Update: Indy cars used a mix of 90 percent methanol and 10 percent ethanol. Indy switched over to 100 percent ethanol in 2007 and the improved mileage comes from the higher energy content of ethanol over methanol.

In the video above from the Sundance Channel show, Big Ideas for a Small Planet, an Indy race car driver says he gets better mileage on ethanol. First he says racing can be green, that the car gets more power on ethanol and then he says he gets a lot better mileage. So much better mileage, in fact, they had to shrink the size of the fuel tank. Here is the exact quote:

First thing that we've noticed with the transition, from the ten percent to hundred percent ethanol this year, is that we have a broader power band and more torque. So the car is pulling better and accelerating better out of the corner. We also have gotten a lot better mileage, so we are reducing the size of the fuel cell from 30 gallons down to 22 gallons. We are out there testing this under the toughest conditions that we can and that's going to make better-performing cars that can run ethanol more efficiently out on the road.

FYI, "fuel cell" in Indy race cars are just fuel tanks and have nothing to do with hydrogen fuel cells. Anyway, this is the tipping point for me. I think it's high time we get some serious money behind researching and getting to market technology that makes ethanol more efficient than gas. If half of what this Indy racer (and this study) says are true, ethanol engine technology should be the first and central focus ahead of hybrids or hydrogen.

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[Source: Sundance Channel via Hulu on AOL]

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