One of the stars of this year’s Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) auto show in Las Vegas was a Mazda Miata MX-5 Spydertricked out with fancy after-market bling, such as a fancy new red Haartz soft top, performance tires, and 17-inch, 10-spoke rims.
But the real interest lay under the hood and in the gas tank: Powered by Mazda’s MZR 2.0-liter engine, the Spyder is fueled by BP’s isobutanol, a biofuel produced (like ethanol) from agricultural feedstock. Many consider isobutanol a superior renewable fuel because it can be mixed into existing fuel distribution infrastructure without having to modify blending facilities, storage tanks or retail station pumps.
Also isobutanol reportedly does not compromise vehicle performance for the sake of fuel economy. As proof Mazda points to some isobutanol-fueled Spyders that have burned up racetracks in 2011:
- The Mazda/Dyson entry in the American Le Mans Series was a Spyder powered by a turbocharged MZR-R 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, running on isobutanol. It beat competing larger-block V-12s to win the manufacturer, team and drivers championships for the 2011 racing season.
- Mazda also won the Michelin Green X Challenge at the Baltimore Grand Prix, a prize for cars that prove to be the “cleanest, fastest, most efficient” in the race.