Electric Cars – Iffy, Alcohol Cars – A Sure Thing

November 23, 2022 |
By Dave Stoltz
Special to The Digest
Electric cars for our entire light duty vehicle fleet as Governor Newsom and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) want are iffy.
The key word to not getting ourselves into the same predicament that we’re in right now with finite energy resources is RENEWABLE!  Electric cars are powered by batteries made of cobalt, and lithium. The motors use rare earth elements. All of these are finite, and none are renewable. These elements come from the earth, just like oil. Add to that the fact that most of them come from third world countries.
Then there’s the electricity to charge up those batteries. Next time you’re in a traffic jam in a big city, imagine all those cars plugged in, getting charged up for the next day’s drive to work. We’re already having rolling black outs nationwide with our current energy consumption and grid! To power 280,000,000 light duty vehicles, we would need 1.5 trillion KWHrs of electricity or almost doubling generating capacity in the US.
If you are thinking, “Oh my solar panels will fix that”, you’re wrong. Unless you have an expensive bank of batteries at your home that can store all that solar electricity, inevitably you’re going to be charging your car from the grid. A Tesla Powerwall will set you back $14,485 for 13.3 KWHrs which will take you about 30 miles.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, most of the US’s electricity was generated by petroleum, natural gas, nuclear power, and coal in 2020. 72% of China’s electricity comes from coal. 84% of Europe’s electricity comes from petroleum, natural gas, nuclear power, and coal. This is what you are charging your electric car with!
Finally, there’s the question of what we are going to do with all those dead batteries. Go back to being in that traffic jam, now think of all those cars at the end of their lives needing the batteries or the whole car replaced.  A Tesla car has between 2976 and 7920 battery cells that weigh between 1000 to 1200 lbs, depending on the model. They say that they can be recycled. But can they? https://www.science.org/content/article/millions-electric-cars-are-coming-what-happens-all-dead-batteries.  There are many issues that need to be addressed with lithium-ion battery recycling. I really think it’s a mistake to depend on that to ever happen on a large, cost-effective scale.
Now, EVs are certainly going to have a place powering local delivery vehicles since they go back to a central depot at night for charging and stop and start all the time so they get the efficiency of regenerative braking. Garbage trucks and buses should go to hydrogen fuel cells since the batteries to power them would weigh more than the garbage or the passengers. But if we try to replace the majority of our light duty vehicles with EVs we are going to be at the mercy of third world countries to supply us with the materials necessary to run our cars. Does that sound familiar?
Alcohol powered cars are a sure thing. You better believe it.
Alcohol is RENEWABLE. To clarify, when I speak of alcohol, I’m talking about bio-ethanol made from biomass. In the US, the highest percentage of ethanol you can get in fuel is 85%, the other 15% is gasoline. It’s called E-85.
Here’s the fantastic, renewable part: alcohol can be made from any biomass. In many cases it’s a byproduct of another valuable resource.  Let’s take corn for an example. Over 80% of all corn in the US is grown for animal feed, and almost all of it for cattle. Have you been to the market and seen beef labeled “grass fed”? That’s because grass is what a cow is supposed to eat. But as you can see by the price on the beef package, it’s more expensive. That’s why most cattle are fed corn.
Corn makes them sick, that’s why the cow needs to be filled with antibodies and other drugs to keep them healthy until they get to market. The element in corn that makes them sick is the starch. Now here’s the kicker, when you make alcohol from corn, all it uses is the starch. What’s left is something called distillers grain. Turns out that distillers grain makes great feed for cattle! So, when people say, “You shouldn’t be using food for fuel”, I say “We’re making fuel and making better food”.  Another great natural producer of alcohol are cattails, one of nature’s best water purifiers. They can be grown in gray water ponds to clean the water and can be harvested to make alcohol. Another natural win-win.
Here is one of the best things about alcohol: nobody can control it, and anybody can make it. The moonshiners have proved that throughout history. I think the fact that anybody can make it is why the governments and the big corporations are so afraid of it. They won’t have control. It would be a true free market.
So what should we do? Simply ban the sale of all new light duty vehicles that burn gasoline and let consumers, not the CARB or Governor Newsom, decide what they want to buy – EVs, H2Vs, or bio-ethanol vehicles.
Now let’s look at some of the long-lasting misconceptions about alcohol powered vehicles. One of the big ones is that alcohol damage your car. Does it? NO! I’ve been running it in my 1987 Toyota pickup for 15 years. Other than tuning the carburetor to have the correct mixture of fuel to air, I did nothing else to the truck. I didn’t change the hoses; I didn’t change any of the metal components that come in contact with the alcohol, and everything is fine. I’ve also put at least a 1/4 of a tank of alcohol in just about every vehicle I’ve owned; they’ve all loved it. They’ve been running alcohol in race cars since the 1930s.
Most car manufacturers have offered Flex Fuel vehicles in the past. Flex Fuel vehicles can run on E-85 or gasoline or any mixture of the two. There are no differences in the materials used in a Flex Fuel vehicle or a gasoline only vehicle. The difference is in the computer that determines the air to fuel ratio. In most gasoline only cars after 1985, you can run up to 50% E-85. Just remember that alcohol will not damage your car! Even if you put more then 50% E-85 in your gas only car, the worst thing that could happen is your check engine light might come on, and it could also make the engine idle a little rough. But as soon as you add more gasoline, it will all go away.
I encourage everybody to find a station near you that sells E-85 and put at least a few gallons in your car to support the cause. This is a good link to find the stations near you.  https://eflexfuel.com/us/e85-stations#/find/nearest?fuel=E85 . This link is from a company that sells Flex Fuel conversion kits. I’m buying one for my wife’s 2012 Honda Pilot so we can run any amount of alcohol.
One of the drawbacks of running your Flex Fuel vehicle on E-85 is that you do get less MPG. The price of E-85 is usually between 20% and 30% cheaper than gasoline, so you end up with about the same miles per dollar.   The reason that your mileage goes down when running E-85 in a Flex Fuel vehicle is because the car must be able to run on gasoline too. That doesn’t allow you to take advantage of the unique benefits of the alcohol.
After I ran my Toyota pickup on E-85 for a few years, I decided to prove that if an engine was built to run on only E-85, you could get your MPG back. I won’t go through the technical stuff I did to the engine, but I will tell you it worked. I’m now getting a little bit better mileage on E-85, then I did on gasoline. I can no longer run the truck on gasoline, so about once a month I go the closest station that sells E-85 and fill up my tank and my five 5-gallon jugs. I can usually include it in a trip to that area for something else. If we had stations everywhere that sold ethanol, like they do by law in Brazil, we could build ethanol only cars and get the mileage back. Every gallon of E-85 you put in your car will get us closer to that goal.
A few years ago, the E-100 Group https://e100ethanolgroup.com/home, took a brand-new Ford Focus and modified the engine to optimize it for ethanol. After they were done with the modifications, they took it to an EPA certified test lab in Fullerton, CA and had the results documented.  The test showed again that an engine set up to run on ethanol could get as good mileage as it did on gasoline.
Back in 2005 I spent two weeks in Brazil; it was very educational. I became friends with a guy I worked with who was from Brazil named Joal. He was in the states while his wife was going to school in San Francisco. When Joal left to go back home, he invited me to visit him, and of course I took him up on the offer. One day we went on a drive out into the Brazilian countryside where there was nothing around. We came upon a car with its hood up alongside the road. We pulled over and Joal asked what was wrong. The guy said he was out of fuel, so he got into our car, and we went to find him some. As I said before, we were out in the middle of nowhere. So finally, we come into this small village with no gas stations. We stop at a market and my friend goes in and comes out with two bottles of cheap whiskey. We go back to the guy’s car and dump the two bottles in the tank. He gets in, starts it up, thanks us, and drives off. Now try that in a gasoline or electric car!
In Brazil they don’t mess around with 85% ethanol like we do, they run 100%. Because of these policies, Brazil has totally become energy independent, a goal that the US has been trying to do for decades.
Did you know that you won’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning in a closed garage with a car running on 100% alcohol? Alcohol burns clean. When I was a kid, my dad used to heat our garage with a coffee can filled with alcohol burning on the floor. All the doors were closed. Not too fire safe, but we were nice and warm.
There are many additional ethanol myths and misconceptions. Here is a link to find out more:
One last story. In 1972 at Newport Beach CA. I met my future wife. I was sitting on the beach, and I saw this cute girl sitting by herself. After getting up the nerve, I walked over to talk to her.During our conversation, I told her I raced cars. She said she didn’t like racing. When I asked her why, she said because of the pollution. I instantly told her that we run alcohol in these kinds of cars, and it doesn’t pollute. The following weekend she went to her first race and has been going ever since. We’ve been married for 48 years. Another benefit of alcohol powered cars!
Please take what you’ve learned here today and commit yourself to finding a better way forward. Let’s not repeat the energy dependent, polluting, non-renewable cycle. Go out and embrace a better future by supporting all biofuels as much as you can, especially natural, renewable, non-polluting bio-ethanol!
Dave Slotz can be reached at [email protected]

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