Ethanol Fuels Power and Passion for Petrol-Heads

Ethanol Fuels Power and Passion for Petrol-Heads | The Cultivator Autumn 2019

Turbocharging an old station wagon really drove home the value of ethanol-enhanced fuels for the duo behind Mighty Car Mods, the world’s most-watched DIY online auto show.

Recently ranked among the most influential digital stars on the globe, Australian car enthusiasts Blair ’Moog’ Joscelyne and Marty Mulholland count some 2.8 million YouTube subscribers and up to 4.2 million monthly views for their handy and humorous demonstrations of at-home automotive improvements.

The pair first became fans of high-performance, ethanol-based fuels after nearly doubling the power of a 15-year-old Subaru by using E85 – a blend of 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent petrol.

Mr Mulholland said they picked up the stationwagon dubbed “Supergramps” for a couple of thousand dollars and “swapped the engine out for an EZ36, the biggest engine that Subaru makes”.

“Problem was, it was already super-high compression and we were going to turbocharge it,” he said.

“By using E85, we could raise the tuning headroom; adding more ignition timing and boost pressure – resulting in almost double the factory power of the original car with its original engine.”

From “filming videos on my mum’s driveway in 2008” to more than four million people watching every month, the duo recently ranked in the world’s top 12 digital influencers by Variety Magazine.

“We aim to empower our audience by teaching them skills they can use on their own cars, and regularly showcase projects they can do themselves on the weekend,” said Mr Mulholland.

“We often travel to different parts of the world, buy cars, and then road-trip them while exploring the local automotive culture.”

It was in the regional Australian town of Nowra, NSW, where the pair discovered the full potential of sustainable ethanol being produced locally at the biggest distillery in South East Asia, part of Manildra Group’s world-class Shoalhaven Starches facility.

Mr Mulholland said they were struck by the versatility of 100 per cent Australian ethanol for value-adding uses ranging from fuel to food and beverages and pharmaceuticals.

They were also surprised at how many Australian-made products used raw and refined materials made in the same plant that produces both household-grade and fuel-grade ethanol.

“There is always a lot of talk about future technologies, where they will take us and how clean they are,” Mr Mulholland said. “We’re excited about all of them, and one thing about renewables such as ethanol is that they are here, right now – we can create it from scratch in Australia, put it in a vehicle and go.

“One thing about renewables such as ethanol is that they are here, right now – we can create it from scratch in Australia, put it in a vehicle and go” – Marty Mulholland, Mighty Car Mods co-founder

“I’m a big fan of Australian-made and it’s great to add an Australian-made product to imported petrol to increase octane and improve performance.”

One of ethanol’s biggest benefits in fuel is octane – with E10 (a blend of 10 per cent ethanol and 90 per cent petrol) having a high-octane rating of 94.

“The E85 we often use is labelled at 107 octane, which gives you an idea how powerful the fuel is,” said Mr Mulholland.

“We often push the limits with engines, and E85 gives us the opportunity to get more power and better performance in our cars, just by switching fuel.

“The only other change required is to ensure the fuel system has the capacity to handle the extra fuel. You use more of it, but being a renewable resource, we’re happy with that.

“Once you’ve sampled how good E85 is in your car, it’s hard to go back to normal 98 octane petrol.

“When we travelled to the US to create our Subarute WRX – which we converted to run on E85 and filled up at fuel stations around California and Los Angeles – we got excellent power from the extra boost and timing we could cram into the engine.”

Mr Mulholland questioned “myths” around E10 being previously considered a lower-quality fuel, given its octane rating squarely in the middle of what is available and suitable for most cars.

“One of the issues with E85 in Australia is availability – it’s not at every pump so if you’re driving a car with a flex fuel system and want to use it, you have to plan your route. Luckily, I was able to find E85 from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland – where we built one of our cars – all the way back to Sydney, with a few small detours off the highway.”

Catch Mighty Car Mods on YouTube, Qantas in-flight entertainment, and regular events in major Australian cities.