not entirely true Dauntless, surely LPG has far lower carbon and C02 emmissions proved by the fact that motors running on LPG never need decarbonising and the oil remains clean indefinitely.

This is the reason in London England where we hae a punitive £8 ($15) charge to go into the city if your vehicle is running on LPG the fee is waived. Also the government pay part of the charge for the conversion if the vehicle is less than a year old. I have just bought a 1999 Chevy Blazer for towing, a vehicle I am sure you are familiar with, and this has an LPG conversion and a certificate showing the emmision reductions.

Also correct me if I am wrong but was'nt LPG considered a waste product a few years ago and was just flared off.
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Old 4 Sep 2005, 09:28 (Ref:1398381)   #16
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Just watch the price of LPG creep up as people convert to it and the goverment starts losing petrol revenue.

Or maybe they have foreseen this which is why they want to switch the tax to a country wide variable congestion charge!!!!
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Old 4 Sep 2005, 09:58 (Ref:1398422)   #17
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Old 4 Sep 2005, 09:59 (Ref:1398423)   #18
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Well it is fixed till 2007 at least. Are you at Snetterton Denis? If so I will be there, can't miss me the car is like a giant bumble bee!
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Old 4 Sep 2005, 14:08 (Ref:1398585)   #19
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Yes. Based on the last three races I did I'll be the small red buzzy thing pumping oil all over my tyres and the circuit.
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Old 4 Sep 2005, 14:57 (Ref:1398651)   #20
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...surely LPG has far lower carbon and C02 emmissions proved by the fact that motors running on LPG never need decarbonising and the oil remains clean indefinitely.
Not at all. Stoichiometric mixtures of LPG and petrol produce virtually identical FeQe (1275 btu for petrol vs. 1270 for LPG), therefore they release virtually identical amounts of carbon per kilometer travelled (in otherwise identical vehicles, of course). LPG is injested by the engine as a gas so enjoys a more complete compustion in the chamber as compared to petrol, which accounts for most if not all of the carbonizing one sees in road engines, as well as for the reduction in released NOx and hydrocarbons (the principle ingredients in 'smog'.)

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This is the reason in London England where we hae a punitive £8 ($15) charge to go into the city if your vehicle is running on LPG the fee is waived. Also the government pay part of the charge for the conversion if the vehicle is less than a year old. I have just bought a 1999 Chevy Blazer for towing, a vehicle I am sure you are familiar with, and this has an LPG conversion and a certificate showing the emmision reductions.
Punitive charges are by definition political and have nothing to do with science. Your Blazer's engine has its design roots in the 1950's, complete with downdraft carbuetor and wet intake runners. I'm confident converting it to LPG dramatically reduces emissions!

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Also correct me if I am wrong but was'nt LPG considered a waste product a few years ago and was just flared off.
Until broader markets for LPG developed post-WW2 most gases were flared off at the well-head, including LPG. From an environmental perspective flaring them off was probably better than simply releasing them into the atmosphere, since propane (the principle ingredient in LPG) is an extremely efficient greenhouse gas; much more so than CO2.

Surely there are tradeoffs in using different fuels, but my point remains that there are no 'freebies' in hydrocarbon-fueled motor racing. The objective is to win the race, and a primary means of doing so is to make the most power possible within the engine rules, irrespective of the fuel used. That's going to produce remarkably similar emissions at the same technology level, irrespective of the chosen fuel.
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Old 4 Sep 2005, 18:50 (Ref:1398863)   #21
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I was always under the impression that you added Nitro Methane to make methanol do its stuff properly . I am sure Ian-W will tell me .
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Old 4 Sep 2005, 19:30 (Ref:1398905)   #22
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I was always under the impression that you added Nitro Methane to make methanol do its stuff properly . I am sure Ian-W will tell me .
"do its stuff" can mean many things. Nitro-methane is a a `booster'. Methanol will give a certain power, adding "Pixie Dust" or various blends adds more power and of course creates more tuning/operating requirements.

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Old 4 Sep 2005, 19:51 (Ref:1398931)   #23
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Mmmm Nitro-Methane.

Booom!

This brings us to the interesting thread that re-surfaced recently about Top Fuel drag racing engines.

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Old 4 Sep 2005, 20:01 (Ref:1398937)   #24
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I have no personal experience with nitro-methane but I know that it is a 'fuel' ( or more precisely an explosive ) in its own right. As I understand Top-Fuel dragsters run on 100% Nitro-methane.

Nitro-methane is mixed with methanol ( and oil ) for use in 2 stroke glow-plug model airplane engines. The Nitro obviously gives extra performance. I dont know of any racing engine that runs on a nitro-methane / methanol mix.
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Old 4 Sep 2005, 20:40 (Ref:1398991)   #25
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Hey Dauntless with respect I think you are incorrect on the LPG issue.

For a start this labour government would not give nothing away without reason, also unless the LPG equipped vechile meets a minimum reduction in emmisions it is not certified for no congestion charge. A friend of mine found this out to his great cost when he bought a very small engined car for his daily journey into the City of London and had it converted to LPG. Unfortunately this vehicle was originally so effiecient the percentage gains required for the congestion charge to be waivered could not be met.

Also my 1999 Blazer has the Fuel injected V6 Vortex engine fitted and where as I know the small block chevy goes back to the 50's the V6 only appeared much later. Also there is nothing wrong with the engine design and as you guys say 'If it aint broke don't fix it', any weekend you will see thousands of these venerable engines used to great effect in racing all over the world.
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