The dizzying increase in fuel prices at the pump is pushing many petrol car owners to convert to E85. If the addition of a box makes it possible to run on Flexfuel, a simple reprogramming of the computer is sufficient in the majority of cases.
In October 2019, we fitted a Peugeot 3008 PureTech 130 with an additional box allowing it to accept both unleaded (95, 98 or E10) and superethanol. After more than two years and 40,000 km of use, despite major confusion at the start, the French SUV is running perfectly and its owner has, for the moment, encountered no setbacks. This year, we wanted to know more about the reprogramming of the engine computer which avoids the installation of an additional box.
We went to a gender specialist, Shiftech, which since 2008 plunges its nose into the computers to increase power and torque, especially diesel mechanics. Today, according to Helder Fernandes of Shiftech Paris, plugless blocks represent only 8% of the volume against 95% six years ago out of the 1,300 cars reprogrammed each month. These engine engineers therefore see the daily arrival of owners of petrol vehicles seeking to save fuel: at 0.75 €/litre, on average in France at the time of writing these lines, compared to 1.66 €/litre for SP 95-E10, or even €1.75 for SP 98, it’s clear that running on superethanol saves a lot of money. However, we must not focus solely on the price at the pump. Driving on E85 generates overconsumption (between 20 and 30% compared to the use of unleaded) and reprogramming obviously has a cost: between 590 and 1,290 € depending on the complexity of the computer.
Some conditions to meet
Because it’s not just a matter of plugging into the computer and “tampering” inside to tell it to accept E85. “The operation can be carried out very quickly, between 1:30 and 2:00 a.m., and up to 6:00 a.m. on certain models where a lot of manpower is needed to find the computer which is sometimes “hidden” under the car. » says Helder, Mr. Shiftech in Paris. “After having taken all the values of the car when it is running on unleaded, we are going to inject a new program into the computer which will act on 15 to 18 parameters, the most important of which are the richness and the advance at the ignition for easier cold starts. Because, with E85, the spark is difficult to create. » Helder adds. Before the intervention, it is also necessary to ensure that you have spark plugs that have less than 30,000 km and coils that have less than 60,000 km. The different intensity between an unleaded and ethanol ignition can cause misfires.
Once the new program is installed, Shiftech performs an important data acquisition to verify that everything is in order. Contrary to what one might think, an identical engine is not necessarily fitted with the same computer. Reprogramming works differently and each car requires a different program. “As we manage to read 100% of the engine information file, we notice that, for example, a 2.0 TFSI from the VW group, is never the same from one car to another, even if it is is strictly the same model. We therefore need to inject the right program for the vehicle to work perfectly. » reprend Clear.
Regulations still unclear
Once the car has been reprogrammed, it is possible to run 100% on E85. However, it is recommended to “afford” a few liters of SP98 (about 10 litres) in winter every two to three full to improve cold starts. It should be noted that the software warranty lasts five years and that, during this period, Shiftech offers a free diagnostic case in the event of an engine warning light and to restore the car to its original configuration if you have to take it to a dealer in the brand. Finally, the legal framework is still very vague around reprogramming. If certain approved boxes available from many installers allow the modification of the registration certificate because there is a change of fuel, modifying the map of the electronic box is neither prohibited nor authorized.
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