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.

Mazda MX-5 Spyder
image via Mazda

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.

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