New Technology May Raise Horizons For Ethanol

Posted on February 6, 2009

Ricardo has announced the development of a technology that it said optimizes ethanol-fueled engines to a level of performance that exceeds gasoline engine efficiency and approaches levels reached by diesel engines. The technology, called Ethanol Boosted Direct Injection or EBDI, is designed to take advantage of ethanol's properties - higher octane and higher heat of vaporization - to create a renewable fuel scenario that is independent of the cost of oil. Work on this research project has been carried out at the Detroit Technology Campus of Ricardo Inc.

"Developing renewable energy applications that can lead to energy independence is a top priority at Ricardo," said Ricardo Inc. President Dean Harlow. "We've moved past theoretical discussion and are busy applying renewable energy technology to the real world. The EBDI engine project is a great example because it turns the gasoline-ethanol equation upside down. It has the performance of diesel, at the cost of ethanol, and runs on ethanol, gasoline or a blend of both."

Ricardo said EBDI can solve many of the challenges faced by flex-fuel engines because it is optimized for both alternative fuels and gasoline. Current flex-fuel engines pay a fuel economy penalty of about 30% compared to gasoline when operated on ethanol blends such as E85. The EBDI engine substantially improves ethanol's efficiency and performs at a level comparable to a diesel engine, according to the company.

The prototype EBDI is a 3.2 L V6 engine. The first firing of the engine and initial development is currently taking place and will be installed into a dual-wheel pickup truck demonstration vehicle later this year. Beazley emphasized that the technology is very scalable. Applications could reach far beyond the automotive and light-truck industry. "Imagine agricultural equipment that, in effect, burns what it harvests - corn, sugar cane or some other renewable substance. It could mean tremendous cost savings across many industries."

The EBDI project represents a technical collaboration with Behr, Bosch, Delphi, Federal Mogul, GW Castings and Honeywell.

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