Think ethanol doesn't work in boats? Think again

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2016 - Ask most boaters about ethanol and boats and you'll likely hear that the two don't go together. In fact, many gas stations surrounding some of the largest U.S. lakes will advertise “no ethanol in our fuel” as a way to attract customers.

But the ethanol industry has a plan to correct those misperceptions and part of that involves showing how ethanol-powered performance boats can go fast……really fast.

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Last year, a 51-foot catamaran named after its fuel source, “American Ethanol” won the “Top Gun” award at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in central Missouri by logging a top speed of 208 mph and besting nearly 100 other boats. It's a single-boat format with a boat entering the open lake course and running as fast as possible for 1 mile.

The boat, with quad 1,700-hp engines, is owned by longtime Shootout participant Don Onken, a Mason County, Illinois corn and soybean farmer who also owns Oil Filter Recyclers and Onken Racing and Lightning Performance Group. And this year the boat was back in even better form, demonstrating the power of ethanol, and hitting a record 217 mph.

“If they (boaters) want to go fast and set a world record, they might want to use ethanol,” Onken told Agri-Pulse after the race. “It out performs any racing fuel there is.”

Onken says he “gave away his secret” three to four years ago when other racing companies found out he was running on ethanol. Now, 20 to 30 other performance boats have converted and he expects more to come.

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“It outperforms any racing fuel there is,” he adds.

For standard engines, marine engine manufacturers like Mercury say that fuels containing up to 10 percent ethanol are considered acceptable for use. “Fuels containing higher levels of ethanol are not considered acceptable for use, and the use of fuels containing ethanol higher than 10 percent can void the warranty,” according to Mercury.  

This story was updated at 3:00 pm.

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