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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 TheOtherBubka on 10/28/2006 1:19:31 AM , Rating: 3
I think it is safe to say that our fuel consumption/dependence problem is a very complex problem that is being approached in many fragmented ways - which leads to not much collective progress in any time frame.

To me, the ethanol vs oil vs hydrogen debate is really about we have a transportation fuel problem with no clear cut answer at this time. But, how did we end up with a problem?

1. Despite what is sometimes claimed, DOT numbers show CAFE worked. Despite increasing miles traveled per year by at least 10% from 1970 to 1995, fuel consmption for autos and motorcycles dropped from 760 to 530 gallons per year per vehicle. We are now back up to more than 610 gallons per year per vehicle when SUVs and minivans are figured in.

2. What most don't realize is that from '84-2000, on an inflation adjusted basis, the average person with an average per capita income driving an average car the average number of miles for that model year, their total spent on fuel has been about 5% of their income. Whereas in 1975, the average person spent ~8.5% of their income on fuel. < 5% is less than what alot of people pay in sales tax on purchases.

3. Why haven't local, state, and the federal gov't cared that our fuel consumption kept going the other way since 1986? The thought is they all collect taxes based uopn the # of gallons sold. Easy way to have more revenue for road projects without ever raising taxes. And what politician wants to run saying they are going to raise the gasoline tax? how big are these revenues? Try $509M for ALA, $419M for ARK, ~$414M for CT, and $3.3B for CA. All are in FY01-02 and include gasoline and diesel tax revenue. Oh yeah, on July 1, 2002 the > 16 yr old population of ARK was only estimated to be 2.1M thus about $199.50 per registered driver in taxes.
Something had to help spread the cost to build roads to suburbia.

4. The amount of wasted fuel per year continues to increase. The Texas Transportation Institute (one of the more respected when it comes to traffice studies) estimates that about 5.7B gallons of gasoline were wasted due to traffic congestion in 2000. 2000 estimate total consumption of 73.1B gallons. Thus almost 8% of total.

Mitigating factor. We were able to 'double' our nations fuel economy from '65 to '75 because the annual volume of new cars into the market was a substantial fraction of the total number of registered vehicles. In today's US, with over 250 M registered vehicles and the annual US auto market selling about 16-17 M new vehicles per year, if every new vehicle coming off the line had twice the fuel efficiency of the vechile it was replacing, you are looking at over 15 years to replace the fleet neglecting vehicles lost to accidents.

General Thoughts (??????)
5. Congress needs to implement a new CAFE. It seems most companies won't really address the 'problem' unless they know how high they have to jump and what the penalties are for not 'clearing the bar.'

6. We always pay. No matter which way the subsidy or tax break is going. Whether corn or oil. Tax breaks for efficient engine development and hybrids. Disposal of contaminated materials. Not planting. Whatever. The US consumer foots the bill. It's a zero sum game. Whether local, state, or federal gov't or business, those costs are worked into the price either ahead of time or in times of 'high demand', 'market instabilities', 'unsettled political relationships around the world', 'capacity constraints', 'weather related phenomena', ....

Big ships take a long time to turn around.

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