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MIT researchers work on a ethanol direct injection engine

MIT researchers are developing an automotive power plant that promises up to 30% greater fuel economy than traditional gasoline engines. The new engine, which would be powered by ethanol, would be production ready within five years.

MIT says that it can boost fuel efficiency by directly injecting ethanol into the cylinder. Direct injection technology is already being used on a number of gasoline engine vehicles including the Mazda MazdaSpeed3, Lexus IS350 and Pontiac Solstice GXP. Direct injection allows for a finer control of fuel and injection timings compared to traditional fuel injected vehicles.

Knocking sounds, which are caused by spontaneous combustion, would be eliminated allowing ethanol engines to use heavily-boosted turbocharging systems and much higher compression ratios. The use of direct injection combined with ethanol is what allows for the 30% increase in fuel economy. MIT goes so far as to say that if every vehicle in the United States were equipped with such an engine, yearly automotive fuel consumption would drop from 140 billion gallons to 110 billion gallons.

"To actually affect oil consumption, we need to have people want to buy our engine, so our work also emphasizes keeping down the added cost and minimizing any inconvenience to the driver," said Daniel Cohn, of MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center.

MIT researchers believe that an ethanol-based direct injection engine would add just $1,000 to the cost of a new vehicle instead of the $3,000 to $5,000 seen with hybrids. What's more amazing is that the engine will be half the size of conventional gasoline engines. But while all of this sounds nice, the new technology will be for naught if more ethanol pumping stations aren't added to our existing fuel delivery infrastructure.

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By therealnickdanger on 10/27/2006 11:45:57 AM , Rating: 1
Ethanol is ridiculous as a substitute for good 'ol gasoline. Consumer Reports just did a big report on E85 VS Gas:

It requires more energy to produce than gas, is heavily subsidized (costing us more as a whole), is less efficient than gas (lower MPG), provides only marginal power gains, and marginally lower emissions.

Why do people insist on subsidizing lesser technology? Oh yeah, greed, that's why. Funny how people are willing to substitute "Big Oil" for "Big Corn". You're still gonna pay...

This work by MIT is crucial if ethanol expects to make it as a real alternative. A 30% efficiency gain would put it about on par with gasoline, but so long as gasoline remains the cheapest of the fuels to produce, it will never be toppled.

RE: Why?
By dice1111 on 10/27/2006 11:54:57 AM , Rating: 2
What kind of horse power are we going to see out of these things? Will it increase due to the higher compression ratio's, or decrease because of the fact that ethanol is used instead of gasoline? Most likely the later.

North America, a huge automobile comsumer, is in the unfortunate mind set of "Go big or go home". If these engines can put out some hard working ponies (high HP) then they will sell themselves.

A nice ride with an efficient engine that is less destructive to the environment while beating your neibours pimp mobile off the line... that has bragging rights all over it.

RE: Why?
By therealnickdanger on 10/27/2006 12:24:35 PM , Rating: 1
That's what sucks about ethanol (or at least E85) is that while on average it costs 5-10 cents less at the pump, much of its cost is paid for via our tax dollars, making it more expensive in reality. Depending on the engine E85 does produce more power than gasoline, there's no argument there, but with more power generally comes more consumption, and since E85 gets substantially less MPG than its gasoline cousins, you end up using more fuel, almost negating the "cleaner" emissions.

If I drive like Miss Daisy, I can get 26MPG out of my 5.7L 340HP/390TQ V8 on non-ethanol blends. If I get less-restrictive headers, cats, and exhaust, I can get closer to 30MPG while also upping my HP/TQ. If ethanol can do that while costing less (including subsidies) and clean up their production act, I would use it in a car. For now, I avoid it like the plague.

RE: Why?
By mindless1 on 10/27/2006 1:01:48 PM , Rating: 1
You can't have it both ways. When they're citing cost and efficiency and size, it's not to increase power, it's an optimistically tainted comparison of same.

North America is not of the mindset of "go big", note how few giant and technically advanced engines there are. The mindset is "go cheap" or "go simple".

Go simple is a serious concern though, in today's disposible society it would not be hard for researchers to overlook some of the real world variables that could cause shorter lifespans, escalating costs to manufacture, maintain and replace parts if not entire engine.

Using a lighter engine, turbo charging and direct injection is not new, it seems more than anything these folks are just trying to polish a slight spin on existing tech for profit, without enough experience on the industry to know if the result will be as reliable. Remember that not everyone pays a highly trained mechanic to work on their vehicle, the lower class simply cannot afford this in many cases and will have to be able to work with and repair this technology.

Lots of ideas in a lab just don't pan out for practical reasons. I do hope more hybrid fuel vehicles are produced, but feel the slightly higher efficiency of the proposed designs is not enough for any long term implementation by automakers.

RE: Why?
By kruege311 on 10/27/2006 3:36:14 PM , Rating: 4
"North America is not of the mindset of 'go big'"

Sorry mindless1, I couldn't help but chuckle at this one. Does anyone remember the big block engine craze? And when it comes to vehicles themselves, North Americans love SUVs, trucks, and now we've got like 3 versions of the Hummer. Last I checked we love big houses too. Then there are those sporting events that we like to have bigger every year like the superbowls and whatnot. Oh and let's not forget those super size fries. :)

This isn't meant as a personal jab at the intent of your post as I realize you're talking about engines specifically. It's just that notion of Americans not being of the "go big" mindset just cracked me up.

RE: Why?
By mindless1 on 10/28/2006 6:15:45 PM , Rating: 2
North Americans live in the new world, one that has larger expanses and was rapidly built (and still is). It is reasonable to assume trucks and other hauling vehicles will be of benefit. Relatively speaking, what is the horsepower to weight ratio of the typical light truck to a European car? Not so different as you suggest, relatively speaking it's a proporitionally sized engine, not the biggest most powerful thing that can be shoehorned in under the hood.

Sure there are exceptions like the Hummer. Tell us what % of all cars on the road are hummers.

You want desperately to cite examples of large things but ignore any examples of small things. What about Ford Fiesta? Piece of junk car, but I'll bet those sold as well as hummers. What about small sized anything?

All you have done is noted that in a free market with a lot of disposible income, people will buy more.

Just because somebody offers a big something-or-other for sale, does it mean everyone buys it? Certainly not, the things that don't sell so well tend to be the ones that need advertising, if not merely the profit leaders by virtue of the higher price.

Maybe some "go big", in any country when they can afford to, but to generalize Americans do is a silly stereotype.

RE: Why?
By slunkius on 10/30/2006 1:11:43 AM , Rating: 2
got to agree with kruege311. since i live in europe, it very easy to notice which cars are american. these are longer, wider, sometimes they are simply huuuge (escalade or dodge ram - and don't say people in america buy these to haul stuff :)).

RE: Why?
By Ringold on 10/30/2006 7:42:32 PM , Rating: 2
Mindless1 has hit the nail on the head on this one guys.

I don't think people that'd disagree are actually in tune with even the simplest things going on in the industry. Ford and GM arent staring in to the abyss just because of labor costs. Market share is sliding, and even the venerable F150 is getting nailed in the most recent quarter. Meanwhile, fuel-efficient Toyota & Honda models can barely be produced fast enough.

Anyones guess what the next long-term trend will be in autos (efficiency, or perhaps technical superiority or just plain style), but just like the economy we're all comfortable with now and from the last hundred years, it's over and something else is dawning. Might as well get used to it.

RE: Why?
By glennpratt on 10/27/2006 12:15:18 PM , Rating: 2
Ethanol is less efficient then gas in 'flex fuel' vehicles because they have a low CR to utilize regular gasoline. Ethanol would not be less efficient in motors designed for it (or variable compression/boost engines); ethanol has a higher octane (more energy by volume).

Yes, ethanol production started out subsidized and it's comparatively inefficient, but this can change. Just about everything is inefficient compared to pumping oil out of the ground. Energy production is a huge, global issue that free markets alone won’t solve without a lot of pain. And FYI, corn isn't the only (or best) way to make ethanol (see sugarcane, switch grass...).

RE: Why?
By TomZ on 10/27/2006 12:53:34 PM , Rating: 2
ethanol has a higher octane (more energy by volume)

Higher octane number doesn't mean more energy by volume - it means higher resistance to autoignite (ref. Also, gasoline has more energy by volume than ethanol.

In the U.S., switching from gasoline to ethanol as Brazil has done is not a viable option. Let's not even talk about that possibility since it makes no sense. We have nowhere near the capacity to produce that much ethanol domestically.

RE: Why?
By NullSubroutine on 10/27/2006 10:55:53 PM , Rating: 2
i live in iowa and i know that the us corn production could be increased. i know a lot of farmers that fallow the land because they are paid so by the government to do it.

everyone here seems to complain about subsidies so ill just make a few quick points. the subsidies were to prevent drastic price fluxuations that would force out small farmers.

if there were a consistant high demand for corn subsidies wouldnt really be needed and there wouldnt be a redundent price at the pump.

you all talk about supply and demand, bla blah blah. it must be impossible to imagine that if there was a higher demand for ethonal (via corn) that more farmers would produce it!

RE: Why?
By Wwhat on 10/27/2006 11:31:57 PM , Rating: 2
Surely corn isn't the most efficient growth to produce fuels? aren't there better plants for that?

RE: Why?
By Madellga on 10/28/2006 2:18:03 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, there is. Sugar cane.

RE: Why?
By Hoser McMoose on 10/29/2006 2:58:58 PM , Rating: 2
There are many crops that can produce fuels and a lot of them are better than corn. As others have mentioned, sugar cane is a better crop for ethanol, though it requires a different climate.

However if you start looking at things like biodiesel rather than just ethanol, then your options can really open up. Rapeseed is one that is being used fairly widely, and mustard is a closely related alternative. There are also some VERY promising experiments with growing algae for the production of fuel.

Ethanol is a complete bust..
By hellokeith on 10/27/2006 11:50:46 AM , Rating: 2
in the US.

The US simply does not have the right kind of agricultural environment for advantageous crop production. Corn-based ethanol is dirty-burning, and its production is sucking aquifers dry left and right.

Ethanol works well in Brasil, but they have a different climate.

The US would be much better off drilling in Alaska for mid-term oil needs and continuing hydrogen fuel cell research for long-term needs.

RE: Ethanol is a complete bust..
By TomZ on 10/27/2006 12:09:09 PM , Rating: 4
The automotive industry agrees with you, which is why you see R&D investments mainly in hybrid, and secondarily in fuel cells.

E85 was done mainly because it was a simple modification and didn't require a large investment, but as others have commented, E85 makes no sense as a real solution.

Researchers at MIT can do whatever they want, but it is the investments at automotive manufacturers and their suppliers that cause real products to actually show up in the marketplace.

RE: Ethanol is a complete bust..
By Madellga on 10/28/2006 2:12:36 AM , Rating: 2
The automotive industry is looking only on the technology to power the vehicles, but not looking into the energy matrix behind it. I would like to see a study showing where are they going to get the H2 needed for the fuel cells.
Hybrid is a hype, too expensive and not replacing oil at all.

The issue is the energy matrix - oil must be replaced, not what kind of engined is used.

By Hoser McMoose on 10/29/2006 3:45:41 PM , Rating: 2
There have been numerous studies of the "well to wheel" energy cycle for hydrogen vs. gasoline. The results, however, are not 100% conclusive. Some studies I've seen have shown a 20-30% improvement, others have shown a 20-30% loss. There are a lot of factors involved, from the type of vehicle used, the type of engine (gas vs. diesel, straight spark-ignition vs. hybrid) and especially the source of hydrogen.

For the source of hydrogen, most seem to agree that the only viable option (both economically and from an energy standpoint) is hydrocarbons. Mostly it would just involve reducing the use of oil in favor of methane (natural gas). However one of the biggest advantages of hydrogen as a fuel is that the same fuel can be produced through dozens of different means, unlike gasoline which is pretty much a single-source deal.

Generally speaking though, hydrogen is a non-starter (for vehicles at least, it has it's uses elsewhere). The infrastructure isn't there and it almost certainly won't be there within the foreseeable future (certainly not in the next 20-30 years). The cost is absolutely enormous while the potential advantages are too small. Per-vehicle costs are also significantly higher and would probably need 20+ years of mass production AFTER the infrastructure is in-place in order for them to be even remotely cost-competitive. This is why it's been touted so much by the car companies and the US government. A small investment in hydrogen fuel cell research lets them claim that they are being environmentally friendly and planning for the future without spending the real money required to find actual solutions (note that you will never see any firm dates attached to any hydrogen fuel cell plans).

As for hybrids, they are a brilliant technology. It's the only option that actually REDUCES the total energy requirement of a vehicle rather than moving it around. Hybrids work by using energy that is otherwise discarded as heat. What's more, they can be incorporated alongside basically ANY solution, be it gas, diesel, ethanol, or even fuel cells. There are cost involved, but the aren't all that out of line. Right now the break-even point (where the added purchasing cost is outweighed by the reduced fuel costs) is somewhere around 200,000-350,000km and dropping. Even without tax breaks and subsidies hybrids start to make economic sense for those that do a lot of city driving.

RE: Ethanol is a complete bust..
By number999 on 10/27/2006 6:19:15 PM , Rating: 2
drilling in Alaska for mid-term oil needs

What would be better would be forcing better fuel standards and closing loopholes in the fuel standards than drilling for oil in the artic.

SUV's, some of which will never be used to carry a 2x4 let alone be used fully are classified as utility vehicles.
Bush put a $100 000 tax break for industry to buy utility vehicles which were used to buy SUV's instead, where's the sense in that.

RE: Ethanol is a complete bust..
By WxGuy192 on 10/27/2006 7:55:32 PM , Rating: 1
The US would be much better off drilling in Alaska for mid-term oil needs and continuing hydrogen fuel cell research for long-term needs.

The amount of oil in Alaska would sustain U.S. consumption needs for less than a year by itself. Alaskan oil is not a solution to our needs in and of itself. It's one small component that may help decrease the amount of foreign oil we import. Then again, given that consumption increases annually, we probably would never actually decrease the amt of oil we import, unless we get more out of efficiency increases, conservation, and Alaskan oil than the increase in oil consumption (which I find unlikely). In 2003, the US consumed ~20 mil. barrels of oil per day. From a Dept of Energy report: "In all three resource cases, ANWR coastal plain oil production begins in 2013 and grows during most of the forecast. In the mean oil resource case, ANWR oil production peaks at 876,000 barrels per day in 2024". By 2024, the US will probably be consuming on the order of 30-40 million barrels per day (likely more), so we're looking at Alaskan oil providing ~2% of the oil we use. Don't expect it to impact prices much.

In addition, I've heard a lot about the growth of India and China causing oil price inflation. Again, let's not kid ourselves! Per 2004 consumption data, the US used about 3 times as much oil than China. Sure, growth is expanding in China and other emerging markets, but the US still consumes WAY more oil than any other country. We either hope and pray for new technology, or we make a serious lifestyle change to drastically reduce consumption.

Five Years
By TomZ on 10/27/2006 11:01:31 AM , Rating: 2
I would like to see this type of technology come to fruition, however, I think the researchers are very naive if they think they can get this into production in five years. That's not going to happen - the job is too big, and it will take twice that long, minimum, if all goes well.

Also, I wonder how they will address the ozone/smog issue associated with burning methanol. I doubt this problem can be solved for only $1000 incremental cost.

RE: Five Years
By TomZ on 10/27/2006 11:03:00 AM , Rating: 2
sorry, typo: methanol -> ethanol.

RE: Five Years
By Dfere on 10/27/2006 11:10:05 AM , Rating: 1
Even assuming the environmental issues gets worked out, you still have all issues with business "product" marketing. New technologies do not get added into everyy vehcile at once, with the exception of safety equipment, in cars. An some items never get introduced into any class of vehicle, such as turbochargers (which are an excellent compromise to having extra power when needed, but keeping average driving mileage down).

I do not think this will be introduced into the low end line of cars until a very long time from now (if ever). I have no doubt that this will be added as quickly as possible to most US high margin profit lines and possibly, fleet lines of cars once any one of the manufacturers decides to offer it.

RE: Five Years
By GoatMonkey on 10/27/2006 11:54:03 AM , Rating: 3
I think it could be on the market that fast. We already have a lot of cars on the road that will run E85 (85% ethanol/15% gas). From what I've read about it when the cars run on pure E85 the miles per gallon drop about 25 to 30 percent.

The way around that is exactly what these students have done. Ethanol has a higher octane rating than standard gas, so it can be compressed more before exploding. That means that you can add a turbocharger and maybe even increase the compression ratio at the same time. In a standard gas engine you normally decrease the compression ratio when you add any forced induction.

Saab did this already with one of their show cars not too long ago and showed an increase in MPG when running E85 because of the turbocharger. I don't think it was as high as 30% better, but at least it wasn't the normal loss that others have seen.

The real problem with E85 is that you lose some lubrication inside the cylinder that normal gas gives you, and it can shorten the life of your engine. If they've found a way to do that it would seem more significant to me.

RE: Five Years
By OrSin on 10/27/2006 11:52:24 AM , Rating: 3
First several ethanol based engines already exist. Second 40% of all gas engines built now could be converter to ethanol with very little work. Third Ethanol is a very clean burning fuel.

The slow down is storing 100% ethanol since it alot more flamable then gas. Also direct inject is more difficult alos becuase of its low flash piont. Thier are many places out side of the cities that you can buy 30-40% ethonal/gas mixures. Almost all cars can run on this mixture with no modification.

Ethanol would have replaced gas decades ago if they could raise its flash piont to the same as gasoline.

By Comdrpopnfresh on 10/27/2006 6:25:59 PM , Rating: 2
Its not an ethanol-powered engine. Its a gasoline powered engine with a turbocharger, to make it smaller and lighter. The ethanol is kept in a separate tank to be directly injected whenever the gasoline is combusted prematurely, creating that "knock". This is because a property of ethanol is that when it enters a combustion engine operating at too high of a temperature, it expands, cooling the air+fuel mixture, and helping to increase the burning efficiency of the fuel. The MIT researchers estimated that the ethanol tank would only have to be refilled every three months or so. What kind of strictly ethanol engine does that sound like? They started the research, because, although the administration supports ethanol, there is barely enough to allow E10 mixtures throughout the nation, let alone the touted "E85". This is a bypass, for using ethanol while increasing the efficiency of a conventional gasoline engine.

By sdsdv10 on 10/27/2006 6:47:39 PM , Rating: 2
Uh, did I just say the same thing like 30 minutes eariler {the post directly above yours ;-) }?

No matter, hopefully it will eventually change the direction of the discussion back to the correct topic. Or maybe even get Brandon to update/correct the news item.

By sdsdv10 on 10/27/2006 6:50:33 PM , Rating: 2
Jeez, why to the comments jump around. Before posting my reply, this was at the bottom. Now it jumped to the middle. Oh well, down mod me if you must. :)

By tygrus on 10/27/2006 8:16:36 PM , Rating: 2
The deep fry oil from resturants and local gressy joe's should be recycled into biodiesel.
Note: You can't put vegetable oil straight into a diesel engine.
Although diesel engines may get around 80% more MPG compared to the petrol equivalent, the carbon content and energy density is about 80% more ie. 10L of petrol (gasoline) is same as 5.5L diesel. It's more complex comparing two different fuels than just MPG.
One of these days I'll investigate what's on the market and the new technology & engine variations. More oil would be saved with improvements to traffic flows and public transport.

By Comdrpopnfresh on 10/28/2006 4:49:01 PM , Rating: 2
Commercial oils are from fats, so at room temperature and below they congeal. Biodiesel only congeals below freezing.

Just for the record.....
By Madellga on 10/27/2006 3:55:45 PM , Rating: 2
Ethanol is used in Brazil side by side with gasoline and diesel since 25 years. If it is not viable it was supposed to die a long time ago...

Ethanol does have less energy per mass (less milleage per liter), but can take more compression thus making it more efficient (remember carnot cycle). If an engine is tunned for it and uses all good technology available, it can raise the bar.

Ethanol has a viable energy cycle but again the industry must be tunned for it. Brazilian ethanol facilities are very efficient and use just about everything in the production cycle, including the sugar cane scrap that fuels the furnaces/boilers.

Most automotive "recent" news and development about Ethanol (including the SAAB experience) is based on the knowledge coming from automotive engineering development centers in Brazil. The ethanol engine experts are there. And it would not surprise me if one of the MIT guys would be a brazilian....

RE: Just for the record.....
By TomZ on 10/27/2006 4:00:38 PM , Rating: 2
Just for the record, ethanol will never be more than a small niche or additive fuel source in the U.S. There is no way the U.S. could ever produce anywhere near the amount of ethanol that we need in order to replace the use of gasoline. This is clearly different than the situation in Brazil. A solution for Brazil does not equal a solution for the U.S.

RE: Just for the record.....
By rushfan2006 on 10/27/2006 4:25:31 PM , Rating: 3
LOL not to mention I could see it now allocating the entire US corn crop for the alternative fuels market....

That delicious corn on the cob you had at Uncle Joe's BBQ last summer, yeah now that's suddenly an expensive delicacy that only the rich can afford.

Calls of "Caviar" at fancy celebrity parties will be replaced with "Corn"....LOL.

RE: Just for the record.....
By Madellga on 10/28/2006 2:26:38 AM , Rating: 2
When oil runs out you can import ethanol from Brazil and other countries. Secure yourself some land in a tropical country....

The problem will be the same, US is dependent from energy coming out of the country.

By number999 on 10/27/2006 6:11:56 PM , Rating: 3
1. There is all this talk about ethanol providing about 75-80% of the power of gasoline. This is true and ethanol provides the most power out of all the alcohol based fuels.

2. Diesels are limited in the states due to particulate and NO emissions. There are a couple of solutions from blue-tec to new catalytic processes that create ammonia from the NO and react it with other NO. New diesel fuel standards are coming out in the US and Canada to lower the sulfur content. Lubricity of low sulfur fuels can be increased with bio-diesel.

3. Let's not talk of hydrogen. There's no easy way to store it in a car for longer ranges. It's not efficient to produce it. Fuel cells are not that efficient and are environmentally sensitive. HTGR's (High Temperature Gas Reactors) are only supposed to catalytically produce hydrogen in theory. Test reactors have never been used to test the theory and the latest news is that only thing coming down the pipe is the modular pebble bed from S.Africa coming around 2012. It will cost billions of dollars to create the infrastructure for it.

4. Realistically, there is a zero chance that America can produce the ethanol that it needs to displace present oil/gasoline use. Considering whos' studies you use the input of energy you put in to what you get out ranges from less that 1 (from oil sponsored studies) to the 2-3+ range. Agriculturally, that would require a large percentage of arable land to be devoted to just producing fuel with the ecological damage that would cause.

This may be displaced with enzyme/cellulose ethanol but this is unproven technology. The same energy constraints occur with bio-diesel fuels although non-edible oils can be used. An unknown promising tech for bio-diesels is oil harvested from algae but this is not yet commercial, although if harnessed could be used to simultaneously sequester CO2. This is ethanol injection of a gasoline engine.

The following are my opinions.
Since this is an increased efficiency of a gasoline engine of 30%, we are only talking about increasing fuel economy to around 40 MPG max. all things considered equal although engine weight would go down but then I'm also talking one of the more fuel efficient cars so this is just a guestamate. Although a nice number, it still doesn't compare to the 100+ MPG of say a plug-in hybrid.

Although laudable, 110 billion gallons of gasoline is still too much and I doubt that consumption will decrease. Like most automotive advancements of recent years, we will most likely use this to increase the power of the vehicles rather than the fuel economy.

Some things that are/were out there
TDI Lupo diesel in Europe 75-80 MPG

Popular Mechanics Aug, 2006 article "100 MPG car"
lots of Wikipedia stuff
"Who killed the electric car" recycling

By FITCamaro on 10/27/2006 6:22:18 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree, I don't think we come anywhere close to producing the amount of food we can. I think we can produce the ethanol we'd need to fuel our cars. I don't have the evidence to back up that claim, but with the amount of farmland in the US, and how farmers are already paid not to grow crops, lets put that land to use. Even if we switched to a 50-50 mix of gas and ethanol, that'd reduce our gas consumption by another 40% (since most gas these days has around 10% ethanol). If we could get everything to E85, that'd drastically reduce our need for oil.

What's dumb to me, is that the oil industry seems to be largely fighting a switch. Why not just invest in it themselves. What's it matter what fuel they're selling to us?

By peternelson on 10/28/2006 2:33:35 PM , Rating: 2
"who killed the electric car" -> GREAT MOVIE!

I'd say Tesla for the win!

(like a modern day "EV1").

Some places like the UK we pay massive tax on gasoline for vehicles (compared to USA), which makes electric an even more obvious choice.

Now we just need people selling them.....

By Xenoid on 10/29/2006 1:39:44 PM , Rating: 2
A pure gasoline car with decent mileage: 2003 Dodge Neon, 2.0L, 5-speed manual tranny. 29mpg city, 36mpg highway

A turbo-diesel car with great mileage: 1999 VW Jetta TDI, 1.9L, 5-speed manual tranny. 40mpg city, 49mpg highway.

A hybrid car with greater mileage: 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid, 1.3L, 5-speed manual tranny. 45mpg city, 51mpg highway.

Logically you would pick the Civic Hybrid, right? Lets look at fueling costs for per annum using the default variables on

2003 Neon: $1038
1999 Jetta: $881
2005 Civic: $706

Wow looking even more clear-cut. But lets look at the MSRP of these vehicles when they were made.

2003 Neon: $15,410
1999 Jetta: $17,225
2005 Civic: $22,150

How many years until the Neon/Jetta ends up costing $22,150?

2003 Neon: 6.5 years of fuel plus MSRP
1999 Jetta: 5.6 years of fuel plus MSRP

Are you saying you want me to spend for the price tag on a car what I could get for a different car and 6.5 years of fuel for it?

You will probably asked why I used such an old Jetta. Newer TDI Jetta/Golfs get about 5 mpg less than the older ones.

Now for the 2003 Neon vs 1999 Jetta. After 5 years this is your total cost.

2003 Neon: $15,410 + 5 x $1038 = $20,600
1999 Jetta: $17,225 + 5 x $881 = $21,630

Hard to even justify this but you get the idea. I would definitely drive a twin-turbo diesel engine car though.

Alternative Fuel Technologies for Automobiles
By BioHazardous on 10/27/2006 11:20:02 AM , Rating: 3
I think the next 5 years will be very interesting in terms of what new advances are made towards moving away from fossil fuels. I try to pick up every magazine out there that has an article about these new technologies, and they all seem to hold a lot of promise and are still facing their fair share of challenges in making them meaningful alternatives to fossil fuels.

I'm not going to comment on this by saying how amazing this is as we all know it could hit a road block somewhere along the lines that destroys the idea all together, but I am hopeful for the automotive future we're heading in to with our attempts to remove fossil fuels from the equation.

I haven't heard much on Hydrogen technology lately, and that seemed the most intriguing to me since it wasn't simply changing the type of fuel being burned but rather an entirely new way to produce energy.

I apologize for any typos or awkward sentences as I'm just listening to a conference call right now and trying to type.

By Mazzer on 10/27/2006 11:46:59 AM , Rating: 2
I think we stand to see alot of new advances in ethanol based fuel technology's in 5 years. Like it said above current engines aren't as efficient with the fuel but it is very inexpensive for an automaker to make their engine E85 compatible. That and advertising the fuel as a clean alternative, especially after all the hurricanes and global warming becoming wildly accepted as fact, is becoming very popular and auto makers would be stupid to sit around and not take advantage of new things. Especially with new processes like Cellulosic which I believe burns no other fuels and is somewhere around 1600% efficient compared to current processes which are 40-60% efficient.(From Wired Magazine).

Hydrogen isn't even close to ready to take over. The only clean, efficient way to make on a large scale would be with the proposed new nuclear power plants they are trying to build which will help produce hydrogen. Unfortunately people are uneducated about current advances in nuclear plants and the cost of running them is unknown, so its not easy to get them built. Ethanol is the next logical step forward. We have been using fossil fuels in cars for over a hundred years and I don't think we can just drop it in the next 15-20years for hydrogen fuel. We need to slowly work away from it. Personally I don't see hydrogen fuel becoming the norm for cars in the near future. The way I look at it is that so many people like combustion engines for alot of reasons and it will be hard to get them to convert.

By bobsmith1492 on 10/27/2006 12:12:30 PM , Rating: 2
The problem hydrogen is NOT a way of producing energy at all. At best, it is a fairly inefficient means of storing energy; the energy must still be derived from something, ususally fossil fuels. That's why hydrogen has no future, unless a better source is found such as more fission or new fusion power plants.

Main issue: distribution
By gkline on 10/27/2006 5:39:35 PM , Rating: 3
There are several issues with using ethanol as a primary fuel source. Yes, producing enough is one of those issues, although one that several researchers are investigating. There are methods to greatly increase the yield of ethanol from the same amount of bio-mass input.

That still leaves the issue of distributing the ethanol. Ethanol is very hydrophylic. Thus any distribution system must provide a way to keep water from building up in tanks and supply lines. This is not an issue for gasoline, which is NOT hydrophylic.

Also, consider this - for years, the US government has subsidized the farming industry, while telling them to LIMIT the amount of crops they grow. If we're going to subsiduze the industry, let's do so for production, not ani-production.

RE: Main issue: distribution
By number999 on 10/27/2006 6:21:50 PM , Rating: 2
Ethanol is very hydrophylic

This in itself is a problem, since water catalyses the oxidation/reduction reaction of iron and oxygen. ie.rust

RE: Main issue: distribution
By Madellga on 10/28/2006 3:18:59 AM , Rating: 2
Ask the brazilians. Old news there, you can find it in any gas station since 25 years.

A lot of the technology already exists
By TheOtherBubka on 10/27/2006 12:37:57 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. Here's a quick rundown on promised technologies:

1. Saab introduced Saab Variable Combustion Control where
they used DI into a variable sized combustion chamber. If
I remember correctly, a 1.5L put out about 225 hp and 260
lb-ft. Obviously google this for the press releases.

2. Volkwagen has already put out a very efficient engine
for their European market that has great torque and very
high horsepower all while completely demolishing the Civic
and Corolla in fuel economy too. It's in the Golf and
marketed as the Twincharger. Over 40 mpg city and highway
without the batteries. Google it.It is a 2006 International
Engine of the Year on

3. Very large strides in diesel development reduction of
NOx and soot. Technology exists and going to production
starting with Mercedes and Volkswagen.

4. Now...take these and add a small hybrid system akin to
the Civic and Accord and what do you have? Well over 50
mpg with insane acceleration and power and very very
very small battery usage compared to the Toyota method.

By GreenEnvt on 10/27/2006 1:56:15 PM , Rating: 2
For #3, Honda's new Diesel system looks MUCH better then Mercedes, no tank of chemicals to refill.

By JDub02 on 10/27/2006 3:53:08 PM , Rating: 2
Diesels really are the (near) future of fuel economy. I just wish there were more options than VW's in the US. I would gladly trade my gas motor for a nice turbodiesel. VW's regularly get 45-50 mpg on the highway. Can't say that for my V6 (29 mpg).

Wrong. Gas makes more power.
By FITCamaro on 10/27/2006 2:17:24 PM , Rating: 2
Ethanol does not produce more power than gas. It produces less. E85 can deliver the same fuel economy and around the same power though. The issue is that motors aren't totally tuned for it yet. They're tuned to get the most out of gas but will still run the lower octane fuel of ethanol.

The reason gas as a fuel is so good is because of its high energy to unit ratio(i don't know the proper term). It's better than anything else we have. The downside is the emissions. Ethanol is a good alternative but the fuel isn't going to make as much power as gas does. Now with the growing popularity of turbochargers and superchargers, this can be balanced out. But a gas engine with just as good of tuning and the same compression will make more power.

I support the move to E85. True ethanol has to be produced and can be expensive to do so, but thats because its not in the mass production that would be necessary for the entire country to run on the stuff. If we ever did make the switch, it would enter truly mass production and the costs of production would go down. I'm a horsepower buff as well, but with proper tuning we can still get pretty much the same power out of the same size engine. There's top fuel drag cars that run on ethanol, so obviously it can make power.

I've actually wanted to build a 350 that runs on ethanol and makes around 400hp, then drop it in a Camaro and have some fun. Only issue would be filling it up.

RE: Wrong. Gas makes more power.
By Etsp on 10/27/2006 10:30:13 PM , Rating: 2
Ethanol has a higher octane rating... another poster linked a (broken link) but had the correct information about Octane Rating, here's a (hopefully) working link. Higher Octane rating does NOT mean more energy.

RE: Wrong. Gas makes more power.
By FITCamaro on 10/28/2006 2:50:40 PM , Rating: 2
Where did I say higher octane = more energy? Higher octane means the fuel takes more compression to ignite. Thats why in high compression engines you use higher octane fuel. If you use lower octane fuel, the fuel ignites before it should and forces the piston back down before its completed its stroke toward the cylinder head (compression stroke I believe it might be called).

Higher octane can equal more horsepower in a motor that needs it. Higher compression engines make more power (and also achieve better fuel economy with good tuning) than lower compression engines. Of course sticking 93 octane gas in a 9:1 compression motor won't do anything to make the engine run better. And in some cases will make it run worse.

By evlfred on 10/27/2006 11:38:31 AM , Rating: 2
those manufacturers are just getting started with DI where every Audi and VW has had it for a while now.

By evlfred on 10/27/2006 11:39:10 AM , Rating: 2
well almost every, theres still one v8 thats got regular injection.

Why aren't they working on.....
By GhandiInstinct on 10/27/2006 3:12:18 PM , Rating: 1
A succesor to the internal combustion engine? Why not alternative engines?

By greenlant00 on 10/27/2006 5:49:07 PM , Rating: 2
There are alternates to the standard internal combustion engine. How about the Wankel? They have way less moving parts. The only disadvantage is they seals tend loosen up due to thermal expansion, which makes it loose some compression, and drop the efficiency of the motor.

I have always wondered whey the standard up/down piston has stayed so popular. I believe that car manufacturers like the standard motor, cause after about 60-70k miles, they can rape you for parts and labor.

Hybrids tend not to be very efficient since you have to drive like a grandma to get good mileage. Then when the cells die, you can spend a buttload on replacing them. If I get a new daily driver, it will be a Golf with the diesel.

Ethanol has less engery
By jp7189 on 10/27/2006 12:45:07 PM , Rating: 2
I read several post which allude to ethanol having more energy thatn gasoline. Here are the numbers:

1 gallon of gasoline = 125,000 Btu
1 gallon of ethanol = 84,400 Btu
1 gallon methanol = 62,800 Btu
(10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) = 120,900 Btu

By 1VandyFan on 10/27/2006 12:47:32 PM , Rating: 2
It doesn't matter what fuel we go to next. Some company is going to have a hand in running up the cost of the fuel so that it is inflated to an amount that is equally as bad today.

I can just see it now, the great drought of 2015 wipes out the corn crop and ethanol prices skyrocket.

By lobadobadingdong on 10/27/2006 1:35:36 PM , Rating: 2
Evinrude and Mercury have had 2 stage direct injection on their larger 2 stroke outboards for several years now (closing on 10 years if memory serves me right). It did save a little bit of fuel over the more common multiport injection and carborated methods. Most will run on like 10% ethenol.

By sdsdv10 on 10/27/2006 5:54:05 PM , Rating: 2
Most here are arguing about the wrong thing. Brandon misrepresented the original article. This engine will not run on ethanol, but on gasoline. It was use small quantities of ethanol directly injected to cool the combustion chamber to allow the higher compression ratios described in the press release. A related water or methanol injection system has been used for many years in drag racing engines to produce more power. Please check the links. Here is a direct quote from the Cnet news article.

Gasoline and the ethanol would be kept in separate tanks.

However, this brings up another set of issues. Filling stations would have to have both gasoline and ethanol on tap. Not a major engineering problem, but a significant capital investment to change all stations over to some type of duel pump design.

all this is BS
By RamarC on 10/28/2006 4:41:43 PM , Rating: 2
The 1988 Civic HF had fuel economy estimates of 50 city and 56 highway using plain-old gasoline. Now 18 years later, the Civic Hybrid we can only muster 49 city, 51 highway.

Does MIT need to research what was done with '88 technology? If '88 gas tech can get us to 50mpg, there's absolutely no reason '08 tech can't reach 75mpg without diesel and without electric assist. And considering GM had production electric cars in the early 90s, there's no reason electric cars are commonplace today.

By davecason on 10/29/2006 6:05:14 PM , Rating: 2
This article lays it all out:
Crunching The Numbers On Alternative Fuels
It seems to be a balanced, unbiased account of our major fuel choices.

There is also a decent listing on Wikipedia:

who could guess
By crazydrummer4562 on 10/27/2006 5:43:03 PM , Rating: 1
this seems like a great idea before the gasoline corporation giants smash it...

By sdedward on 10/27/2006 1:23:30 PM , Rating: 1
I have been discussing/arguing on this topic with friends and family for the last year and I agree with many in saying that ethanol is not the answer. For the short term I think that diesel hybrids will be the answer.

1. We already have a distribution system set up for diesel. Yes this will involve upgrading and improving current distribution methods but it will not require the entire system to be rebuilt.

2. Diesel engines natively have a lower compression ratio and less moving parts. Diesel engines on average last longer and need less maintenance than their gasoline counterparts.

3. European diesel cars currently get ~40-50 mpg (not sure on these numbers) and adding hybrid technology would possibly increase this to near the holy grail of fuel efficiency, 100 mpg.

The setbacks are that diesel has a stigma of being dirty and loud, diesel vehicles drive a bit differently that gasoline vehicles, and supprt for diesel is being drowned out by politicians that want to continue to subsidize their constituents by promoting ethanol.

By Jeff7181 on 10/27/2006 3:06:50 PM , Rating: 3
1. Diesel fuel is oil based so it's NOT a viable alternative to gasoline in that respect. Whether we produce diesel fuel or gasoline with that oil doesn't matter, we still need that oil for both of them.

2. Diesel engines have a much HIGHER compression ratio anywhere from 15:1 to 25:1 whereas a typical gasoline engine is around 8 or 9:1. Diesels also don't necessarily have less moving parts, just different moving parts.

One of the great things about diesel is it's air/fuel ratio. At idle it can be close to 100:1 where a gasonline engine needs to be at 14.7:1 almost all the time.

By FITCamaro on 10/28/2006 2:58:40 PM , Rating: 2
Yup on number 2. Why you think turbo diesel trucks make so much power with simple tuning. Those blocks and bottom ends are already built to handle a ton of compression, so turning up the boost doesn't make much of an impact on anything but horsepower and torque. Some of the turbo diesel trucks out there can easily go from 600 lb ft of torque to 1000 lb ft with a simple computer tuner and get better gas mileage doing it. The only thing you have to really worry about is exhaust temperatures or you could start melting things.

I'd say the typical compression ratio for a gas engine these days is 9.5:1 - 10:1. The only engines that will have as low as a 8:1 compression ration would be a supercharged or turbocharged engine. Even 9:1 is getting rarer except in boosted applications. Higher performance engines typically have 10.5:1 - 11:1 compression ratios.

By GoatMonkey on 10/27/2006 3:20:46 PM , Rating: 2
Diesel has its advantages. That Audi race car is a torque monster that is pretty much kicking ass.

The problem with diesel is that it does not have quite as clear of an upgrade path. I mean if you are out in some little town that doesn't have a diesel gas pump you're pretty screwed, but if your car runs E85 it probably also runs fine on gasoline too, and you'll have no problem filling up.

By TomZ on 10/27/2006 4:15:28 PM , Rating: 2
In the U.S., there are no availability issues at all for diesel. There are enough vehicles in the fleet, both cars and trucks, that diesel is easy to come by.

The main advantage that diesel had in times passed was that it used to cost quite a bit less per gallon than gasoline. But refiners, distributors, and retailers have erased that price advantage entirely. So I see little benefit to diesel personally.

By rushfan2006 on 10/27/2006 4:28:21 PM , Rating: 2
Your other points aside, but the availability one isn't entirely correct. This isn't my opinion either - its FACT.

There are plenty of stations I pass by even here in Jersey that don't offer diesel, not many mind you - but some....However when I take the once every 4 year trip to Ohio from here...there are many many stations that don't offer diesel along my six hour drive.

By rushfan2006 on 10/27/2006 4:31:00 PM , Rating: 2
Btw if you wonder how I'd remember that...well because the last Ohio trip we took my brother in law's "dualy pickup" and that is diesel, and yes we ran out of fuel. ;)

By Kherberos on 10/27/2006 5:28:13 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I live in Europe and my car is doing +1000 km with 55 l of diesel, I belive this must be around 45 mpg. So a 6 hours trip is not really a problm, with that kind of mielage you can drive 10 hours without filling up the tank :-) (ok this true only if you do 70-80 mph on average)

Now, because of the high compression ratio, a diesel engine is theoreticaly able to "burn" almost anything, from alcool to any kind of vegetable oil (colza, tournesol,...)
So if you can t find a station with a diesel pump, just go to the local Wallmart and buy a few gallons of deep frying oil :-)

By Madellga on 10/28/2006 2:15:56 AM , Rating: 2
Don't do that, you are going to damage your engine and other components like filters, which were not made to handly different oils.

It might work for a while, but it will clog your engine.
And don't fill in alcohol......

By Lonyo on 10/27/2006 5:11:34 PM , Rating: 2
Greater fuel efficiency isn't a benefit?

By TomZ on 10/27/2006 9:24:19 PM , Rating: 2
Depends on the cost of diesel relative to gasoline, now doesn't it?

By semo on 10/28/2006 8:34:58 PM , Rating: 2
the difference in cost between gasoline and diesel isn't significant wherever you are (it's a little cheaper in some parts of the world, more expensive in others).

diesel engines are more efficient than gasoline engines.

a 1.9tdi audi a6 (chipped for 170bhp) with 3500lbs curb weight can get 50mpg easy.

diesel powered engines also have more torque than gasoline equivalents.

By semo on 10/28/2006 11:57:26 AM , Rating: 2
the main advantages of diesel (when used in a diesel engine) are
1: better mpg than a similarly sized gasoline engine
2: better torque than a similarly sized gasoline engine

not that it used to cost less in a particular part of the world.

audi were close to making the 100mpg car. too bad no one bought it and no new model was made

By sieistganzfett on 10/27/2006 10:29:57 PM , Rating: 2
lol. thank you for saving me all the time to write that! i think MIT should say we should all resort to using horses for transportation to get away from needing the oil. ;)

By TheOtherBubka on 10/28/2006 1:19:31 AM , Rating: 3
I think it is safe to say that our fuel consumption/dependence problem is a very complex problem that is being approached in many fragmented ways - which leads to not much collective progress in any time frame.

To me, the ethanol vs oil vs hydrogen debate is really about we have a transportation fuel problem with no clear cut answer at this time. But, how did we end up with a problem?

1. Despite what is sometimes claimed, DOT numbers show CAFE worked. Despite increasing miles traveled per year by at least 10% from 1970 to 1995, fuel consmption for autos and motorcycles dropped from 760 to 530 gallons per year per vehicle. We are now back up to more than 610 gallons per year per vehicle when SUVs and minivans are figured in.

2. What most don't realize is that from '84-2000, on an inflation adjusted basis, the average person with an average per capita income driving an average car the average number of miles for that model year, their total spent on fuel has been about 5% of their income. Whereas in 1975, the average person spent ~8.5% of their income on fuel. < 5% is less than what alot of people pay in sales tax on purchases.

3. Why haven't local, state, and the federal gov't cared that our fuel consumption kept going the other way since 1986? The thought is they all collect taxes based uopn the # of gallons sold. Easy way to have more revenue for road projects without ever raising taxes. And what politician wants to run saying they are going to raise the gasoline tax? how big are these revenues? Try $509M for ALA, $419M for ARK, ~$414M for CT, and $3.3B for CA. All are in FY01-02 and include gasoline and diesel tax revenue. Oh yeah, on July 1, 2002 the > 16 yr old population of ARK was only estimated to be 2.1M thus about $199.50 per registered driver in taxes.
Something had to help spread the cost to build roads to suburbia.

4. The amount of wasted fuel per year continues to increase. The Texas Transportation Institute (one of the more respected when it comes to traffice studies) estimates that about 5.7B gallons of gasoline were wasted due to traffic congestion in 2000. 2000 estimate total consumption of 73.1B gallons. Thus almost 8% of total.

Mitigating factor. We were able to 'double' our nations fuel economy from '65 to '75 because the annual volume of new cars into the market was a substantial fraction of the total number of registered vehicles. In today's US, with over 250 M registered vehicles and the annual US auto market selling about 16-17 M new vehicles per year, if every new vehicle coming off the line had twice the fuel efficiency of the vechile it was replacing, you are looking at over 15 years to replace the fleet neglecting vehicles lost to accidents.

General Thoughts (??????)
5. Congress needs to implement a new CAFE. It seems most companies won't really address the 'problem' unless they know how high they have to jump and what the penalties are for not 'clearing the bar.'

6. We always pay. No matter which way the subsidy or tax break is going. Whether corn or oil. Tax breaks for efficient engine development and hybrids. Disposal of contaminated materials. Not planting. Whatever. The US consumer foots the bill. It's a zero sum game. Whether local, state, or federal gov't or business, those costs are worked into the price either ahead of time or in times of 'high demand', 'market instabilities', 'unsettled political relationships around the world', 'capacity constraints', 'weather related phenomena', ....

Big ships take a long time to turn around.

By Slaimus on 10/30/2006 12:49:02 AM , Rating: 2
Corn-based ethanol is fairly wasteful indeed, but cellulase-produced ethanol based on raw plant materials looks promising. Ethanol engines are being developed because the future outlook for a more efficient way to produce ethanol it is fairly bright. Brazil's sugar cane ethanol is successful since they can produce it readily.

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