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Author Topic: Chevy 8.1L V8 -- MPG vs. Altitude  (Read 9290 times)


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Chevy 8.1L V8 -- MPG vs. Altitude
« on: June 20, 2012, 07:35:54 AM »
My current coach is the second one that I have had with the Chevy 8.1L Vortec V8 gasoline engine since the Fall of 2006.  I have heard in RV forums many times over those years that gasoline engines lose performance significantly as altitude increases.  This was mainly from DP owners touting the performance of turbo-charged diesels at altitude.  Living in sea-level Florida for the past 37 years, I had no experience to say otherwise.

I have just returned from a 6,700 mile "out west" trip and can now report how the 8.1L engine does at altitude from experience.  We run our 35-foot coach right at the 22,000 lb rating for the chassis and we tow a car, so the engine gets a good workout, as gas-powered coaches go. 

7.50 = My average mpg for the entire trip. 
7.59 = My average mpg for non-Mid-West legs below 6,000 feet.
7.12 = My average mpg for legs running 6,000-8,000 feet altitude.

I was pleasantly surprised that the mpg drop at high altitude was only about 6%.  (This included some pretty severe grades at the higher altitudes and a lot of slow tourist traffic in Yellowstone.)  Perhaps the engine performance drop at altitude is partially offset by the reduced drag of the thinner air.  :)

We were also pleased with the coach's ability to readily climb all of the big western grades that we encountered and in the Allison transmission grade brake's ability to keep us in control on the descents.

One thing that did surprise me --
7.38 = My average mpg for Mid-West legs below 5,000 feet.
When I came across the Mid-West (eastern Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois) I took a distinct 3% performance drop relative to the southern tier and the western states.  I was puzzled about this until it hit me -- ethanol.  If there was any place where 10% ethanol was actually used in the gas, it would be these corn-belt states.  The other areas either had no ethanol statement on the gas pumps or the sticker said "MAY contain up to 10% ethanol."

As a side note:  For all practical purposes, the mpg that I am getting with my boxy 22,000 lb Class-A is the same as I was getting with my previous 17,800 lb Super-C.  I attribute that to the 6-speed Allison transmission in the current coach vs. the 5-speed Allison in the previous coach.


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Re: Chevy 8.1L V8 -- MPG vs. Altitude
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2012, 07:43:44 AM »
Not bad numbers... as for the ethanol you are correct...alcohol contains less BTU's per gallon than gasoline so any blending will result in lower gas mileage in my opinion.. I personally figure I've been snookered by somebody there..sigh...


94 Dolphin DP
99 CRV W/Blue Ox & Patriot Brakes
95 F-150 4X4 4.9
Fresno, Ohio most of the time


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Re: Chevy 8.1L V8 -- MPG vs. Altitude
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2012, 10:14:45 AM »
You are right about the ethanol.  We make a trip from Idaho to Long Beach,Ca every January.  Even with our SLS Caddy I see more than a 10 decrease in fuel economy when it should be better due to the elevation change.

Paul 1950

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Re: Chevy 8.1L V8 -- MPG vs. Altitude
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2012, 11:07:54 AM »
But by having ethanol blended fuel, the price of the fuel is 20 to 30 cents less per gallon, and you get the cleaning benefits of ethanol!

Paul S   Iowa
2005 Winnebago Voyage 38J

Ernie n Tara

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Re: Chevy 8.1L V8 -- MPG vs. Altitude
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2012, 11:19:38 AM »

I doubt there is a much significance to the difference in the numbers. With a modern engine, the optimum fuel air mixture (about 16:1 by weight) is maintained by the computer. You may go slower, but you also burn less fuel because you take in less air. Hills may cause some decrease in mileage, but ultimately you go up and down so acceleration is the primary cost. I'd note that I actually get better mileage at 8,000 feet, so long as the terrain is flat, due to the lower density of the air (this is the most significant factor in mileage achieved).

What does happen at altitude is loss of power (for a non-turbocharged engine). This is why, all else being equal, its harder to climb hills at altitude because you are burning less gasoline.

Ernie 'n Tara

2011 Winn Journey 34y
2012 Jeep Rubicon - Dozer (orange - kinda)
2006 Jeep Wrangler


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