Interview with Karl Jacob, the man behind the 1000 horsepower E85 Viper

Karl Jacob, the man behind the E85 Viper we featured the other day, was recently interviewed by AutoblogGreen. He said he hopes to clear up some misinformation on ethanol and share his experiences with our readers. So, without further ado, Karl Jacob:

ABG: The first question on many minds is probably What made yo do it? What made you choose ethanol as a fuel source?

KJ: The main cause was kind of, building a performance car, as a kid I was a car nut. When we were building the car, we were thinking about what sort of modifications were to be made, we had to decide if we were going to go "pretty hard-core" or whether we were going to go all the way. Ron Jr. called and kind of convinced me to "go all the way", and in the same phone call, he said to me, "have you heard about this stuff called E85", which I had, and I asked, well, what does that have to do with it? He said, well you know it has 105 octane, and then it started to make sense. The idea that you could make a high-performance car and run it on a renewable fuel was really exciting. And we thought that if we could show that there was a performance advantage to using that instead of, say a race fuel, that we could have a real positive impact.

[Note - At this point, I mentioned that in my editorial about ethanol, there was a story about at least one time where he had already done that. Check it out if you haven't.]

ABG: What was required in the conversion?

Keep reading after the break for the rest of the interview.

KJ: There were really two major factors, and it's interesting that this is one of the major areas of misinformation. One is, if you want to get all you can out of E85, you have to take advantage of the higher octane. That really requires turbocharging, at least today. We were already going to use turbochargers, so that figured easily into the equation. So, a couple of things that also had to be changed in the fuel system, such as the fuel lines that obviously had to be changed when you are dealing with alcohol, there are people trying to do it in their stock cars, and bad things are happening. The other thing is that it behaves a lot differently than gas, in that it burns a lot cooler, so you essentially needed a different set of timing, a separate amount of fuel and everything like that, so basically you had to tune the car a lot differently for E85. This is where Ron Jr. and his team showed that they know what they are doing, because they came up with the idea to use one of these engine management computers to switch the map when using different fuels. This would allow us to literally run any type of fuel in the car by switching the map.

A lot of the "flex-fuel" vehicles that you hear about don't really take advantage of E85 because they don't use a different fuel map when using E85, and they are normally aspirated. So they don't really take advantage of the higher octane.

ABG: For the readers of AutoblogGreen, do you have any estimates on the price of converting your car to run on ethanol?

KJ: Our view is that we see two types of conversions coming. One is called the "Performance Conversion", meaning your aim is to get another 100-150 horsepower, and that is where you will come up with the extra cost. Which is normal for those looking for extra performance in their car.

And then there is the market for just a straight ethanol conversion, if you want to call it a "flex-fuel conversion". It is difficult to set a price on the latter, because if you mass-produce it, the price will come down. So, it's hard for me to hazard a guess. I suppose if you just went out and did it the hard way, just going out and buying all the parts, you are looking at a few thousand dollars. The real cost is the computer. I think it would be reasonable to get that down if there were a lower-end computer specifically designed to allow the use of E85 and nothing else. Again, the problem with so many of the flex-fuel vehicles out there today is that they are using engines that are designed for gas, and then putting in a fuel that is 105 octane and burns much cooler than gasoline in them, they are just going to get horrible gas mileage. And I think that they are actually doing a disservice to the fuel.

ABG: Do you think that this makes "green sense" for those wanting to do a conversion on their car as an impact on the environment?

KJ: Absolutely. People ARE going to buy performance vehicles. There are a lot already on the road today, and a lot more being built. For all those people who build performance cars, if E85 were to become the fuel of choice, that would make a huge impact on the environment. Is one car going to make a difference? No. But, that is not what this is about. It's about convincing people that they can have their cake and eat it to. They can buy a still performance vehicle; and these are generally people who can afford to do a conversion. We can get them to make a choice. Like it or not, these are not the type of people who are going to go buy a hybrid car, unless they can get the same performance out of it than they could get out another their Ferrari, and that is just not the case right now.

ABG: Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to do an interview with us.

KJ: Thanks for doing it, it's nice to have people appreciate the work that you do.

Interview ends.

We plan to continue to follow this story. Based on the comments on our previous post, there is a great deal of controversy on the subject. Karl has more plans for this project. You can stay tuned to AutoblogGreen and also follow his progress at his site. Karl has been gracious enough to provide us with some "extra information" that will be relayed to our users in the future. Lastly, we are planning on getting up-close and personal with the E85 Viper in the coming weeks. Expect to see more exclusive coverage of the vehicle on these pages.

p.s. - As tuning continues, please note that the horsepower total has recently passed 1100. Not bad for the corn power camp! Don't yell at me, I know there are better sources for ethanol than corn.


[Source: Karl Jacob]

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