February 6, 2009 Automotive technology specialist Ricardo has revealed the development of technology that optimizes ethanol-fuelled engines to a level of performance that exceeds gasoline engine efficiency and approaches levels previously reached only by diesel engines. The technology, called Ethanol Boosted Direct Injection (EBDI), takes full advantage of ethanol’s best properties – higher octane and higher heat of vaporization – to create a renewable fuel scenario that is independent of the cost of oil.
“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.”
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EBDI solves 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 percent 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.
“In real-world terms, these efficiencies mean that EBDI can reduce the actual cost of transportation when compared to fossil fuels, and it does it with a renewable resource – ethanol,” said Rod Beazley, director of the Ricardo Inc Gasoline Product Group. “The combination of technologies we’re applying to the EBDI engine make the most of ethanol’s advantages over other fuels, which include a higher octane rating and a higher heat of vaporization. Without getting too technical, this means we can use a high level of turbocharging to achieve the high cylinder pressures that ethanol enables. Add in some other advanced technologies such as direct injection, variable valve timing, optimized ignition and advanced exhaust gas recirculation, and we’re squeezing out more power than is possible with gasoline.”
The prototype EBDI is a 3.2-liter V6 engine that ultimately could serve as a replacement for a large gasoline or turbo-diesel engine in a large SUV. The first firing of the engine & initial development is currently taking place and will be installed into a dual-wheel pick-up 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, to further the advancement and commercialization of this highly promising technology.
Work on this research project has been carried out at the Detroit Technology Campus of Ricardo Inc.