The Fan Connection: NASCAR Looks Back on a Year of E15 as the 2012 Season Kicks off in February
by Holly Jessen (Ethanol Producer Magazine) The basic message of 2011 was simple: If E15 is good enough for NASCAR racecars, it’s good enough for street cars too.
Backing up that message is the fact that NASCAR made no changes to the engines and very few changes to the vehicles overall to prepare for its switch from unleaded gasoline to E15, says Mike Lynch, director of green innovation for NASCAR. The only change to NASCAR racecars from 2010 to 2011 was a new fuel cell. Basically, racecars don’t have a hard gas tank like passenger cars—they use a bag supported by a structure. As a precaution, this container was swapped out for an alcohol-compatible component. “That’s not an engine performance component at all, it’s literally the gas tank,” he says. “Otherwise, under the hood, we were all good with where we were before.”
…Thanks to ethanol, racecar drivers saw a 5 to 10 percent increase in horsepower, depending on the race and the conditions. And, although critics often gleefully point to the fact that ethanol has one-third the energy density of gasoline, NASCAR really didn’t see a big loss in mileage, Lynch adds, saying the decrease wasn’t anything of note. “One of the things that makes it conducive to ethanol, without any adjustment whatsoever, is the higher compression ratio than would be typical for any street car,” he says. “It’s a 12 to 1 compression ratio, which is really key to taking advantage of the higher octane characteristics of ethanol and an ethanol blend.”
…NASCAR has three partners in rolling out fuel injection—McLaren Electronic Systems, Freescale Semiconductor and Bosch. Basically, says Steve Nelson, Freescale’s director of marketing for the Americas, it’s about bringing electronics into NASCAR racecars.
…Computerized fuel injection will allow for rapid and real-time adjustments that will add up to reductions in emissions and increased fuel efficiency. “The more electronics you put in, the more control you have,” he says.
…Second, fuel injection will help connect racecars with the passenger vehicles fans drive every day. “The customer sees ethanol at the pump, they see ethanol at the track, and now they see fuel injection at the track,” he says, adding that the electronics in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racecars are the same as the ones that go into passenger cars. READ MORE