What About Ethanol?

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The high price of avgas has a Brazilian plane-maker turning to alcohol. Neiva, a subsidiary of Embraer, delivered the world's first production model ethanol-powered crop duster in March and has plans to build 70 more this year. For 30 years, Brazil has been developing ethanol-fueled vehicles to reduce dependence on oil imports and at least a third of all cars produced there can run on alcohol. There are about 400 aircraft adapted to run on ethanol but the EMB 202 Ipanema is the first certified production aircraft. It's powered by a Lycoming IO-540. While Brazil lacks oil resources, it does have the ability to grow huge amounts of sugar cane, from which the ethanol is produced at about a quarter the cost of gasoline, which now runs at about $7 a gallon in Brazil. The ethanol-powered Ipanema costs about $14,000 more than the avgas version but the fuel savings, plus the greater durability and what the company claims is a 7-percent increase in power output from the modified engine, makes up for the higher initial cost. Neiva director Acir Padiha also noted that ethanol pollutes less and is a renewable resource, assuming you have the land and climate to grow millions of acres of sugar cane. The company is now planning to convert six-passenger Sertanejo and Minuano aircraft to ethanol.