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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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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.

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