The hype around ethanol continues to build as automakers and politicians promote the fuel as a viable alternative to pure petroleum, but there’s one problem that continues to plague the biofuel: an average 30% reduction in miles per gallon compared to gasoline. Engineers at Ricardo (http://www.ricardo.com/) believe they’ve developed a set of technologies that will eliminate that disparity, while boosting torque output and paving the way for further engine downsizing in the future. Its Ethanol Boosted Direct Injection (EBDI) system uses several technologies found on diesel engines—solenoid injectors, variable turbocharging, direct injection, variable valve timing, and exhaust gas recirculation—to reduce ethanol’s drawbacks through improving thermal efficiency and engine performance.
Using an ethanol-powered 3.2-liter V6 as a test bed, Ricardo engineers were able to achieve diesel-level efficiencies in the mid-40% range while boosting torque output from 775 Nm @ 3,000 rpm to 900 Nm @ 3,000 rpm, with peak horsepower increased by 45 to 450 hp. Unlike diesel engines, which require expensive selective catalytic reduction systems to comply with emission standards, the EBDI engine uses a three-way catalyst, which can cut up to $3,000 out of the cost of an EBDI system compared to diesel. “Racing people have been using ethanol for years because of its high performance as a result of its high octane rating and we want to leverage that for everyday applications,” says Rod Beazley, director of Ricardo’s gasoline products group. Ricardo plans to demonstrate the real-world efficiency of EBDI by testing the engine in a medium-duty truck—replacing a 6.6-liter diesel—that can easily tow a 4,000-lb. boat up a 15o slope. Commercialization could occur in 3 years.