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Coskata's Warrenville, IL. test lab is unlike any in the world, and has a one-of-a-kind automated guided evolution lab. Coskata would not let us take pictures on-site due to the abundance of proprietary technology, but they courteously provided us with images.   (Source: Coskata)

Coskata researchers fine tune pressure, temperature and other factors to make sure their microbes have ideal living conditions.  (Source: Coskata)

Coskata has already constructed a mobile pilot plant, shown here in a rendering. It will soon begin construction on its first full commercial plant, which will open in 2011, and produce 50-60M gallons of ethanol at less than $1/gallon.  (Source: Coskata)
DailyTech got an exclusive peek at the inner workings of Coskata and while there's no sure deals in business, they're pretty convincing

In January, GM announced that it was buying an undisclosed stake in ethanol startup Coskata and partnering with the company to help achieve its vision of a fossil-fuel-free future.  At the time many people were confused -- who was this little company?  And how did they hope to achieve their vision of making cellulosic ethanol from non food-based sources on a commercial scale, at a time when all commercial production was from sugar crops?  And most of all, how would they achieve their biggest claim -- $1/gallon production cost ethanol?

At the third annual Platts Cellulosic Ethanol and Biofuels conference we encountered a different Coskata -- a more mature company that is now poised to become an industry leader thanks to the foundation of hard research it laid.

Coskata was among the first to present at the conference and made few friends among its ethanol producer competitors.  Chief Marketing Officer put on a presentation in which he laid out the differences between Coskata's method and alternative cellulosic ethanol methods, which require either expensive pretreatment or even more expensive enzymes.  The irony was not lost when the various competitors that followed bemoaned the high costs of enzymes and pretreatment.

Coskata's process has the potential to revolutionize the industry, because it's unique.  We got to take a look at this process first-hand when we toured Coskata's 30,000+ sq. ft state-of-the-art research facility in Warrenville, IL.  With no pretreatment, carbon containing materials are put into a gasification chamber, where they're exposed to a plasma torch at 20,000 F, as hot as the surface of the sun.  Clean gas leaves the reactor.  Sulfur is harvested for later use, and halogen gases are also collected for resale.  The leftover slag is inert and is an ideal brick or highway material. 

From the gasification chamber, pure carbon-bearing gas flows into a reactor.  Inside the reactor specially bred microbes live, or "bugs" as Mr. Bolsen affectionately refers to the little critters as.  The microbes are derived from 5 different original lines from Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma University.  The bugs live in special reactors.  Mr. Bolsen showed off two of the proprietary designs -- a still and then a membrane tube reactor filled with thin filaments.  Coskata plans on deploying both, possibly, as both work great.  Inside the reactor the food gas is converted to pure ethanol, releasing at 99.7 percent purity.  The process entirely eliminates enzymes and the need to go through complex purification for the resulting product.

Coskata now estimates that its ethanol will cost less than $1/gallon to produce, easily beating the DOE long range target of $1.25 a gallon.  By Coskata's estimates, this trumps chemical approaches which at best cost between $1.25-$2.50/gallon with current tech and enzymatic approaches which current cost between $2-$5/gallon.  Best of all their process yields 100 gallons/dry ton of material and only requires a gallon of water per gallon of gas.

Coskata's estimates their approach reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 96 percent from well (trees/grass/waste) to wheels (GREET analysis), including all energy costs.  These numbers come from a study on Coskata's wood-based fuel production, performed by U.S. government Department of Energy Scientist Dr. Michael Wang, at one of the country's top labs -- Argonne National Laboratories.  Assuming this the analysis looked at pure ethanol, and factoring in the low energy content of ethanol and a E85 blending with gas, DailyTech estimates that Coskata may be able delivering E85 that produces 60-70% less emissions than fossil fuels.  This may be a bit conservative as power generation from the steam byproducts of ethanol production may save even more emissions. 

With such promising tech, Coskata is looking to aggressively bring the tech to market.  It plans to both build its own plants and license its reactor and microbe technology to various locations.  Construction on the first full scale plant will begin likely late this year or early next, according to Coskata.  The plant will produce 50-60M gallon/yr.  Sources say that the plant may be located in the Southeast U.S.  The exact location is still up in the air as several competitors have competing proposals.  The first plant will most likely be fueled by wood waste as an energy source.  The plant will consume approximately 500,000 dry tons of material yearly.

Mr. Bolsen indicated that while the Renewable Fuel Standards set in place by recent legislation help his company, Coskata is likely to be able to succeed with or without tax credits.  This will be difficult for some of the other second generation ethanol companies, according to Mr. Bolsen.

Mr. Bolsen, in an exclusive interview with DailyTech, stated, "Coskata would look to be viable without subsidies.  But it would be unbelievably detrimental to scrap the energy credits.  (Still) If we can make (ethanol) 50 cents less at the pump than gasoline, consumers are going to demand it."

The real key to Coskata's magic is their state-of-the-art guided evolution facility.  Coskata has invested in a robotic system unlike any in the world, thanks to its hiring of several of the world's top microbial geneticists.  The fully automated facility tests over 150,000 strands of bugs a year and is so top secret, that we could not even enter it during the tour.  It has allowed Coskata's bugs to advance beyond those of any other ethanol producer in efficiency.

As Coskata aggressively advances, it really is looking better and better.  It has been working to develop partnerships in South America and China as well as a wealth of domestic offers in the U.S.  It is looking to build and license facilities to process everything from wood to trash into cheap fuel.  Meanwhile Coskata's microbes keep getting more and more efficient -- and that's without easy genetic modifications that could improve yields (Coskata's bugs are currently non-GMO). 

Mr. Bolsen envisions a future where Coskata delivers updated microbes regularly to partners, like Microsoft delivers software patches.  And with a solid infrastructure in place and commercialization in place, it seems they can do it and accomplish the seemingly impossible -- bring cheap commercial scale alternative fuels to the masses within the very near future.

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A 20,000F plasma torch?
By UNCjigga on 10/14/2008 4:48:12 PM , Rating: 2
How much energy (and what kind) is required to power the 20,000F torch during the gasification process? Is the process carbon neutral (for powering the torch--not the gasification itself)?

RE: A 20,000F plasma torch?
By Solandri on 10/14/2008 6:03:49 PM , Rating: 2
Typically, an incinerator results in a net production of energy, not consumption. There is a tremendous amount of latent energy in waste products like wood, paper, plastics.

RE: A 20,000F plasma torch?
By MrPickins on 10/15/2008 1:27:30 AM , Rating: 2
My interpretation is that they are not burning the cellulose, instead they are pretty much vaporizing it...

RE: A 20,000F plasma torch?
By Calin on 10/15/2008 5:32:31 AM , Rating: 2
They are burning the cellulose: "Clean gas leaves the reactor".
This gas is CO2 and H2O mostly (with other components separated for further use).

RE: A 20,000F plasma torch?
By sumisu on 10/15/2008 7:58:09 AM , Rating: 3
Errr, no.

What in the world would they need a plasma torch for?
If they just wanted to burn wood they could have a damn bonfire.

Surely this has to be combustionless conversion to gas - something that has been going on for a long time.

"Coal gasification is hardly a new technology. The first instances of gasifying coal date to the late 1700s, when it was part of a method for making tar. By 1812, commercial companies were supplying coal gas for heating and lighting London. (The famous "gaslights" were powered by coal gas.) By the start of the 20th century, most major cities in the developed world had gasworks, which often dominated skylines with their towering tanks."

... from

RE: A 20,000F plasma torch?
By masher2 on 10/15/2008 12:01:42 PM , Rating: 2
> "What in the world would they need a plasma torch for?"

The article clearly states they're using a plasma...the temperature is, I assume, essential to the process to break down the complex organic molecules into their elemental constituents.

The energetics of the reaction do seem to be a bit fishy, though, so I agree with the OP. If every molecule of fuel has to first be heated to 20,000 degrees (as well as subjected to a large number of other, possibly endothermic steps) I don't see a large EROI payoff here...and certainly not a price of $1/g.

RE: A 20,000F plasma torch?
By sumisu on 10/17/2008 4:24:09 AM , Rating: 2
I read the article - You didn't read my post.

It was a reply to the person who said they were burning wood into H20 and C02.

I guess I could have made it a bit clearer by writing "If that were true, what would they need a plasma torch for" but I assumed people would read the other post first and put it together themselves. ah well.

RE: A 20,000F plasma torch?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/15/2008 2:08:22 PM , Rating: 1
Way to cut and paste, genius.

RE: A 20,000F plasma torch?
By sumisu on 10/17/2008 4:32:33 AM , Rating: 2
I added a relevant link with good info and pasted in an a quoted excerpt for anyone who didn't want to bother with the whole article.

You on the other hand, added nothing at all to the discussion. You actually logged in to post a trite insult at a stranger? must be a government worker with too much time on his hands. Stop posting garbage on forums and get back to work!

RE: A 20,000F plasma torch?
By snownpaint on 10/15/2008 5:56:00 PM , Rating: 2
Correct. There is a difference in applying a flame (combustion) and applying heat.

In any case, this is a great technology that I hope changes everything: Solvents, gas, asphalt, oil consumption (which will always be around as long as we have plastics), national economics, and auto designs. I hope. I'm tired of gasoline, and hearing about the trouble it causes. "the rock we are chained to". Now we just have to hope that this technology won't be road blocked by environmentalist and regulation much like refineries are now. With it effecting big business, I'm sure it will. Say it together "Lobbyists".

RE: A 20,000F plasma torch?
By nothingtoseehere on 10/15/2008 1:30:28 AM , Rating: 2
They didn't say it was an incinerator. For all we know it may all be inside a chamber filled with inert gas.

RE: A 20,000F plasma torch?
By phxfreddy on 10/15/08, Rating: -1
RE: A 20,000F plasma torch?
By Meinolf on 10/15/2008 5:44:43 PM , Rating: 1
It doesn't matter at a $1 a gallon the goverment will tax it up $2.75 a gallon anyway. We save nothing

Did anyone proofread this post?
By Crucial on 10/14/2008 4:18:08 PM , Rating: 2
Did anyone proofread this post?

RE: Did anyone proofread this post?
By stryfe on 10/15/2008 5:30:50 PM , Rating: 2
Haha, I just posted essentially the same comment before seeing yours!

What does it consume?
By aeroxander on 10/15/2008 8:47:53 AM , Rating: 2
Was I reading correctly that they burn wood to produce the ethanol?

My only concern with this would be that if it becomes a viable source of ethanol and more and more facilities spring up using this process where are they going to get their product from? Are we going to see a huge spike in deforestation because of it? Get cheap wood from China or South America?

I may have and probably have missed something so if someone wants to clarify please do.

RE: What does it consume?
By paydirt on 10/15/2008 2:21:55 PM , Rating: 2
Good question. My guess is that wood is going to be more energy dense on a per-acre basis than corn. Whereas right now, there is a bunch of corn being used for ethanol... those corn farmers may become lumberjacks or forced to sell their land to timber companies.

I'm no materials scientist. I would envision that the fuel-making plants be located first either in the Northwest (where the timber industry is) and perhaps the southeast as well (paper industry, and abundant mangrove trees in Florida).

There may be some kind of limit to how much trees can be used, but there is tremendous growth potential and tremendous farm acreage that could be converted to something more energy dense.

Editor on vacation?
By stryfe on 10/15/2008 5:29:44 PM , Rating: 2
Does no one proof read articles on this site before they're posted???

I found the subject very interesting but the multiple typos and grammar and spelling mistakes really detract from the article.

I had to preview this comment before posting it, can the writers do the same with their articles please!

Images Pulled from Movies
By Cypherdude1 on 10/16/2008 5:48:50 PM , Rating: 2
I noticed that DailyTech pulls images from movies. This is the fifth time I've seen this in a week. Isn't DailyTech concerned they'll be sued by the MPAA?

Not me
By Spivonious on 10/14/08, Rating: -1
RE: Not me
By mdogs444 on 10/14/08, Rating: -1
RE: Not me
By JasonMick on 10/14/2008 4:10:22 PM , Rating: 5
Read. Coskata does not use corn. And this has nothing to do with biodiesel (vegetable oil).

Also, ethanol exhaust is essentially odorless, as it has no sulfur etc -- any odor you're detecting is coming from 15 percent gas that's blended in. So that smell you're complaining about is the smell of gasoline.

RE: Not me
By mdogs444 on 10/14/2008 4:12:37 PM , Rating: 2
It was a joke from the Dirty Jobs episode where they made bio-diesel and he complained it smelled like KFC in the morning.....

I use regular gasoline because its more efficient for the price, when compared to E85. But I'm all for this alternative stuff - as long as there are no subsidies.

RE: Not me
By therealnickdanger on 10/14/2008 4:33:18 PM , Rating: 2
Same here. I generally only go to non-ethanol stations. My car burns gas nearly as fast as my ex-wife downs bottles of Karkov. Since many stations around here are using 20% ethanol blends, it only serves to hurt my wallet (let's not even talk about the subsidies from my tax dollars). Thankfully, the Minnesota Street Rod Association lists all stations serving regular gasoline.

RE: Not me
By ebakke on 10/15/2008 9:07:01 AM , Rating: 2
Minnesota's poised to mandate an increase in ethanol for all gas sold in the state. Get ready!

RE: Not me
By Gzus666 on 10/14/08, Rating: -1
RE: Not me
By omnicronx on 10/14/2008 5:00:10 PM , Rating: 4
Let me guess, never been to an alcohol dragster race?
Thats not ethanol, thats methanol.. Not to say it has never been used, I am pretty sure there was a 4-5 time champ in the 80's that used ethanol, but the smell you are talking about comes from methanol dragsters, which 99% of drivers use today.

RE: Not me
By Gzus666 on 10/14/2008 5:06:35 PM , Rating: 1
They use them both, as ethanol produces more energy per gallon. Not the smell I'm worried about, it is the burning of the eyes it produces. It is quite the irritant.

RE: Not me
By omnicronx on 10/14/2008 5:25:30 PM , Rating: 3
No.. they don't.. they use methanol.

Top-Fuel use a 90%-10% mix of 90% nitromethane(90) and methanol (10)

and Top Alcohol (basically tier two of alcohol dragsters) are mainly methanol. almost all Top Alcohol racers use methanol. In the 80's a select few used ethanol, but it never caught on. So wherever you are getting your facts from, check again.

RE: Not me
By Gzus666 on 10/14/2008 5:39:20 PM , Rating: 3

Search for ethanol in that, you will see they have a class for it. Unless you trust Wiki over the NHRA website.

I said they use both, and they do. They liked methanol, cause it is cheaper than ethanol. Nitro has nothing to do with this it is a liquid burning fuel, no atomization, no serious compression in the cylinders to speak of. Different world there.

RE: Not me
By eyebeeemmpawn on 10/15/2008 8:03:27 AM , Rating: 2
I said they use both

No, you said:

That crap will make your eyes water. Alcohol has it's own problems, lets not pretend.

and now you're backpedaling...

RE: Not me
By ebakke on 10/15/2008 9:10:30 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, he said:
They use them both , as ethanol produces more energy per gallon. Not the smell I'm worried about, it is the burning of the eyes it produces. It is quite the irritant.

RE: Not me
By 67STANG on 10/15/2008 1:40:19 AM , Rating: 4
Ethanol produces less energy than gasoline... That's why you get less mileage on a tank of E85 as opposed to straight gasoline. Anyone drag racing on E85 is retarded.

The reason top fuel runs on nitro (the stuff that actually burns your eyes) is because it produces more energy than gasoline-- but it is also much rougher on the engine.

My cousin runs E85 (85% ethanol) in his flex fuel Suburban. I've stood next to it many times while it's idling in my driveway and it doesn't burn my eyes or produce a noticable odor...

RE: Not me
By Durrr on 10/15/2008 9:15:06 AM , Rating: 2
well, there are applications for E85 in forced induction engines due to higher detonation resistance..runs cooler for a given amount of power as well.

RE: Not me
By masher2 on 10/15/2008 11:33:41 AM , Rating: 2
> "Ethanol produces less energy than gasoline...Anyone drag racing on E85 is retarded."

You've confused energy with power. Methanol and ethanol both are less energetic fuels than gasoline. They are, however, more powerful. The lower energy content leads to a lower MPG rating. But the higher octane equivalent allows their use at much higher compression ratios, which allows higher power levels.

Many people drag racing do use E85 or pure alchohols for very good reason. IndyCars also used methanol till 2006 -- they now use ethanol.

RE: Not me
By an0dize on 10/15/2008 2:49:23 PM , Rating: 2
The reason top fuel runs on nitro (the stuff that actually burns your eyes) is because it produces more energy than gasoline-- but it is also much rougher on the engine.

No - Nitromethane itself produces much less energy than gasoline. The reason they use it is because it needs much less air to fully combust, thus allowing them to pack more fuel into the cylinder.

RE: Not me
By Calin on 10/15/2008 5:35:42 AM , Rating: 2
Ethanol does not produce burning of the eyes. You can buy alimentary ethanol in different concentrations (beer, wine, strong spirits).
Methanol on the other hand can lead to blindness if ingested (or breathed from air).

RE: Not me
By masher2 on 10/15/2008 11:21:30 AM , Rating: 4
Ethanol when burned as fuel produces substantially higher levels of ground-level ozone, as well as acetyldehyde/formaldehyde breakdown products -- which certainly causes throat, lung, and eye irritation.

Many studies have concluded that E85 or pure ethanol fuels will be more polluting than regular gasoline.

RE: Not me
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/15/2008 2:15:18 PM , Rating: 2
I'll be danged, ethanol produces about one third more energy per gallon than methanol.

RE: Not me
By Calin on 10/16/2008 9:54:27 AM , Rating: 2
And one and a half as much energy per ounce/pound/ whatever mass unit.

The more dense fuels will produce more energy, usually.
Another example: diesel cars are more miles-per-gallon efficient because diesel fuel contains more energy per volume than gasoline (and even a bit more energy per weight).

RE: Not me
By omnicronx on 10/14/2008 4:52:28 PM , Rating: 2
Ethanol has a much higher octane level (closer to 110) so in a gasoline engine it increases the engine temperature which in turn lowers gas mileage. But that does not mean that E85 engines which are made to handle a very high percentage of ethanol will react the same way. Its all about how the engine is designed, it has been shown that a well designed E85 engine can will have minimal gas mileage impact. As long as engineers take advantage of its pros while mitigating its cons, the mileage difference should be very very close.

I am totally against the use of ethanol until we find a viable source (i.e not corn, soy, or any other source that we use as food) but your reasoning behind not wanting to use it, is pretty much baseless and adds nothing to the discussion.

RE: Not me
By Gzus666 on 10/14/2008 5:00:08 PM , Rating: 1
Um, are you sure you understand octane in this sense? Octane is basically a resistance to ignition. It doesn't increase heat, it just burns slower. This is advantageous when you have a high compression/steep timed engine, as you can start the burn earlier without detonation or pre-ignition problems.

RE: Not me
By omnicronx on 10/14/08, Rating: 0
RE: Not me
By Gzus666 on 10/14/2008 5:30:54 PM , Rating: 5
OK, now I know you don't understand octane. Octane is a resistance to burn, look it up. The heat you are talking about is from higher compression ratios, but if the compression ratios are the same, then the alcohol will actually produce less heat. BTUs are what you need to worry about in heat production with all things equal, and gasoline has ethanol beat by about 38% or so.

Octane does not equal the compression ratio. Compression ratio is just the ratio of the volume at BDC compared to the volume at TDC. This does not change dynamically on normal engine designs without forced induction, or variable cylinder head designs. With forced induction, it is then broken out in static and dynamic compression ratios. Reducing the compression of these engines would be idiotic, as this reduces efficiency, ESPECIALLY when dealing with alcohol. The big problem is, when you reach this much alcohol, you should be in the 14-16:1 compression ratio range, while safe compression on most gasoline engines with even high octane fuel pretty much stops at 12-13:1 depending on the cylinder bore and cylinder head design of the engine.

Higher octane does not "wreak havoc" as you put it. It actually will reduce performance in engines that don't have the compression/timing to take advantage of it. The reduction in it's ability to burn causes the flame to start closer to TDC (less degrees BTDC), which effectively reduces the time the flame front can burn the entire charge and still effectively make power slightly after TDC. Using heat effectively in an engine is what makes power, it is not the enemy.

RE: Not me
By JediJeb on 10/14/2008 6:14:00 PM , Rating: 2
Whether or not the burn starts closer to TDC is determined by the ignition timing not the octane rating of the fuel. It will only start earlier if the octane is low enough that the heat of compression ignites the fuel before the spark does, a condition known as Pinging, which makes a gas engine sound like a diesel and can destroy an engine. The old way to prevent this was to actually inject water into the intake to make the fuel harder to ignite. I think Holley still sells a water injection system if I remember correctly.

Higher octane ratings are really safer for an engine overall even though they may not be as efficient depending on the engine compression and timing.

RE: Not me
By Gzus666 on 10/14/2008 6:57:16 PM , Rating: 2
Yea, no shit, but the octane and compression dictate how far you can retard the timing. I described pinging (known as pre-ignition) in the post. You don't need to explain what I explained first. The old way of preventing this was lead, but that was stopped for obvious reasons. No mass produced vehicle uses water injection, that is ridiculous. That was a racer trick for people who couldn't afford better gas.

Modern engines pull timing out if a ping is detected (knock sensor anyone?). You should run the proper octane based on what is needed for the vehicle, not the highest you can get.

RE: Not me
By JediJeb on 10/15/2008 10:14:44 AM , Rating: 2
The reduction in it's ability to burn causes the flame to start closer to TDC (less degrees BTDC),

This is not a very good explaination of pre-ignition, and it also does not say that it starts later because of timing which is what you are now saying.

RE: Not me
By snownpaint on 10/15/2008 6:11:44 PM , Rating: 2
facts in both are correct, fact in both arguments are wrong. You could say you both right, and both wrong. In any case: Octane effects compression, Octane effects engine heat, Octane effects MPG depending on the engine it's used in.

RE: Not me
By FITCamaro on 10/14/2008 6:45:39 PM , Rating: 2
Higher compression means you need higher octane because lower octane gas will ignite too soon. Ethanol is a higher octane and thus higher compression engines can be built. This will improve the fuel efficiency and power of an ethanol engine but it will then not be able to run on pump gas. Whether or not you'll see the power and efficiency of a gas engine of the same size I don't know. But I doubt it since ethanol has 1/3 the energy density gas.

RE: Not me
By Daigain on 10/14/2008 4:05:57 PM , Rating: 2
Around 30-40% more Ethanol than gasoline. The range will differ more than gasoline in that smaller cars will have a less percent increase and bigger cars have a bigger percent increase, kind of like the opposite of diesel.

RE: Not me
By JasonMick on 10/14/08, Rating: 0
RE: Not me
By sprockkets on 10/14/2008 4:10:10 PM , Rating: 2
Come to Florida, where 10% ethanol in the gas is mandatory.

RE: Not me
By JasonMick on 10/14/2008 4:16:42 PM , Rating: 3
Interesting -- that's a pretty steep loss.

My own tests show 20-25 percent losses for E85 (I don't own one, but I recently tested one out). So I'd think E10 would be closer to a 3 percent loss, unless the losses are nonlinear. Are you using a flex fuel vehicle?

Remember, costs will likely be even less than 50 cents lower, were it not for expensive corn ethanol thats flooding the market. Coskata will help lower costs, but this will take building lots of factories. There's no silver bullet that will instantly lower costs at the pump.

If youre not just against ethanol for no reason, push to remove blending credits for food source-based ethanol. That way only companies like Coskata will get credits, and they the cost of ethanol will dramatically drop and the companies like this who have an actual practical plan will be rewarded.

RE: Not me
By Spivonious on 10/14/2008 4:56:57 PM , Rating: 2
Before PA gas stations jumped on the E10 bandwagon I was getting 34-37mpg highway, and could routinely get 415-430 miles to the tank if the driving was mostly highway. Now I'm lucky if I get 32mpg and I can't remember the last time I went over 350 miles to the tank.

Ethanol has its uses, but watering down gasoline with it for a small decrease in price is just not worth it.

RE: Not me
By Reflex on 10/14/2008 6:00:55 PM , Rating: 2
Just to chime in, Oregon also mandated 10% ethanol and Arco has been selling fuel with 10% ethanol since the late 70's. Mileage for me also declined whenever running it, typically about 10%, although that was driving a non-flex fuel vehicle(96 Chevy S-10). It also ran very rough in that engine.

This process does not sound very promising to me. There is no way they are producing more energy than they are consuming, meaning that you've simply moved the load onto the power grid for the plasma and other processing portions. Furthermore, a gallon of water for a gallon of fuel is a pretty bad deal, especially since it dosen't factor in the water used in the production of whatever cellulosic sources they are going to utilize(corn husks and plant waste? Trees?). There is less potable water globally than there is oil, burning precious water simply so we can drive cars seems a ridiculous and short-sighted tradeoff. Humans can live without oil, they cannot live without water.

More promising are the algae based solutions, bio-diesel especially, but algae based ethanol is also possible. The important factor is that the energy inputs are low(solar) and the water cost is nil(it can utilize seawater and waste water as easily as potable water).

RE: Not me
By Oregonian2 on 10/14/2008 8:26:09 PM , Rating: 2
The 10% is mandated in all of Oregon now? I thought it was just here in the Portland Metro region.

RE: Not me
By masher2 on 10/15/2008 11:43:48 AM , Rating: 2
The federal ethanol mandate is now 9 billion gallons per year. That works out to an effective national rate of about 6.5%. I think E5 is about the minimum you'll find anywhere in the country, due to EPA oxygenation requirements.

RE: Not me
By Alexstarfire on 10/15/2008 9:26:01 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, because when we use water it's gone forever. It never rains or anything. Not only that.... but I guess we can't convert salt-water into drinking water either.

/end sarcasm

RE: Not me
By JediJeb on 10/15/2008 10:34:37 AM , Rating: 2
They use the water to form the Ethanol, when the ethanol burns it becomes CO2 and H2O so it just gets recycled when it rains, no net loss of water and the CO2 gets used by the plants to grow which can again be turned back into Ethanol. The whole system just recycles these over and over. If the power for the plasma were to come from hydroelectric and that water used to produce the Ethanol, then the whole system in a sense becomes a closed loop.

If any waste can be used including garbage then this sorta becomes a Mr. Fusion device :)

RE: Not me
By Reflex on 10/15/2008 4:22:40 PM , Rating: 2
If you take a given volume of water from land and consume it, it will reform, this is true, but of that reformed water, approximatly 70% will not fall on land, but instead over the oceans. Thus of a given volume, only 30% is technically recoverable, to say nothing of the water that is not consumed, but simply used as waste storage.

As for desalination, while its possible, its not feasable on the scale required. If it were, the middle east would not be fighting over water rights to the Jordan River. It is extremely expensive, very energy intensive and does not produce in the quantities required. Its a small scale solution to a much larger problem. Claiming desalination will be a significant source of water is like claiming solar will be a significant source of energy.

RE: Not me
By menace on 10/14/2008 6:15:22 PM , Rating: 2
Wikipedia on E-85 in US mentions a Swedish carmaker has a flex fuel engine that runs on ethanol at higher MPG than on gasoline. The first thought that occured to me was perhaps that it just ran like crap with gasoline because it was optimized for ethanol.

Anyway, if you put enough effort into engine design and fuel control it should be possible to cut down the difference in fuel economy.

RE: Not me
By Spuke on 10/14/2008 6:51:06 PM , Rating: 2
Anyway, if you put enough effort into engine design and fuel control it should be possible to cut down the difference in fuel economy.
You can only, cheaply, optimize for one or the other. It is possible to have two different programs in the cars ECU and have some sort of fuel type recognition but it would incur additional expense and complexity.

RE: Not me
By Alexstarfire on 10/15/2008 9:29:26 AM , Rating: 2
If you did it properly it really wouldn't. Programming for the electronics would be very simple.... and determining the type of fuel shouldn't be too difficult either... depending on how they decide to do it. You could easily just make it a user option. Have the driver tell the computer what the fuel type is. It's not like E85 gas isn't clearly labeled at the stations or anything.

RE: Not me
By masher2 on 10/15/2008 11:41:27 AM , Rating: 2
The driver doesn't need to tell the computer -- a modern engine can easily determine octane and adjust accordingly (most do, in fact).

However, the only way to compensate in any meaningful manner for the loss of MPG is to utilize a much higher compression ratio...and that's something that requires an engine redesign, rather than software.

RE: Not me
By Alexvrb on 10/15/2008 11:25:59 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, as you pointed out all engines rely on the knock sensor(s) to fine-tune timing. But as you may be aware, flex fuel vehicles can utilize a sensor to determine the level of ethanol present. They get a good ballpark idea of the content coming down the pipe before it hits the injectors. This lets them rapidly respond to different levels of alcohol content and adjust timing and also flow rate quickly (obviously you need to throw more ethanol into the combustion chamber to achieve the desired result). So you could say that even a normally aspirated FFV is well equipped to deal with anything from pure gasoline to E85 in that regard.

However, when you say that the only way to compensate meaningfully requires an engine redesign, it kind of depends what you mean by "engine redesign". To me, that means a change to the design of the motor itself. Not bolt ons, ECUs, sensors, etc. You can utilize a turbocharger, an external modification, on an existing engine design without much trouble. Heck, then it really is practically a matter of software, adjusting the boost, fuel flow, and timing (ignition and valve) based on both detected fuel content and actual results (knock). Obviously the computer can push the boost up a good bit more with E85 over say 87 octane gasoline.

Combined with VVT, DI, VGT (variable geometry turbo, also known as variable vane but VVT more commonly stands for variable valve timing) and other advancements, you can increase efficiency across the RPM range with both types of fuel, as well as close the mileage gap between E85 and gasoline. But obviously ethanol doesn't have as much energy by volume, so as long as the turbo'd engine is efficient with both you'll still achieve a higher MPG with gasoline.

RE: Not me
By Suomynona on 10/14/2008 4:12:39 PM , Rating: 2
E85 is 85% ethanol, no? In a lot of states (like here in NY), a 10% ethanol blend is standard.

RE: Not me
By bobsmith1492 on 10/14/2008 4:14:08 PM , Rating: 2
E85 is 85% ethanol!

I've heard mileage drops anywhere from 5%-28% from straight-up gas.

RE: Not me
By RU482 on 10/14/2008 4:19:53 PM , Rating: 2
it's all about the cost per mile.
most E85 is sold at prices that make the fuel competitve on a cost per mile basis. Plus it's usually sold in regions where the ethanol and it's ingredients are derived, so there is the ROI factor that many of it's users justify it's purchase with (i.e. you grow corn or supply whatever ingredient, and have stock in an ethanol plant, it makes economic sense to buy ethanol)

RE: Not me
By blaster5k on 10/14/2008 4:38:53 PM , Rating: 3
It's only cost-competitive due to subsidies, so it's not really cost-competitive.

RE: Not me
By psychobriggsy on 10/15/2008 11:18:47 AM , Rating: 2
Which the technology in this article solves, eventually, assuming it all works out (which the article suggests it will).

Would you pay $1.50 per gallon for E85, even if it dropped your MPG by 30%, compared to paying $3 per gallon for E10?

RE: Not me
By Crusty on 10/14/08, Rating: 0
RE: Not me
By JasonMick on 10/14/2008 4:44:17 PM , Rating: 3
You are correct that was a typo. E85= 85 percent ethanol. Note in the comment below I clearly state this. You can nit pick a typo in my comment all you like, but if you're not discussing the topic at hand you're just trolling.

As to E10, apparently its more common outside the midwest. My state does not have it. Regardless, whether this is good or bad comes down to costs, which you surely realize. Food based or enzymatic ethanols are very expensive and have other price effects. Its natural to hope for Coskata, as they're the closest to producing a cheaper alternative to gas.

Its the expense of food based (corn) ethanol that will keep the price high.

If you are going to present a clear rational argument against cellulosic ethanol please by all means go ahead, instead of trying to distract people with a bunch of garbage.

RE: Not me
By Crusty on 10/14/08, Rating: -1
RE: Not me
By JasonMick on 10/14/2008 5:24:38 PM , Rating: 3
I think you misunderstood my comment. I went on to comment on E10 in the post below. Also in the article I refer a 60-70 percent reduction, which is clearly calculated based on
100-(85*.04+15) = 60.6 %
which clearly denotes E85 having 85 percent ethanol.

Also in my second op I clearly state that I saw 20-25 percent reduction @ E85, which I said led me to expect a 3 percent decrease at E10 (10 percent ethanol).
24/(10/85) =(approximately) 3 percent

Obviously I understood that E85 is 85 percent article before you so generously corrected me, as I made both of these assertions before you ever commented.

My comment may have had an error, but the article does not. You choosing to focus on one of my comments and not the article tells me you want to attack the story, but you cant so you're choosing to attack my comment, which is pretty weak.

RE: Not me
By Crusty on 10/14/08, Rating: -1
RE: Not me
By AssassinX on 10/15/2008 5:42:24 AM , Rating: 4
Or perhaps I'm attacking you? Did you ever think about that?

Attacking a person rather than the argument is still weak.

It doesn't matter if it's a typo or not, publishing an article and then commenting on it with wrong information is great way to make people laugh at you.

I'm surprised Daily Tech hasn't removed your publishing rights because you all you do is post gibberish backed up by false information.

First, I would like to say that publishing an article and posting in a discussion are two different things. People who post to discuss an article are usually trying to express their ideas or feelings about the matter. Sometimes the post can be filled with common misconceptions but that is the great thing about it. People who are experts or know more about the subject can clarify and open up even more areas to discuss. Think about how many great informative discussions we have had here in DAILYTECH about physics, technology, economy, politics, etc. There are many intelligent people here with degrees coming from many disciplines and I appreciate these discussions because I feel I have gained a further understanding on these topics.

The last part I quoted you on...don't you think you are being unreasonable? He made a typo and tried to justify it with you and you continued to pick on one post he made. Teachers make mistakes all the time; whether it is a typo in a powerpoint slide, mispronouncing a word, etc. I hope the best for you and also that you will be more in the discussion rather than expressing your frustrations at others for minor details.

RE: Not me
By Ringold on 10/14/2008 5:09:31 PM , Rating: 1
If you are going to present a clear rational argument against cellulosic ethanol please by all means go ahead, instead of trying to distract people with a bunch of garbage.

I don't have one against cellulosic ethanol. Like most others here it seems, mostly only have a problem with subsidies.

What makes it worse is that they admit they can get the job done without them. They can be successful without it, so why artificially pad their pockets? If their claims are not bunk, all we're doing is subsidizing a company that'll one day be the Microsoft of biofuel.

RE: Not me
By rtrski on 10/15/2008 9:19:51 AM , Rating: 2
So, by that logic, if you're running a business that needs to expand so you're planning to hire anyway, and the government offers a tax break to "add jobs", you'd turn it down?

Please. Businesses are in business to make money. You may not agree with or need the subsidy due to your own political views, and can choose not to participate in lobbying for one, but to not take it if it's already enacted in law is just being fiscally irresponsible. I'm sure the business owners have investors and a BOD that would scream bloody murder for that oversight.

RE: Not me
By Alexstarfire on 10/15/2008 9:39:29 AM , Rating: 2
That is certainly not what he is saying. You'd be a fool to turn down something like that. His point is that the government shouldn't be offering those type of deals to begin with. I for one agree. My money should not go into helping businesses. It's supposed to go into helping the people. IDK, maybe like health care or fix/upgrade the aging power grid we have. I sure as hell don't agree with the bailout of the banks. If they can turn a profit on it though then I don't think anyone will complain.

RE: Not me
By rtrski on 10/15/2008 9:44:59 AM , Rating: 2
Good point. I re-read his post, and think you're spot on. I fail reeding comprehenshun 101, but hopefully will get a B on the re-test. :)

RE: Not me
By Spuke on 10/14/2008 6:54:10 PM , Rating: 2
Texas that doesn't sell a 10% ethanol / 90% gas mixture.
California has 10% ethanol in our gas also.

RE: Not me
By PlasmaBomb on 10/15/2008 10:26:18 AM , Rating: 2
E85 -- 15 percent ethanol

E85 is 15 percent gasoline, not 15 percent ethanol Jason...

RE: Not me
By BigPeen on 10/15/2008 2:33:40 AM , Rating: 1
Ethanol energy density: 30MJ/Kg
Gasoline 46.4MJ/Kg
Diesel: 46.2

RE: Not me
By rtrski on 10/15/2008 9:28:28 AM , Rating: 3
Since my car's tank controls what I can carry by volume , not mass, isn't the energy density per volume more pertinent?

Ethanol: 24 MJ/L
E85: 25.65 MJ/L
E10: 33.72 MJ/L
Gas: 34.2 MJ/L
Diesel: 37.3 MJ/L

Using mass you don't get as clear an idea of how much more or less energy you effectively have stored in your tank. Sure, there's a further efficiency charge due to having more or less weight in a 'full tank', but that's probably pretty insignificant vs. vehicle curb weight, passengers, etc.

(all figures from Wikipedia...just the link that came up first when I Googled).

RE: Not me
By masher2 on 10/15/2008 11:49:46 AM , Rating: 2
> "isn't the energy density per volume more pertinent?"

In theory...but since ethanol and gasoline have very nearly the same density, the ratio between the two fuels is almost identical, regardless whether you use energy per unit mass or energy per unit volume.

Ethanol is retarded
By Gzus666 on 10/14/08, Rating: -1
RE: Ethanol is retarded
By othercents on 10/14/2008 5:32:02 PM , Rating: 2
How much less performance? Will people notice? How much more wear is the engine going to have? What is the increase of breakdowns caused by Ethanol?

$1 a gallon for Ethanol or $3 a gallon for gas. I don't believe Ethanol is 60% less efficient, and for the people I know who have Ethanol vehicles they don't see a performance or a MPG difference than when they buy gas, but they do see a decrease in the amount of money they spend on fuel every month. Granted these people also drive SUVs and they would have a much lower fuel expense and lower car payments every month if they purchased a small 4 door car.

BTW. There is an easy fix to increasing compression. Just slap a turbo or supercharger on the car to increase compression.


RE: Ethanol is retarded
By Gzus666 on 10/14/2008 5:46:27 PM , Rating: 1
There is only a loss of performance if they don't design the vehicle purely for this use. They don't design it purely for alcohol, they design it as flex fuel. You could add a turbo, but the boost would have to fluctuate depending on the fuel you chose. This adds substantial cost to the vehicle design.

As for the wear, in a pure alcohol motor, you are looking at pretty much little to no oil touching the cylinder walls at any given moment when in full throttle race mode, you do the math. Drop 15% out of the equation, still got a pretty bad oil starvation problem. Washing cylinders is a serious deal, see what happens when a normal gas engine injector sticks partially open it is pretty messy on pistons and walls. Also mucks the oil up horribly. Any fuel getting into the oil will degrade it's performance, alcohol just gets there easier, as the oil that usually contains the fuel doesn't really hang around in alcohol.

It is a terrible idea, they need to stick with electric vehicles and fuel cells.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By Gzus666 on 10/14/2008 5:50:24 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, forgot to mention the other problem causing oil contamination, the alcohol requires higher volumes of fuel to be put into the cylinders as well, which means more falls through.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By DOCDAT1 on 10/14/2008 6:08:50 PM , Rating: 3
You clearly have no understanding of how a turbocharged engine works. The turbo boost is controlled with a solenoid by the engine computer and various sensors including knock sensors (or more ingenious solutions like Saab who use the sparkplugs to measure ionisation in the combustion chamber) The boost, timing and fueling is constantly regulated to keep the engine from knocking. Put in lower octane fuel and the boost is lowered. Put in higher octane fuel and the boost is increased up to the preset limit.

So to use flex fuel you do NOT need to change design and it doesn't increase cost! In fact it's no problem to convert many turbo charged cars that have been around for more than a decade! The only problem is whether the fuel lines can stand up to the ethanol, but many people in Sweden have been running 85% ethanol fuel without problems for several years in cars that are over 10 years old.

And NO, ethanol is NOT worse at washing oil off the cylinder walls than gasoline. Quite the opposite. Ethanol is considerably poorer a detergent with regards to oil than gasoline is. Besides you'd have to be running awfully rich to have it washing down the sides of the cylinders anyway.
Ethanol is also much easier to get out of the oil, since it burns off faster due to it's lower boiling point.

Please stop repeating this nonsense. Thanks!

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By FITCamaro on 10/14/2008 6:54:11 PM , Rating: 2
Running E85 does increase the cost of the vehicle. You need a sealed tank, metal fuel lines instead of rubber since ethanol will eat away the rubber, heavier duty seals in the motor, and heavier duty rings. It's not a huge increase but it is an increase.

But yes in order to truly use ethanol we would have to get off predominantly gas mixtures. Since in order to take advantage of ethanol you need to be running 12-13:1 compression which pump gas can't handle.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By Gzus666 on 10/14/2008 7:20:37 PM , Rating: 2
Uh, reality is going to make their heads explode. Even better, you would ideally want to run around 14:1+ (probably closer to 16:1 to be perfectly honest) compression ratios for alcohol to even start climbing to the efficiency of gas. Requires heavy duty parts throughout the engine to make up for this. If they run cars that are made for ethanol only and not gas, as you said, perfectly feasible. Is it a smart jump in the right direction? Hell no.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By FITCamaro on 10/14/2008 10:21:04 PM , Rating: 3
I dunno I think we could use the same rods as today. Pistons might need to be made a little beefier though to handle the extra heat(so maybe forged). Blocks won't need much changing as all aluminum engines are already handling the stress of turbochargers which strain the pistons, rods, and crank more than the cylinder walls. Will need heavier duty rod and cylinder head bolts.

I'm not completely against a switch to ethanol but they gotta do a few things first.
1) has to be competitive for price without government subsidies
2) engines have to achieve at least the same fuel efficiency and power as today's engines
3) not use food crops to make it since that just raises food prices

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By DOCDAT1 on 10/15/2008 6:45:55 AM , Rating: 2
You need a sealed tank, metal fuel lines instead of rubber since ethanol will eat away the rubber, heavier duty seals in the motor, and heavier duty rings.

Well actually you don't. In theory ethanol is more corrosive towards rubber, but in Sweden people have been running E85 for several years in cars that are more than a decade old without having any problems of this sort.

But yes in order to truly use ethanol we would have to get off predominantly gas mixtures. Since in order to take advantage of ethanol you need to be running 12-13:1 compression which pump gas can't handle.

Or use turbocharging to get around this by changing the dynamic compression rate by increasing boost when on ethanol and reducing it when on gasoline.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By Gzus666 on 10/14/08, Rating: 0
RE: Ethanol is retarded
By DOCDAT1 on 10/15/2008 6:41:23 AM , Rating: 2
Once again, no shit, I'm an ASE master mechanic although I haven't done it in 3 years, I don't think it has changed much since then.

I'm starting to be sorry for those people who had their cars fixed by you..

If you try to switch from alcohol to gas and expect the knock sensor to make up for it in time, get ready for a large hole in some pistons.

Again, you clearly don't know what you're talking about. Flex fuel cars like Saabs do exactly that. They typically increase their hp by 20-30% when on E85, but are just as happy on any mix of gasoline and E85, automatically changing boost, timing and fuel delivery with the octane level. NO it's not necessary with a fuel sensor!

Oh, and Saab doesn't have spark plugs that "detect ionisation in the combustion chamber", you really have no clue what you are talking about.

You really ought to look more into the subject you're discussing before posting nonsense like this. Since the early ´90s Saab has been using ignition modules that measures ionisation over the spark plug electrodes (just normal NGK plugs) as a way to detect pre-ignition just before it actually happens and they thus don't have actual knock sensors (which only detect knocking when it has happened). Incidentally it's also used to detect when each pair of cylinders have ignition, making a camshaft position sensor obsolete. Pretty clever eh?

If you feel like being enlightened further and stepping away from the dark ages read this:

The problem becomes that alcohol has to be run much more rich than gas to make similar power, and is much more likely to run into the crank case because of this.

Running rich is when there is too much fuel compared to the airmass making combustion incomplete with fuel left over after the burn.
Yes you need more fuel per combustion with ethanol, but you also ram more air into the cylinders. The combustion is not less complete!

Alcohol is also terrible about absorbing water, so unless you are keeping everything air tight on fill up, you will get some water in there. This will make a mess of things over time.

I wonder how people have managed to use E85 without problems for several years if this was an issue?!

Ethanol doesn't "burn off" in the crank case you psycho, that would mean an open flame is going on in the oil pan.

My bad, I should have been more accurate and said evaporate. Alcohol has a boiling point of around 70 degree celcius. Most engines operate with an oil temperature of 90 degree celsius. IE not a problem.

Alcohol could be possible in a car made just for that purpose. They would have to crank the compression up, and this would require significantly stronger engine parts leading to more reciprocating mass.

Turbocharging is a way of changing the dynamic compression ratio and continuesly doing it to match whatever fuel you put in the car.
Yes it makes little sense to run ethanol in NA engines unless you increase static compression substantially, but then you wouldn't be able to use it with fuel that has less ethanol in it. Basically it's time people realised that efficient turbocharged small engines is the way forward.

And no, you don't get more wear of the bearings with a stouter bottom engine unless you're an incompetent engine designer.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By Spuke on 10/14/2008 7:21:05 PM , Rating: 2
So to use flex fuel you do NOT need to change design and it doesn't increase cost!
Sorry, but today's ECU programs do not adjust for octane's higher than 93. You would indeed have to run two different programs that are optimized for each fuel type to get the best benefits at a minimum. Variable compression ratio heads would work too but Direct Injection would be less complex and would allow a higher static compression in a boosted engine when running on the regular gas program.

Quite frankly, to get the best from E85 while still running relatively efficient on regular gas, the ECU program would have to be fairly complex. It's not an easy fix.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By DOCDAT1 on 10/15/2008 7:00:45 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry, but today's ECU programs do not adjust for octane's higher than 93. You would indeed have to run two different programs that are optimized for each fuel type to get the best benefits at a minimum.

In a turbocharged engine the ECU has no idea what the octane level is. It's just continously trying to reach the programmed boost level (when using a MAP sensor) or programmed airmass (when using MAF sensor) and adjusting timing and fueling to match. If you put in fuel with less octane than the engine needs to reach it's preset goals, it'll retard ignition, reduce boost, richen mixture or all of the above. If the fuel has a higher octane than necessary to reach the designed presets you won't feel a difference.

The point is that if you reprogram the ECU with E85 and flex fuel in mind, the upper boost/airmass limit can be raised and ignition advanced, allowing the ECU to take advantage of any higher octane fuel you put into the car, but still being able to back off when you fill up with regular gasoline.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By JediJeb on 10/14/2008 5:41:00 PM , Rating: 3
Really I don't see how it is dumb if the price is right. With your btu values if gas is $3/gallon then the drop in btu would mean ethanol would need to be $2.10/gallon for equal price/btu. This company is looking to produce at around $1/gallon so it would be the better deal unless gas drops to around $1.50/gallon or lower( if the change to 100% ethanol can be made).

As for washing down cylinders, gasoline is a much better solvent for oil than ethanol is because oil and gasoline are a nonpolar organics and ethanol is a polar organic so
oil is more soluble in gas than ethanol. And if the engine is burning the ethanol efficiently there should not be any liquid ethanol to get into the crankcase.

If ethanol can be produced more cheaply than gasoline, then the car companies can and will redesign the engines to have higher compression and be optimized for ethanol. Right now they are optimized for the cheapest fuel available which is gasoline. It's only a dumb idea if you try burning ethanol in an engine that isn't designed for it, just like putting diesel in a gas engine doesn't work or vise versa. (although I have spiked diesel into gas before for farm tractors which were designed to run on leaded fuel to give them more power with unleaded fuel)

If it leads to better price per mile in the long run and reduces the amount of oil we consume it shouldn't be called dumb technology, it just has to be fully developed from fuel to vehicle.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By DOCDAT1 on 10/14/2008 5:52:43 PM , Rating: 2
This is seriously the dumbest crap ever.

You know the quote about throwing rocks in a glass house?

First of all, gasoline is better at removing oil than ethanol!
Secondly there is no reason why ethanol should wash down cylinders any more than gasoline does. In fact it'll only do that if the injector is stuck open or something else is wrong with the engine. And any ethanol that does get into the oil pan is burned off as soon as the engine reaches working temperature. In fact it is burned off faster than gasoline as the vapor point is much lower for ethanol.

So bottom line - yes ethanol does have less BTUs per gallon, but it's BTU per $ that counts and with ethanol at less than $1 per gallon, it's clearly the better choice. Your other claims are pure nonsense.

As for benefits from ethanol, you don't need to design engines with higher static compression. Any modern turbocharged engine can get increased performance using ethanol, with a simple reprogramming of the engine computer. Because of the higher octane it can use higher boost pressures.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By ziggo on 10/14/2008 7:04:27 PM , Rating: 2
You cannot simply put ethanol in a turbocharged engine and up the boost.

There is a significant volume of fuel delivery problem that comes from two sources.

1. The stoich ratio for ethanol is significantly lower. 14.7:1 for gas but only 9.8:1 for E85, meaning you need ~33% more ethanol on a mass basis to combust an equal amount of air. This is partially offset on a volume basis since E85 is about 7% more dense than gasoline.

2. Because you are upping the boost, you are adding more air, so you are going to need even more fuel.

After all this you are still not taking advantage of ethanols octane rating except from a pure power production standpoint. It does nothing to imrpove the fuel efficicency of the engine.

Conclusion: You are going to need bigger injectors, and a higher flow fuel pump (generally about 50% larger). And you are only improving the peak power output of the engine, not improving the MPG performance.

In order to take full advantage of ethanol's properties you MUST increase the compression.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By Gzus666 on 10/14/2008 7:23:00 PM , Rating: 1
Good to see someone understands the basics of engine design. Some of these jokers really don't get it.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By safcman84 on 10/15/2008 4:59:50 AM , Rating: 2
I dont agree. If this was true how come Saab, a swedish car company, produce an engine that runs on anything from petrol to ethanol, and the ethanol produces more brake horsepower than the petrol? The saab aero has 290bhp when run on petrol and 310 when run on bio-ethanol. and you dont need to change the injectors every time you use a different fuel.....
all it does is detect the mix that is in the tank and change the compression accordingly. the fuel doesnt even have to be one or the other - you can mix it up as you want (e.g. 20% petrol 80% ethanol or 75% petrol and 25% ethanol

look it up

its one of their advertisements - go green and get more power (or something to that effect).

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By ziggo on 10/15/2008 10:30:55 AM , Rating: 2
Did you read my post? I specifically said you could increase peak power, but you are doing nothing for the thermodynamic efficiency of the engine particularly when cruising out of boost.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By safcman84 on 10/15/2008 10:39:27 AM , Rating: 2
my point was more against your comment on needing new injectors, as the Saab wouldnt run if we needed to swap injectors everytime it you used a different fuel type, and ratio mix of the fuel types....

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By mindless1 on 10/15/2008 8:41:59 PM , Rating: 2
... and yet, Saab may have already had to swap injectors, over what they would've used if they had no intention of making it multi-fuel capable.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By DOCDAT1 on 10/15/2008 7:14:26 AM , Rating: 2
2. Because you are upping the boost, you are adding more air, so you are going to need even more fuel.

Yep. That's true.

Conclusion: You are going to need bigger injectors, and a higher flow fuel pump (generally about 50% larger).

Not unless the injectors and pump are undersized or just at the limit. On most turbocharged cars the fuel pump and injectors are big enough for even very large power increases over stock and thus also big enough for E85. Well, at least most Saab turbos going all the way back to the early ´90s. On some you need bigger injectors but not a bigger pump.
It's not a big deal.

And you are only improving the peak power output of the engine, not improving the MPG performance.

And that's a bad thing? Improving power output doesn't sound too bad to me?

In order to take full advantage of ethanol's properties you MUST increase the compression.

Yep. The upcoming Saab turbocharged 1.4L has a static compression ratio of 10.2:1 and max boost of 1.6 bar (23.2PSI). It generates 200 hp (147 kW) on E85 and 280 Nm (207 lb-ft) of torque. Projected fuel consumption when running on gasoline over the combined cycle is 4.9 L/100 km (48 mpg US) and 117 g CO2/km. When running on E85, CO2 emissions are projected to be lower at 105 g/km, with estimated fuel consumption of 6.4 L/100 km (37 mpg US).

So you see, it's possible for an engine to be able to run either E85 or gasoline (or any mix thereof) and still be able to increase performance AND mileage.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By Durrr on 10/15/2008 9:22:22 AM , Rating: 2
A little Saab heavy in your discussions, but I'm glad someone else knows about the benefits of FI

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By ziggo on 10/15/2008 10:28:13 AM , Rating: 2
I don't deny that it is impossible, and I am not against running ethanol. I as just pointing out that it is not that simple. You can make design compromises and be able to run both fuels, but current engines will cannot just "up the boost"

BTW injectors are sized to use the minimum needed so that atomization is better. They don't have alot of headroom on any engine, usually no more than 40%. As soon as you start using bigger injectors you are going to get less complete combustion at low power outputs because of the larger droplet size. Unburned hydrocarbons are actually a pollutant, unlike co2.

Any engine that can run on both would perform better if designed to run on either one or the other.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By safcman84 on 10/15/2008 11:05:18 AM , Rating: 2
but the saab engine can up the boost, by changing the compression accordingly.unless i am misunderstanding what you mean by "up the boost"

and regardless, an MPG decrease of 10mpg is irrelevant when the production of this is so cheap, and petrol is going to be so expensive within a few years. Yes, i know at the moment, in the USA, ethanol at 1$/litre will still work out more expensive than petrol at the moment (once people have added there own profit margin onto it), but in the EU this would be fantastic, cos of the stupid prices we pay for petrol ($2.10 a litre in france). in the UK it is even more, and in 5 years we will be way way over the $4/litre mark at current price rise rates.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By ziggo on 10/15/2008 11:31:52 AM , Rating: 2
Upping the boost != changing the compression. The compression ratio is constant irregardless of the manifold air pressure.

Doc has been implying that provided my fuel lines and gaskets could handle it I could run ethanol in my turbocharged engine and see benefits by raising the boost. That is simply not true, the conversion is much more complex than that.

It is far better to up the compression ratio because this is the only way to can offset the reduced energy density of ethanol. Upping the compression ratio raises the thermodynamic efficiency of the engine, allowing you to get more work out of a given amount of fuel. The difficulty is that since the compression ratio is now high you cannot run on regular gasoline without inducing detonation. And this isn't your run of the mill spark induced knock that can be fixed by retarding the ignition. This would be true "detonation" in that the whole cylinder would combust at once.

Thus engines that run on both cannot really take advantage of ethanol's octane rating, except by increasing the manifold air pressure and cramming in more fuel and air which allows increased peak power, but worse gas mileage.

A Variable compression ratio engine has been developed by Saab, but was shelved by GM because of the high cost. To the best of my knowledge and searching there is no variable compression ratio in any production car.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By RjBass on 10/14/2008 10:06:46 PM , Rating: 2
Ya ethanol is a horrible idea. So horrible that Brazil started to make the move to ethanol in the 70's and is now ready to be foreign oil free by 2012.

Over 80% of Brazil's vehicles run on 100% ethanol and yet they seem to run just fine. Brazil is a poor country so they don't exactly have tons of money sitting around to replace engines that wore out faster from ethanol.

I think you really need to do a little more research, because your facts are just wrong.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By diego10arg on 10/14/2008 10:46:49 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks god someone mentioned Brazil as a Ethanol leader!

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By masher2 on 10/15/2008 11:28:36 AM , Rating: 2
> "...and is now ready to be foreign oil free by 2012"

If Brazil becomes "foreign oil free" it will be due to their massive new oil discoveries coming online, not their ethanol production. Today, they still burn over six times as much oil as they do ethanol.

Brazil also generates ethanol from sugarcane -- a process that's several times more efficient than using corn. Even still, the acreage under cultivation for sugarcane has been shown to be one of the primary factors driving agriculture to the Amazon basin, leading to widespread loss of rainforest.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By randomly on 10/15/2008 12:09:46 PM , Rating: 2
I believe sugarcane produces 6 times as much ethanol per acre as corn. Even so Brazil is using slash and burn farming of amazon rain forest to grow their sugar cane. The land is depleted in only a few years and more forest needs to be burned. It's not a sustainable alternative fuel model.

Corn derived Ethanol in the US makes even less sense. At best it's a break even with the gasoline it consumes to produce it. Some studies show it even consuming more fuel than it produces. If it weren't for the 7+ billion dollar government yearly subsidies it would make no economic sense for producers. Archer Daniels Midland corp gets 45% of their profits from corn ethanol subsidies, something to the tune of 4.5 billion dollars a year. They donate heavily to both the democratic and republican parties (hedging their bets I'd guess).

Corn based ethanol has no viable future, it would take 6 times the current total agricultural land area of the US to grow enough corn to meet our transportation fuel needs. No food for you.

Hopefully the subsidies will get axed by whichever president we end up with in January.

RE: Ethanol is retarded
By Madellga on 10/17/2008 10:14:07 PM , Rating: 2
Incredible is how people post about things they don't know and try to sound like it is real. Stop repeating what you heard and do some checking.

Ethanol is a fact in Brazil for cars - 30 years and counting. I wouldn't buy a new car not able to run E100. With E100 you get 30% less mileage....but as E100 costs 50% of gasoline, it is cheaper to run E100 - you just have to fill the tank more often. And no, it doesn't smell bad or burns your eyes. The air quality in large cities improved due to usage of ethanol (Sao Paulo, for instance is a huge city and has millions of vehicles on the streets).

Engines are not damaged by E100, actually they last longer as ethanol burns better than gasoline and engine is normally cleaner. Oil change is the same.

Ethanol is not used normally for heavy vehicles (trucks and buses), so diesel is still needed here - biodiesel might be an alternative.

And last, no, ethanol is not causing the destruction of the Amazon forest. This is what people want you to believe.
Ethanol production in Brazil uses only 2% of the farming area today. The Amazon Forest weather and raining conditions are not adequated for sugar cane farming. Actually, the sugar cane is grown thousands of kilometers from there, in the south east portion of the country.

If anyone is interested, there was an article in VEJA (one of the most important and reliable brazilian weekly magazines) with tons of questions and answers about Ethanol myths and facts.

Questions 43 and 51 cover the farming/amazon questions.

Arguing On the Internet ...
By Choppedliver on 10/14/08, Rating: -1
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/15/2008 2:10:45 PM , Rating: 1
"When you've bested a fool, you've accomplished nothing."

Not new technology
By prabhakars on 10/14/08, Rating: -1
RE: Not new technology
By Cypherdude1 on 10/16/2008 5:54:56 PM , Rating: 1
Why was this post voted down? The author posted facts, not opinion. The same thing was done to me on my post about WW2 on another thread. Why do DailyTech members vote down fact-based posts? Let's try not to do this. Fact-based posts help the DailyTech community by educating us. I would've voted for this post but the option was not available.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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