Episode-755- Steven Harris on Making Alcohol Based Fuels at Home — 38 Comments

  1. Ummm…the email I got from Mr. Harris said the winner will be announced 9/30 or 10/01. Is THIS give away a separate giveaway from what is listed on the site?

    • @Ann E Ellis, no it is correct Steve set this all up based on his interview date because he didn’t realize his show would not air till this week. I think all the dates got updated except that one. You are in the right contest.

    • How does one use alcohol as a fuel for 2-cycle engines? What effect does alcohol have on fuel to oil mixtures??

  2. I entered the contest with no problem. Pretty good listen. I’m sure I’ll listen to it at least once more.

  3. I was able to enter the contest without a hitch. I also bought the kit. I just can’t wait to learn and try this out. I am hoping it is easy to follow all the directions. Knowing absolutely about this or how engines / cars work I was not to sure if I should spend the $ now. What I do know is that energy is one of the biggest obstacles in being self sufficient. Well unless you want to live like a caveman. I don’t. I also know how to read. I also know if I don’t put fourth the effort to learn something now then a year from now I still wont know anything. The biggest push for me to buy it? Well I am just giddy with the thought of being able to make my own fuel. If I could do it and surprise the Mr. then so much better. I know I have a ton of stuff to learn but I can do it. Thanks for bringing this opportunity to me.

  4. What an exciting concept… turning donuts into fuel. I’m sold!

    I’m not completely certain the time/effort is worth it on a small scale (just to supplement gasoline on an ongoing basis), but it would be a great option to have if gasoline prices skyrocket or if gas is hard to get (due to weather or something more long-term). The idea that you can run a car or a generator or any other equipment using this fuel pretty much clinches the deal.

    Great show – thanks for teaching me something completely new!

  5. Steve…I’m not an expert nor is this a smart@ss question but as I understand it your gasoline engine will burn more fuel using a blended (50/50 gas/eth. split) than regular gasoline because the blend messes up the stoichiometric ratio of straight gasoline. My question is…have you personally done the economics on this? Energy used in the distillation process + Materials (free donuts?) + mpg degradation? Also, are you concerned about corrosion (electrolysis) of your fuel system since ethanol carries an electric current and gasoline doesn’t? I am not worried about acid corrosion but I was a plumber in another life and have witnessed how quickly mild steel can degrade.

    Thanks…great show…..this is great info.

  6. @All just an FYI Steve is traveling for an onsite project all week. I am sure he will get to all your questions and comments at some point but it won’t be for a few days at least.

  7. GREAT SHOW! LOVE having Steven Harris on.

    Feedstock for fuel alcohol is always where I got stuck. Thanks for the ideas on old donuts, farm bread, and molasses. Looks like I gotta get me a distiller.

  8. lalalalalala ~ Wal Mart ~ lalalalalalala >:-( can’t hear you!

    I’ll look on I do not go to WMT!!!
    But I do want to get a kit and give this a try.
    As always, a great show.

  9. Hello Steven from a fellow Michigander and coworker when you where with Chrysler.. As you know Michigan is a big boating state and there is a huge up roar over this increase from 10 to 15 percent increase in etanhol in our gas because of the problems with phase seperation can you shed some light on that problem. Thanks

  10. Loved the show! It was interesting to learn that you could run your car on a mix like this. My question: are there other applications? For instance, could you mix the alcohol with gas and burn it in your old school Coleman stove, etc? Could you make a gelled alcohol product? Thanks for another great podcast!!

  11. If you are using electrity to power your still, how much would you be paying in electricity (say at $0.10 kWh) for a gallon of 192 proof alcohol?

  12. If someone could just verify what I believe I heard. So what Steve is saying is that even if my truck is not e85 branded (98 Ford Explorer 5.0L gasoline) I can still run a 50/50 mix of e85 and gasoline? E85 is considerably cheaper right up the road from my place so if I heard correct this would ease some of the fill up pain. Do I need to run a higher octane gasoline (ie “premium”) or will flat ol’ 89 octane be fine i the mix? Thanks ahead of time to anyone who can verify I heard what I thought I heard!

    • Yes Adam, this will work, I’ve done it with a 98 GMC Jimmy. Ethanol will clean gunk out of your fuel system so I’d recommend adding a gallon of e-85 per tank and work up to the blend that causes rough running or trips the check engine light, then back off a little and make sure to change your fuel filter as recommended. My family has about 250K miles on 4 vehicles using varied mixes of ethanol (mostly E-85 & only one is a factory flex-fuel). E-85’s octane is 106 so add that to 89 and you’ll be using higher octane for less $.

  13. Hi Steve

    If your using bread to make ethanol. How much does it take to make 10 gallons of fuel. Or that truck load you said you got on the podcast – how much fuel would that make?

  14. Interesting interview, but there were a few things I wasn’t clear on, or thought should have been highlighted a little more:

    -Don’t expect the same mileage out of a car designed to run on gasoline for ethanol mixtures, particularly those above ~20%. Ethanol has much lower volumetric energy density (the amount of energy you get per gallon) than gasoline (24 MJ/L for ethanol, 34.2 MJ/L for gasoline). Note that this’ll especially be true if you have significant amounts of water in your fuel (water not being know for it’s explosive properties).
    -I think you might want to have highlighted the warranty issue a bit more, as in some cases the warranty periods are significant for expensive bits of the engine (or emissions systems)
    -Ethanol is a decent solvent and so in older cars can cause crud (technical term, that) stuck in fuel lines/tanks to be released into the fuel system – watch your filters/carb jets if you switch to a higher percentage of ethanol

    Personally, I’m not really interested in increasing the ethanol concentration in my gasoline for my cars/motorcycles (especially not the later) given what I know of it – I would, however, be interested in something like the Koenigsegg CCXR (with an engine designed to take advantage of the higher effective ‘octane’ of ethanol – allowing for higher compression)…

  15. How about mixing the alcohol with kerosene and using that in a kero heater? Will that work? I could see powering the distiller with solar all summer long and storing the alcohol for later use heating in winter.

  16. Questions: 1st do you offer any lit on diesels? Making gas is fine but I have a diesel truck what can I use in it and how to make it? 2nd question do you offer info on making a car run off methane? And last is it possible to make a vehicle run off ethel alcohol and methane(not at the same time but one then switch to another like Ethel in the gas tank and a pressurized tank in the trunk)? Thanks for the info Jack and Steve.



  17. If mixing e85 and gas in the tank, would it be better to put in the e85 first or the gas to mix it up best. I am thinking of trying this in my 2005 pickup. I would really like to cut my gas bill for the daily 45 mile commute. No wise cracks about strapping a roller-skate to my butt, I like my truck;)
    Also, I live in SE MI and would be interested in attending a Steven Harris hands on seminar, perhaps a Spirko/Harris co-production.

    Thanks to you both for the great work! I really enjoy the energy talks.

  18. I am very interested in this material about alcohol mixing rather than methane, or some of the other methods. I would like for more on this kind of subject on here in the near future. More what can be used, more ways to make it. I do like the kitchen counter top Idea. but not sure i couuld get away with making it in the kitchen. Ok I sure we see more of this stuff on here.

  19. I run E30 mix in all my vehicles without any issues. I’ve tried mixing E85 and regular gas to make higher mixes and all of them seem to work fine on about E50.

  20. The one gas powered tool that I need more than any other including a vehicle is a chainsaw, so how about setting up a 2cycle engine?
    Thanks for everything

  21. What about storage issues? How long does ethenol store in a 90 degree garage in a plastic gas can? It there evaporation or condensation?

    Can I distill a gallon of 190 proof in my garage and pour it directly into my cars gas tank? I did not understand if the water needs to be removed or not.

    I browsed through several alternative energy books at Barnes and Noble. They varied from peak oil/ eco types that did not consider ethanol sustainable because of the amount of fuel need to produce the ethanol to “drill baby drill” types that considers ethanol a scam put in place by the polititions and farmers.
    Still looking forward to giving it a try.

  22. While talking to a friend about this show he said the distiller looks just like the water distiller his parents used when he was younger. Naturally I did some looking on the internet and found this….

    I was wondering if this is close to the same setup and would work. Anything I think worthwhile, such as this, I try to find the best deal possible. Not saying that I don’t support Steven and everything he does, just saying that my budget is only monitored by me. I will add that the Alcohol can be a gas book has become next on my “to get” list of books.

  23. I’d also like to see someone do the math on how much electricity is needed for the distillation. Plus the cost of fuel to go pick up the ancient donuts etc. My suspicion is that the result will be embarrassing.

    Also, there’s the energy, water, and soil nutrients required to make the sugar. And the food production displaced to farm it. As we’ve seen with biodiesel (and the industrial corn ethanol currently being forced on drivers), what works great on a household scale with scrounged feed stock might not scale up quite so nicely.

    Probably you’d be better off converting a car to electricity with batteries that can be reconditioned when they get old. Buy solar panels while factories still exist to produce them. There ya go, free fuel for the next 30-40 years…

    But it’s good to develop the skills to make fuel for existing vehicles in case nothing else is available. Alcohol-fueled cars have better range than electricity, too, and can run on gasoline if necessary.

    All of this will change overnight if someone breeds a yeast that can crack cellulose at room temperature. That’ll be fun. Imagine lawn services selling bags of leaves and grass clippings to local distillers.

    How practical would it be to do some of the heating with solar power? I’m thinking maybe pre-heat the wash a little with sunlight in black drums. Would that do much for total energy input?

    One more question: Is the water left over after the alcohol has been removed safe for use on gardens?

  24. What is the 10 gal insulated barrel that Steve form Home Depot used for brewing that he said Jack told him about? I can’t find them

  25. Is the alcohol/fuel created through this process stable for a long period of time, or must it be used more or less immediately? I know StaBil is offered for gasoline, but when I think of ‘hard liquor’ like vodka, I tend toward thinking nothing about it will degrade over time.

  26. I am interested in modifications for non flex-fuel, fuel injected vehicles.

    Will a higher content of oxygenated/ethanol fuel cause higher fuel use due to higher oxygen reading by the exhaust O2 sensors?

    It seems to me that the engine management system would dump more fuel in until it sees an amount of oxygen within its parameters.

  27. Steve,
    I’m wondering if you can shed some light on using an ethanol mixture for small engines such as chainsaws, log splitters, small motor cycles, etc.
    Thanks as always!

  28. So if you had an accident and a shot of distilled fuel finds its way in your mouth we would be safe right?