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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 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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