Trans-Antarctic expedition to use, test E85

By Ryan C. Christiansen | August 04, 2008
Web exclusive posted Sept. 8, 2008 at 11:56 a.m. CST

The viability of E85 in extremely cold temperatures will be put to the test in November when the fuel is used by the Moon Regan Trans-Antarctic Expedition to power the Concept Ice Vehicle, a propeller-driven, three-skied vehicle. The CIV will lead a 3,000-mile expedition across the Antarctica from coast to coast, beginning on the Ronne Ice Shelf on the west coast, traveling to the South Pole and then north through the Trans-Antarctic Mountain Range to the coast at McMurdo Sound. The expedition is scheduled to begin Nov. 14.

Designed by Lotus Engineering, the Norfolk, United Kingdom-based technical arm of Lotus Cars Ltd., the CIV will carry ice-penetrating radar equipment to identify crevasses so that the expedition's larger, five-ton Science Support Vehicles (SSV) can avoid them. The SSVs are modified, six-wheel-drive, petroleum diesel-powered Ford Econoline vans running on 44-inch tires. One of the SSVs was used by the expedition team Andrew Regan and Andrew Moon to complete their record-breaking, Ice Challenger expedition to the South Pole in December 2005 when the team crossed 750 miles of rough Antarctic terrain to reach the South Pole in just 69 hours, according to the expedition's Web site. The previous record for an overland crossing was 24 days.

During this expedition, the viscosity of E85, as well as the fuel's flame point at varying air pressures, altitudes, and temperatures, will be tested. According to Lotus, because E85 won't atomize at temperatures below -15 degrees Celsius (-26.11 Fahrenheit), the CIV's fuel tank has a heated jacket and the E85 fuel supply will be carried in the support vehicles. To prevent the E85 from encountering freezing air temperatures before passing through the CIV engine's injectors, the engine will be started using petroleum gasoline to heat the engine so that the heat can be fed into a thermal converter. A solenoid valve on the engine will switch over to using E85 when an adequate temperature has been reached. The CIV's tri-blade propeller is driven by a BMW 1150S micro-light engine. The CIV has a top speed of 84 miles per hour.

According to Lotus, the expedition's goal is to reach the South Pole by Nov. 18. The team will spend four days at the pole conducting additional scientific experiments and then will set off on a six-day trek to McMurdo Sound.