Ford says the next generation of their Ecoboost engine technology, codenamed Bobcat, will provide 30% more fuel efficiency than a traditional gasoline combustion engine by directly injecting ethanol into the gas/air mixture prior to detonation.
Although Ford’s first generation Ecoboost engines start hitting the market next year — promising a 20% gain in fuel economy over traditional engines — Ford is already tweaking their new Bobcat technology to squeeze out even more fuel efficiency from the direct ethanol injection system.
The technology works by merging a turbocharger with a high compression ratio in the same engine. Combining these two features normally results in an incompatible and disastrous mix which causes premature detonation of the fuel/air mixture — referred to as engine knock.
Ford gets around this incompatibility by injecting a small amount of ethanol into the gas/air mixture before detonation in the combustion chamber. Purportedly, the addition of the ethanol cools the mixture enough that it doesn’t ignite until the engine tells it to, thus preventing the dreaded knock.
The combination of high compression and turbocharging mean that the Bobcat-powered engines will behave more like diesel engines than gas engines by providing huge amounts of torque.
Given that gasoline has been consistently cheaper than diesel over the past several years and the Bobcat engines will cost much less than diesel engines, this could provide a replacement for certain diesel engine applications in the future.
One caveat: the system requires the vehicle to have two separate tanks — one for the ethanol used for direct injection and one for the normal fuel.
Although this may seem like a deal-breaker because of the headache of having to fill two separate tanks with two different fuels, the company that developed the Bobcat technology, an MIT spin-off called Ethanol Boosting Systems, claims that the ethanol tank would only have to be filled up once every few months.
Even so, unless something changes dramatically in the next couple years, I’m still left wondering where people are going to find pure ethanol to fill their Ecoboost tanks. What do you think about this type of technology? Is it worthwhile to pursue, or is it just a distraction from kicking our oil habit completely?
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Image Credit: Ford
Source: Biofuels Digest