Indycar Series to Use Pure Ethanol for 2007 Season

by : Jenny Mclane

Alternative fuels have been receiving much attention lately due to the increasing awareness of global warming and the dedication of the U.S. government to reduce dependency on foreign oil. Several companies in the alternative fuel industry have been making great leap in the development of fuels which can be substituted for gasoline.

Biodiesel is one of the alternative fuels being developed along with ethanol. Currently, there are already cars and vehicles on the road which run on fuel composed of ethanol and gasoline. The use of ethanol is widely supported by the government since it is proven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently, ethanol, as a substitute for gasoline, found a new ally in the form of the IndyCar Series. The open-wheel racing series highlighted by the famous Indianapolis 500 will use pure ethanol as its fuel for the upcoming season.

The series will be making motor sports history when it opens the season with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The racing series will be the first ever motor sport which will use pure ethanol as fuel for the supplied 3.5 liter Honda Indy V8 engines. The sport will be setting the record for a racing series to use a renewable fuel which is a step towards the "Greening of Racing".

Ethanol will replace methanol which has served as the fuel of choice for the series for over forty years. Tony Kanaan, the series' champion in 2004, has this to say about the use of ethanol: "The IndyCar Series jump to ethanol has been great. We are definitely on the right path with ethanol. There is more power with the new (3.5-liter Honda Indy V-8) engine. It runs clean and it is better for the environment. So it is a win-win situation, and that is great for the series. Ethanol is another alternative to gasoline. If we can show that the IndyCar Series cars can run ethanol, then it is good for everyone's street cars."

The use of ethanol in vehicles such as those used in racing is a good choice since the fuel possesses characteristics which suit the need for more power of these race cars. Ethanol has a higher octane rating than methanol. This means that ethanol resists premature detonation better than the previously used methanol.

Premature detonation reduces the amount of power generated per volume of fuel. Knocking also increases the fuel consumption since the engine needs to compensate for the loss of power by providing more fuel to be burned.

In cases of high performance vehicles, the 113 octane rating of ethanol is more desirable compared to the 107 octane rating of methanol. The fact that ethanol comes from agricultural products which are renewable adds to the appeal of the fuel as a substitute for gasoline and in the case of racing, methanol.

For all the power provided by ethanol, it produces fewer emissions than either gasoline or methanol. The cool looking cars of the series, although without headlights which makes them not applicable to have that of high quality headlights, are driven up to speeds of more than 230 miles per hour surely needed that extra power from ethanol.

The clean efficiency of ethanol has really received a good ally in the form of the series. The cars will have more power while producing less harmful emissions. And this means that both popular racing series, the alternative fuel industry, and the environment as well as the public will benefit from this action from IndyCar.