Ethanol Muscle Cars

Well it had to happen. Just as we reported with delight back in 2006 on the imminent arrival of the Tesla Roadster, an all-electric car we estimate can top out somewhere north of 180 mph, last week we learned of a Dodge Viper that’s been modified to run on E85, a fuel blend that is 85% ethanol.

Karl Jacob’s E85 Viper

When I talked with owner Karl Jacob last week, he stated his Viper has already been clocked at 185 mph in the standing mile, and he’s gearing up to do another run with the goal of topping 195 mph. We’re looking forward to seeing Karl’s E85 Viper on display this September at the GoingGreen executive summit, an event for green technology investors and entrepreneurs that EcoWorld is co-hosting.

There are many ways to look at something like a Viper that runs on E85. It’s kind of like an incandescent light bulb – it may be an inefficient use of energy, but if the fuel comes from a clean and sustainable source, it’s nobody’s business how efficiently it’s used.

It’s interesting that the folks who are trying to take away our incandescents – claiming most electricity comes from coal, and therefore any inefficient use of electricity should be against the law – are not trying to discourage use of biofuel. After all, most biofuel comes from land where tropical rainforests once stood. But what’s encouraging about biofuel and electricity is not that today their predominant sources are destroyed rainforests and coal fired power plants, but where they will come from tomorrow. Both biofuel and electricity have the potential to be absolutely clean and sustainable – from cradle to cradle.

Electricity and biofuel are both attractive because the sources of these energies are various, and many of them have no negative environmental impacts whatsoever. Electricity can come from photovoltaics, or solar thermal arrays – some claim, not without good arguments, that nuclear power is safer than ever and will become a more significant source of electricity for the world. Biofuel feedstocks are being developed that can be grown within completely enclosed systems, where water (constantly reused), light and CO2 are the only inputs.

So bring on the high-performance clean vehicles, we say, and continue to explore free market solutions to environmental challenges, not rationing. It will be a poorer world if innovators like Karl Jacobs can’t burn rubber from time to time.

5 Responses to “Ethanol Muscle Cars”
  1. Karl Jacobs says:

    One thing I am curious about is the comment on the rainforest stuff. Right now most ethanol comes from corn, right? In the future it will come not from the corn but from the parts of the plant we don’t eat like the stalk. This is why Vinod and others are so stoked about cellulosic ethanol which is a fancy way of saying we get it from the part of corn/wheat we don’t eat.

  2. Ed Ring says:

    Karl: Most ethanol comes from sugar cane planted in areas that used to be Amazon rainforest. Sugar cane has twice the ethanol yield per area compared to corn. Cellulosic ethanol is great if it comes from waste streams such as sawdust or municipal solid waste, but problematic if it comes from corn and wheat refuse because this matter needs to be plowed back into the soil to prevent soil depletion. Cellulosic ethanol also could be extracted in the form of dry tinder removed from forests where if it weren’t removed it would just be burned in forest fires.

    Ideally however ethanol needs to come from factory enclosures – there are a few companies working on this today, such as LS9 and Amyris. That is the future of high volume, low impact ethanol production, in my opinion. I think in general there are not well defined – much less enforced – certification criteria for ethanol. If I were to compare the total environmental impact of ethanol from Amazonian sugar cane to petroleum from the Athabasca tar sands, I would choose the petroleum. But ethanol’s future is in factory production using feedstock grown in enclosed containers fed only recirculating water, CO2 and light. That is a promising possibility that is environmentally preferable to most if not all currently combustible fuels, and totally renewable.

  3. ed edmundson says:

    ethanol production was experimented with about 20 years ago in louisiana, where i’m from and a friend of our had a some ethanol production facility that used sugar cane, now they’re experiementing with sorghum… it doesn’t get as much publicity as corn ethanol in the midwest… but there are a lot of small biz folks in la and a lot of entreprenurial farmers… it’ll be fun to watch how this develops… but they need some long term subsidy commitments… i think they’ve done this in the past only to have it fold when the subsidies ran dry… small clip from an article below.

    Louisiana Green Fuels will be the first American ethanol producer to use sugar cane and sweet sorghum as raw material,” said Mauricio Guevara, manager of the unbuilt plant in Lacassine. “I have hope that this is good source for ethanol.”

  4. Muscle Car says:

    about ethanol why bother, when most of the people who just have a car for transportation gets a electric car we will have no troubles anymore, also a little note, Mearsk container ship from Denmark blast so much Co2 out as whole Denmark together, why dont any do anything about that, be cause thats not as easy as to punish the car owners who only has about 5% of the Co2 in the world.

  5. helmy says:

    Great article about hybrid cars.

    you can read more about ethanol cars on my site


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