Get the Lead Out!

Get the Lead Out!

Why believing Leaded-fuels offer better performance is not only wrong but downright dangerous.


"ANY level absorption of lead into the body has detrimental effects."

"No Safe level of exposure to lead has been found"

"Leaded gas has caused more exposure to lead than any other source worldwide."


No, these aren't sensational headlines from the tabloids. Nor are they from radical environmentalists or even overly-zealous Tesla owners hell-bent on ridding the world of internal combustion engines. In fact, they are from scientific, long-term studies on lead from national and international organizations like the EPA, United Nations, the Center for Disease Control,and the World Health Organization. These studies helped form the global understanding of the effects of lead on human health as early as the 1970s and catalyzed (pun intended) the ultimate ban on leaded automotive fuels in the mid-1990s.

But before we discuss anything else, it's important to pause a moment to deeply reflect on those few statements. ANY level of lead absorption into the body has detrimental effects. ANY. Full stop. NO safe level of lead exposure has been found. NONE. Full stop. And finally, we get to the point of this posting: Leaded gas has caused more human exposure to lead than any other source worldwide. (In case you're wondering, here's a quick rundown of just some of the effects of lead on humans: Brain damage, Kidney and liver damage, Cardiovascular system deterioration, Learning disabilities, Behavioral disorders, Reproductive problems)

So Why Lead?

Anyone old enough to remember when leaded fuel pumps started disappearing from our local gas stations also remembers the protests from automakers and enthusiasts alike. "We'll lose 50% of our horsepower!" they cried. "Our engines will knock themselves to death!" they lamented. "Say goodbye to high-compression ratios!" and on and on.

To understand why the automotive industry reacted so poorly to the idea of eliminating lead from fuel, we need to take a brief look at why lead was added in the first place. "Lead" actually refers to a compound "Tetraethylead" (TEL). TEL was found to cheaply increase the octane value of fuel and, in doing so, reduce engine preignition (or knock). This allowed manufacturers to run higher-compression rates and more advanced spark timing — giving engines more power. For a more thorough explanation of octane, knock, timing, and engine performance, read our previous posting.

In short, lead was the secret ingredient to getting quick, cheap, and easy power. And without lead, they argued, that power would go away.

Yet somehow, here we are in 2022 with some of the most powerful internal combustion engines ever produced. One needs only to look at the C8 Corvette Z06 as an example. Its high-revving naturally aspirated 5.5 V8 (that's about 335 cubic inches) puts out an astonishing 670 horsepower.

That's over 120 horsepower per liter in a non-forced induction engine! Remarkable!

Let's compare that to a typical corvette from the 60s running leaded fuel.
A 1965 C2 Sting Ray with the L76 5.4 liter (327 cubic inch) engine produced roughly 365 horsepower — resulting in 67.5 horsepower per liter. That's roughly half the specific output of the C8.

How is that even possible?


The Magic of Chemistry

With modern engine technologies—from better breathing multi-valve cylinder heads to advanced engine electronics that can precisely manage the combustion process from intake to exhaust—modern engine systems can deliver far more power with far greater efficiency than ever before — even without the octane-boosting benefits of lead.

This doesn't mean, however, that these highly powerful, highly efficient engines can produce these extraordinary power figures with low-grade fuel. In fact, with such precisely optimized mechanical systems, modern high-performance engines like the C8 ZO6's V8, the need for stable, consistent fuel chemistry has become more critical than ever.

That's where ETS comes in. ETS's product portfolio is almost exclusively lead-free, yet we are the fuel of choice for some of the most winning racing teams in the world. That's because we develop all of our fuels at the molecular level — precisely combining molecules of specific (and highly secret) compounds to deliver the performance (like high octane and knock resistance) characteristics required for the most demanding of applications. And all of this is achieved without lead, or it's absolutely devasting health and environmental consequences.

Lets Review:

So. We know that:

  1. Lead exposure is extraordinarily harmful to living things and the environment.

  2. Lead exposure happens primarily because of leaded gas.|

  3. Adding lead to gas is not necessary to enhance performance in internal combustion engines.

  4. ETS manufactures an entire range of lead-free racing fuels that exceed the performance of their leaded counterparts in all but the most highly specific, esoteric applications.

So the only question left to ask is…

Why are you still using leaded fuel???