By Stefan Kristensen
March 15, 2023

What Kind Of Fuel Is Used In IndyCar?

People worldwide love the exciting field of motorsports, and none get the adrenaline pumping harder than IndyCar. You might consider yourself a fan, but have you ever considered what kind of fuel those cars use to achieve such high power outputs?

IndyCar racing vehicles use E85 fuel which consists of 85% renewable corn-based ethanol and 15% high-octane racing fuel. The switch to an ethanol-based fuel happened in 2007 to make the races safer and friendlier to the environment. Soon, IndyCar will switch to a fuel that’s 100% renewable, making it even more eco-friendly than ever before.

Read through this guide to discover the fascinating story of how IndyCar has evolved over the years in its fuel use. Then, you’ll learn the direction that it’ll take in the future with renewable fuels and even hybrid powertrains!

What Kind Of Fuel Is Used In IndyCar?

IndyCar currently uses a version of the E85 fuel. It’s a high-octane fuel that’s suitable for the high-performance demands of the open-wheel racing vehicles used in the IndyCar racing series.

The E85 fuel gets its name from its contents. 85% of it is ethanol, while the remaining 15% is high-octane racing fuel. 

As you can imagine, this is nothing like the fuel you’d get at a standard gas station. That’s because IndyCar vehicles have larger, more powerful engines that need suitable fuel to cope with their demands.

More importantly, that fuel choice represents IndyCar’s movement towards becoming more eco-friendly. That’s because the ethanol portion is more specifically corn-based ethanol.

Thanks to that buildup, the fuel is considered 85% renewable thanks to it being derived from corn.

The fuel used by IndyCar is provided by Speedway and serves as the official fuel of IndyCar.

As you’ll see in the following sections of this article, the fuel used in IndyCar evolves with time. While it currently uses E85 fuel supplied by Speedway, that wasn’t always the case in the past.

Interestingly enough, IndyCar and its fuel are about to go through another evolution soon by changing to a different type and from a different supplier. 

As you’ll discover later in this article, IndyCar is about to switch to using an ethanol fuel made from biofuels that make it 100% renewable.

Why Do Indy Cars Use E85?

There are two general reasons why E85 is the official fuel for IndyCar. Firstly, there’s the matter of safety, as E85 is superior in that regard. Secondly, there has also been a shift towards becoming more eco-friendly, and the E85 fuel is certainly superior in that regard.

IndyCar didn’t always rely on E85 as its official fuel. Instead, it used to rely on pure methanol up until the year 2007.

Unfortunately, there were significant safety concerns when using methanol as a racing fuel. Most notably, methanol fires were extremely dangerous because they burned with barely visible flames.

In other words, it’s very difficult to see a methanol fire when it happens, like during a crash. Not only does that make it extremely challenging to avoid getting burned by it, but fighting those fires and putting them out also becomes incredibly difficult.

For that reason, IndyCar switched to ethanol-based fuel in 2007.

Besides the safety reasons, the ethanol-based E85 is also significantly friendlier to the environment. As you read earlier, ethanol can be produced using corn and other plant-based waste products.

As a result, switching to the 85% renewable E85 racing fuel reduces IndyCar’s overall carbon footprint.

With all that said, the next evolution of IndyCar’s fuel usage is happening shortly. The racing season in 2023 will be the last time that IndyCar uses E85 as its official fuel.

In the very near future, they’ll be switching over to a 100% renewable fuel consisting of second-generation ethanol made from biofuels like sugarcane waste.

Are Indy Cars Gas Or Electric?

IndyCar racing vehicles run on gas. But as you’ve read earlier, they’ve gone through multiple changes in terms of the precise fuel they use.

Still, there are already early signs that the racing body will continue evolving in the direction of electric vehicles sometime in the future.

Currently, IndyCar is planning on introducing hybrid technology to its racing vehicles in 2024. More specifically, they’re looking to use a 2.4-liter twin-turbo gasoline engine that’s paired with an electric motor, a setup that’s generally similar to other hybrid vehicles on the road today (albeit with a lot less power output).

While that news might sound shocking to some fans, it’s important to realize that IndyCar isn’t the first one to go in this direction.

Formula One, for example, has been using hybrid powertrains for almost a decade already. That’s just one leading example, while there are plenty of others in the racing world today.

Switching to hybrid powertrains clearly shows how IndyCar will evolve in the long run. While nothing is confirmed, the move to hybrid is already confirmed to happen in 2024.

Will IndyCar Eventually Go All-Electric?

So far, there is no news about whether or not IndyCar will eventually go all-electric. Still, many key players in the industry are already expecting things to go in that direction eventually.

The switch to hybrid is one clear sign of things to come. But on a wider scale, electrification of vehicles is unavoidable, whether it’s on everyday vehicles or motorsports cars like those in IndyCar.

As such, drivers, racing teams, and manufacturers alike are already thinking about an all-electric future. Even to them, it seems clear that electrification is part of how things will naturally evolve sooner or later.

Final Thoughts

For now, the answer to “What kind of fuel is used in IndyCar?” remains that it uses E85 fuel which consists of 85% renewable ethanol and 15% high-octane racing fuel. However, it’s important to think about both the past and future of IndyCar’s fuel.

Firstly, IndyCar once relied on pure methanol fuel until 2007. They abandoned that fuel and switched to E85, which was not only safer but also renewable and much friendlier to the environment.

In the very near future, they’ll make another switch, this time to 100% renewable fuel. Beyond that, they’ve already confirmed that hybrid powertrains will become a reality, and many are expecting all-electric vehicles to happen sooner or later.

Written by Stefan Kristensen
I have been passionate about motorsports ever since I was a little boy. Back then, I cheered on the racing cars simply based on their colors. Later I fell in love with the many technical features, strategic plays, humans and their stories that all together drives this amazing sport to make it as interesting as it is.
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