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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 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

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