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post #1 of 10 Old 11-14-2006, 02:27 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 57
Drunken KLR?

Hey all, has anyone set up a beast to run ethanol or E85 yet?
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post #2 of 10 Old 11-15-2006, 10:00 AM
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I worked at a Department of Energy national laboratory for 21 years as a mechanic. Beginning in the mid eighties, we recieved test fleets of cars and trucks from the big three manufacturers to sort out E85 and M85 usage. To make a long story short, here are some general facts to consider before trying an alchohol conversion.

Alchohol contains roughly half the BTUs as gasoline. You will need to burn twice as much to achieve the same level of power. You would need a carb that was E85 compatable and capable of flowing the x2 fuel and air. You would need to raise the compression to roughly 12.5-1 to get proper combustion. All rubber, including the petcock and lines, would need to be alchohol compatable. The gas tank would corrode so you would need a plastic, compatable tank. Ignition would need to be retarded considerably to achieve a proper flame front and burn time. Fuel range would be cut in half. You would not be able to switch back and forth to unleaded, the cars that can do that have alchohol content sensors that alter the fuel and ignition curve mapping in the ecm to match content.

It would be do-able, but the benefits would not be cost effective by the time you did the engineering and bought the parts.
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post #3 of 10 Old 11-15-2006, 12:09 PM
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Good info Ham. Less mpg and less power is no good at all. I guess it may be good for emissions? but overall I'd say it has no real benifits for a motorcycle. Even if a bike was factory built for E85 I still see no real benifits from it. There seems to be a lot of hype with this subject and it's good to hear from someone who has direct knowledge about it.
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post #4 of 10 Old 11-15-2006, 12:59 PM
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There is no big benefit from emissions with alchohol based fuels per se. One of the combustion by-products is formaldahyde and is deadly in low concentrations. Alchohol based fuels are readily absorbed through the skin and can be very toxic, M85 being extra bad. The main benefit comes from being a renewable resource. Illinois has a new E85 plant near Watseka and there is another midwest plant to be built soon. In my opinion, the greatest potential for alchohol based fuels is the use of them in fuel / electric hybrid applications. Hybrids are getting the lions share of R&D work in the alternative fuel arena and to the last of my knowledge, E85 is the fuel of choice. Unfortanately, most of the more successful testing has been in very compact cars and the American public isn't ready to give up the land yachts. I have seen motorcycle hybrids running E85. Most of them have been pretty low powered around the town jobs.

California has hydrogen fueled motorcycles being sold and used on the roads in very limited numbers. I recently read an article about these. They are said to be nearly silent in use. The loud pipes saves lives crowd will have to look elsewhere.
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post #5 of 10 Old 11-15-2006, 04:15 PM
Join Date: Oct 2006
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One other thing to consider is that E85 stations are pretty much a midwest ONLY sort of thing. If you wander more than a few hundred miles from home, you're going to be in a bad way. Once you're jetted for alcohol, you'll be way too rich to run gasoline. E85 can't be piped for 2 reasons and has to be trucked. First, it collects water which collects impurities and second it's corrosive and no one wants it eating their already insanely expensive pipeline.

I've seen this alcohol buzz before. This is not a new technology or a new idea. It's just recycled junk science. It will die out as soon as the price of oil drops again just like it did in the '70s and again in the '80s. Manufaturers aren't making any plans to produce any E85 only cars because they know this buzz will die off just like it did before and the Flex fuel cars will still run fine on gasoline but they will have an extra useless component. In the meantime, GM gets to produce gas hogs and due to some insane political stuff, they get to lie about their fuel mileage.

Oh yeah, the E85 will melt the rubber and plastic parts in your carb, it will corrode the aluminum in your carb, you would need to anodize the aluminum in your cylinder head, you would need to either coat your fuel tank (it's not stainless) or use a plastic tank which probably isn't legal in your state. Your present fuel lines won't hold together for more than two hours, the plastic in your petcock will melt and you'll need a stainless exhaust system pretty soon because your stock pipe will disintegrate real fast.

Did I miss anything?

BTW I am an environmental activist type. I'll jump down your throat for "De-Californicating" your KLR in a second. I also know that this stuff is a fad and it's quite potentially more damaging to the environment than gasoline.
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post #6 of 10 Old 11-16-2006, 12:17 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 57
Hey all, thanks for posting. The thing is, i don't want to depend on oil for fuel, I'd like to be able to brew my own.

Hydrogen bikes?

What other fuels would be worth considering?

As far as the law goes here, it's gotta have a headlight, a mirror, a horn and DOT tires to be street legal, and I've got an IMS tank on the way. So i'd need something like a 60mm slide type thottle body and an anodized head? Maybe get some power back with forced induction, a small turbo? I'm tossing around the idea of building a normalizing turbo for the beast next summer anyway for keeping sea level upper deck pressure at 10k and higher. I know, it'll have to be a closed system with the fuel vents and stuff plumbed into the upper deck, but it don't seem like too difficult of a project to turbo it.

Has anyone done a hybrid bike yet?
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post #7 of 10 Old 11-16-2006, 07:57 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
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Look into Butanol.

I have a lot of reasons why ethanol is a poor choice but this isn't a political thread and this isn't the place. I think you'll find butanol to be a much more suitable replacement fuel that you can produce at home (fairly) efficiently. Just be careful when you start making your own fuel because it can go boom and make sure you get the proper permits before building a still. The ATF guys can make your life miserable and they'll toss you to the tender mercies of the EPA as soon as they're done with you.

If you are preparing for some sort of doomsday scenario, don't bother. The enzymes and such that you will need for the process won't be available and stuff like that has a shelf life. If you're thinking in the survialist mindset, I'd recommend a horse and a good place to hide as quietly as possible. Motor vehicles and guns make noise which will get unwanted attention. :twisted:
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post #8 of 10 Old 11-16-2006, 09:35 AM
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One major problem you would encounter with brewing your own fuel is BATF regulations.

The reasons that alchohol fuels have 15 percent gasoline is:

a. Safety, because alcohol burns clear gasoline colors the flame.

b. Bureau of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms (BATF) regulations regarding distilling. 15 percent effectively poisons the fuel rendering it unfit for human consumption.

I don't know the actual number of gallons per year you can brew without fed trouble but I think it is around 15. Even then, you may need a tax stamp. You should research the law before proceeding because the fed does not have a sense of humor.

Personnally, I think that it would be a great project and you might want to see about goverment grant dollars to help you out. I am including a link here from my former employer.


During my time with alternative fuels we also had a fleet using compressed natural gas. Again, half the BTUs of gasoline. This would be easier to rig up on a motorcycle but you would need to be located near a refueling station as the pump pressures are 2200 lbs. Don't even think about trying to compress it yourself, way too dangerous.

Here is the link to the hydrogen motorcycle. This looks promising.


I don't recall and couldn't locate the E85 hybrid motorcycle that I read about. A modified Honda generator, some lithium batteries, and an efficient motor would put you in business fairly cheap. Most of the motorcycle testbeds that I have seen have been built around mountain bike components.

If you have access to E85 at the pumps, experimenting with a rat bike could prove interesting. I strongly advise using chemical resistant gloves and barrier creme before handling the fuel. I have several stations in my area that sell it at the pump. One thing to consider when using E85 is the oil dilution problem. Twice the fuel with slow burn speeds = more ring blowby and oil dilution. It requires rings with sealed endgaps, something that wouldn't work well on a large displacement thumper.

I have toyed with building an MPG test mule along the way, though never really persued it. Don Vetter, of Vetter Fairings, held competitions for MPG and one contestant managed 477 MPg.

It would be worth a look at the new breed diesels that run on bio-fuel. That would be a real breeze to rig up on a cycle.

Keep us updated, I'm interested. I just did maintenance and troubleshooting on the test fleets so really can't provide much from an engineering standpoint.
ham! is offline  
post #9 of 10 Old 11-16-2006, 10:13 AM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 143
Ok, this is what I would do within your criteria.

Locate a Deutz single cylinder diesel. These are used for stationary equipment, such as highway arrowboards and signboards. You should be able to locate a servicable one with a little scouting around for cheap, maybe E-bay. Couple it to a Harley primary and transmission, maybe early 45 cubic inch stuff. Some machine work probably required. Run it on biodiesel. The Deutz diesels are available in several HP ranges. They are pretty small in size, for a diesel. Here is a link to brewing biodiesel:


Plenty of info on biodiesel on the NET.

You would probably want to use a Harley frame for fitment and titled ones can be found cheap - thanks to the chopper boys.

I bet a good running copy could be built for under $2500 using used parts. It would require an external alternator but hooking up a GM S-10 (not the truck) single wire conversion would be simple.

:?: :?: :?: :?: :?:
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post #10 of 10 Old 11-16-2006, 11:29 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 595
Yeah, biodiesel is the way to go. Because a motor that is set up as well as Hayes Diversified's can basically run on piss and vinegar. Heck, in a pinch you could run karosene, which is cheap and plentiful.

Here's that deutz engine:


Here's another company that makes small displacement diesel engines:

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