Making Cars Ethanol-Ready

an E85 fuel pump
Alkol’s engine conversion process makes taking advantage of E85 fuel easier.
(cc) Chazz Layne

A Delaware company called Alkol Inc. is bringing to the United States, Europe, and other regions a new technology that allows any late-model fuel injection car to run on an E85 blend of gasoline and ethanol. And the conversion can be completed in less than 1 hour.

The technology Alkol employes originated in Brazil, not surprising considering the country has been running cars on 100% ethanol for over 36 years and no longer offers 100% gasoline for sale. (Even Premium fuel in Brazil contains 24% ethanol.) Brazil has more ethanol cars than gasoline cars, and 80% of all new cars sold there are flex-fuel capable.

Alkol cites several advantages of ethanol as a fuel. Depending on the production and distribution methods, it can be almost 20% cheaper than regular gasoline. It allows the engine to run cleaner, due to the inherent cleaning properties of the fuel. With less wear on the engine, the resale value of the car increases. Ethanol burns cleaner and does not carry the lead and other heavy metals found in gasoline.

Alkol’s system, called 1HourFlex, has 3 components: an Electronic Converter that alters the fuel injectors’ timing, an Ignition Remapper which alters the spark plugs’ firing time, and a Cold Start System which allows the engine to quickly start on cold days. (Ethanol requires higher temperatures than gasoline to run properly.)

The company sells the individual components of its conversion system to anyone who wishes to install it, but Alkol’s main focus is on the conversion service.

Al Costa, Alkol’s CEO, notes that converting a car to run properly on ethanol is not as simple as the competitors try to make it look. “Flexing a car improperly can lead you to a number of problems, such as the engine failing when most needed, ridiculously high fuel consumption which basically nulls any savings you could get from the new fuel, fuel injectors clogging, even the fuel pump burning up, etc. That’s why we focus on installing whatever we know that the car will need to properly work without the customer having to do anything.”

Because of its ethanol-rich Brazilian ancestry, Alkol provides an experience level no competitor in the United States can match. It offers a complete system, while competitors typically only offer a conversion box that has to be installed by the car owner and that does not address all issues. “For example, if you live in a cold state I dare you to start your engine on a cold morning without having a cold start system like ours”, Costa says.

Further, Costa notes that other products on the market require some kind of fine tuning, while Alkol’s solution is fully automated. “The existing solutions require the driver to find the best setting for the engine. Problem is that there isn’t such a thing: an engine requires different settings when in idle and in run mode, so what ends up happening is the driver chooses a setting that fits no mode at all. Our technology monitors the gas pedal and engine O2 sensor, altering the way fuel is injected in real time, and requiring therefore no user intervention whatsoever”.

Finally, Alkol claims its ignition remapper system has no parallel and is key to proper functioning. “Ethanol requires higher compression rates than gasoline to properly work. Our ignition remapper system alters the spark plug firing time allowing for higher rates and therefore offering more power and therefore more savings”, Costa notes.

Based in Wilmington, Delaware, Alkol is expanding in the U.S. market and is negotiating cooperatives between its 1HourFlex installation service and E85 fuel stations. It anticipates a price of approximately US$900 for a fully installed system.

Alkol Inc. is included in the GoingGreen 2009 Top 100 list in the Green Automobiles and Transportation category. The company’s CEO, Al Costa, will be a keynote speaker at the next Sustainability Panel to be held in Lisbon this November. He will also participate in the Biofuels Markets Event for Mexico & Central America, to be held in Mexico City on October 7th, and has been invited to the speakers’ panel at FAME 2010 Summit And Exhibition, taking place in September 2010 in Berlin, Germany.

Read Biofuels and Bioenergy: Processes and Technologies from Amazon.

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