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Retrofitted Diesel Engines Burn Ethanol
You can run your large diesel engines on 100 percent ethanol with a retrofit from ClearFlame Engine Technologies. Retrofits retain the high torque, efficiency and durability of diesel engines without the cost of diesel fuel. In 6 years, the company has gone from an idea to test-driving its concept and is close to bringing it to market. Not only have they proven it works, but they are also proving it pays. They estimate that retrofitting one truck that drives 100,000 miles a year would save $36,600 in fuel costs alone.
“Fleets driving 120,000 miles a year or more will see a 12 to 14-month payback,” says B.J. Johnson, CEO and co-founder, ClearFlame Engine Technologies. “This payback is with retrofit trucks in general. It’s even better with end-of-life trucks, and new OEM installed systems will be even more efficient.”
The ClearFlame technology involves increasing the temperature to make ethanol ignite as easily as diesel. It includes reengineering the fuel injection system for ethanol.
“The ClearFlame system looks the same, but is engineered for the different fuel properties, including lower lubricity and a different flow rate,” says Johnson.
The increased temperature comes from removing the EGR cooler and other components to cycle exhaust heat back to the engine. Other components designed around reducing pollution are also extraneous with 100 percent ethanol, notes Johnson.
“Ethanol combustion is low in CO2 and soot, so we don’t need the particulate filters,” he says. “This also reduces maintenance, as well as other cost factors.”
ClearFlame is working with multiple OEMs on the potential adoption of their technologies. John Deere is one of their investors. ClearFlame has upfitted one of its engines to operate on 100 percent ethanol. Meanwhile, the company is moving ahead rapidly with retrofit systems.
“We started working with local fleets and are planning a broader range of pilot demonstrations with five of the biggest trucking firms in the country,” says Johnson. “We plan to start selling retrofit systems late in the second quarter or early third quarter of 2023.”
A big reason for the emphasis on retrofit is the ability to hit the market quickly. Introducing a new concept takes time for OEMs as they reconfigure product lines and vendor relationships. That’s not the case with retrofits.
“There’s a huge skillset of mechanics with the knowledge and experience of building and rebuilding diesel engines,” says Johnson. “If you know how to rebuild a diesel traditionally, you can do it with ClearFlame technology. The supply chain for the components already exists.”
What the retrofit kits won’t do is eliminate the need for DEF. While that’s a long-term goal, achieving it would delay reaching the market.
“There are so many savings with our technologies, we don’t want to wait for requirements for DEF to be removed,” says Johnson. “One of the benefits we offer is our technologies can minimize many of the headaches associated with the use of DEF.”
Another advantage of ethanol-based versus biodiesel or other alternative fuels is availability. Johnson notes that E98 (denatured fuel ethanol) is at every fuel terminal in the country. This makes the delivery of ethanol to a public or private fuel depot as easy as taking delivery of diesel.
“Truck stops don’t have E98 installed at their truck pumps yet, but the infrastructure is cheap and readily available,” says Johnson. “Our initial strategy is to work with customers who can install ethanol tanks and pumps at their locations or a third party. We believe customer pull will expand infrastructure to public retail truck stops.”
There’s no technical limit on the size of engines to which ClearFlame technologies can be applied. However, on a practical level, Johnson rules out smaller diesels, such as car engines and some older engines.
“We’re focused on engines being produced today and will focus on new engines as they are introduced,” says Johnson.
Setting a price on the new technologies is a challenge, he admits. “We’re looking at $50,000 to $60,000 for engines like the Cummins X15s or International LT625 trucks,” says Johnson. “Payback is the bigger factor for fleets with high mileage. We’re working on arrangements other than paying upfront for those with fewer miles each year who hold their assets longer.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, ClearFlame Engine Technologies, 2633 Kaneville Court, Geneva, Ill. 60134 (ph 630-492-1641; info@clearflameengines.com; www.clearflame.com).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #1