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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 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.

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