EBDI: Ricardo develops technology to optimize ethanol-powered engines’ performance

Ricardo Inc. claims to have developed a new technology that optimizes ethanol-fuelled engines to a level of performance that exceeds petrol engine efficiency and approaches levels previously reached only by diesel engines. Called ‘Ethanol Boosted Direct Injection’ (EBDI), this technology takes advantage of ethanol’s best properties – higher octane and higher heat of vaporization – to create a renewable fuel scenario that is independent of the cost of oil. Work on this research project was carried out at the Detroit Technology Campus of Ricardo Inc.

‘We’ve moved past theoretical discussion and are busy applying renewable energy technology to the real world,’ says Ricardo Inc. President, Dean Harlow. ‘The EBDI engine project is a great example because it turns the petrol-ethanol equation upside down. It has the performance of diesel, at the cost of ethanol, and runs on ethanol, petrol or a blend of both,’ he adds.

According to Ricardo, EBDI solves many of the challenges faced by flex-fuel engines because it is optimized for both alternative fuels and petrol. Current flex-fuel engines pay a fuel economy penalty of about 30 percent compared to petrol when operated on ethanol blends such as E85. The EBDI engine substantially improves ethanol’s efficiency, and performs at a level comparable to a diesel engine.

‘In real-world terms, these efficiencies mean that EBDI can reduce the actual cost of transportation when compared to fossil fuels, and it does it with a renewable resource – ethanol,’ says Rod Beazley, Director of the Ricardo Inc. Gasoline Product Group.
‘The combination of technologies we’re applying to the EBDI engine make the most of ethanol’s advantages over other fuels, which include a higher octane rating and a higher heat of vaporization,’ he adds.

‘Without getting too technical, this means we can use a high level of turbocharging to achieve the high cylinder pressures that ethanol enables. Add in some other advanced technologies such as direct injection, variable valve timing, optimized ignition and advanced exhaust gas recirculation, and we’re squeezing out more power than is possible with petrol,’ says Beazley.

The prototype EBDI is a 3.2-litre V6 that ultimately could serve as a replacement for a large petrol or turbo-diesel engine in a big SUV. The first firing of the engine and initial development is currently taking place and will be installed into a dual-wheel pick-up truck demonstration vehicle later this year. Beazley emphasizes that the technology is very scalable. Applications could reach far beyond the automotive and light-truck industry. ‘Imagine agricultural equipment that, in effect, burns what it harvests – corn, sugar cane or some other renewable substance. It could mean tremendous cost savings across many industries,’ he says.

The EBDI project represents a technical collaboration with Behr, Bosch, Delphi, Federal Mogul, GW Castings and Honeywell, to further the advancement and commercialization of this highly promising technology.

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