'Green' race cars speed into focus at Argonne

October 8, 2010 (CHICAGO)

"Depending on the track, you can get them up to about 160 miles an hour. So they really clip right along," said Dalton Zehr about the 2010 Chevy Camaro he's working on at, Argonne National Laboratory transportation.anl.gov. But it's not your ordinary hot rod. "What we have here is an all-aluminum construction V-8 race engine, 6.2 liters."

The vehicle's been tricked out by research engineers at Argonne National Laboratory, transportation.anl.gov. Forrest Jehlik leads Argonne's green racing program.

"We've taken a circle-track car, integrated a modern, all aluminum, fuel-injected engine that runs on sustainable E-85 fuel. And on top of that we've benchmarked and used catalytic converters," said Jehlik.

E-85 is an alcohol-based renewable fuel. It can be made from corn or even lawn clippings and costs under three-bucks a gallon.

"The traditional circle track race car would use a carbureted engine and in some cases use leaded race fuel which they buy at the track for maybe $10 a gallon and that's really 1950s technology," Jehlik.

Jehlik hopes that race car drivers and manufacturers are motivated to use more sustainable practices when they see this test car running faster and cheaper. But he's really wants to impact the 20 million American fans who follow the sport -- possibly creating a higher demand for cleaner burning flex-fuel vehicles.

"We are really hoping that what we can do is start a grassroots movement for people that want to use this renewable fuel in their everyday transportation. So if they see that it goes faster and better in a race car and it's durable, why can't they use that in a regular everyday car?" said Jehlik.

In lab tests, researchers say their race car picks up over two-tenths of a second per lap on a half-mile track compared to traditional cars. They are planning to put their cars to their first real-world test at Oktoberfest Race weekend in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, oktoberfestraceweekend.com.

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