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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: 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.

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