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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 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.

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