Ricardo’s Ethanol Efficiency Breakthrough: EBDI

The Ricardo Company has a long history of innovation. From the day Harry Ricardo founded the Two-Stroke Engine Company in 1905, to their direct-injection engine patents that date back to the 1930’s, and to the development of several key technologies found in Audi’s dominant LMP sportscars, they seem to always have something up their sleeves.

So, then, it might not be surprising to learn of the Ricardo Company’s latest new project: a true ethanol efficiency breakthrough that Ricardo promises will turn the gasoline vs. ethanol equations upside down.

Ricardo is calling it’s new process Ethanol Boosted Direct Injection (EBDI). Find what you should think about the new tech (and read the original press release) after the jump.

If you’ve been reading my posts and comments these past few months, you already know that I am usually pretty skeptical of any company’s initial performance claims, but this one is different.

Simply put: Ricardo is a motorsports company. Don’t let the rhetoric fool you, I don’t believe there’s any greenwashing going on here. In my experience, the crew at Ricardo are bright, hard-working, competitive, and driven to win.


With that in mind, you can believe that last Thursday’s announcement outlining the development of highly optimized ethanol-fueled engines is legit. Ricardo’s press release claims they’ve boosted ethanol engines “to a level of performance that exceeds gasoline engine efficiency and approaches levels previously reached only by diesel engines.”

The EBDI technology takes full advantage of ethanol’s most advantageous properties (outlined here, in my previous post about Bentley’s upcoming “green monster”) to create what the company is calling “a truly renewable fuel scenario that is independent of the cost of oil.”  Ricardo president Dean Harlow adds that EBDI, when introduced into a conventional engine’s architecture, delivers “the performance of diesel, at the cost of ethanol, and runs on ethanol, gasoline, or a blend of both.”

Ricardo has, so far, shown a single 3.2L V6 engine that it says would be suitable for a light truck or SUV, but points out that the list of potential applications is endless, and includes cars, motorcycles, and agricultural equipment.

Official release below.

System surpasses gasoline efficiency, reaches near-diesel levels and reduces operational costs compared to current fuels

06FEB2009 – Detroit, MI – Ricardo today revealed the development of technology that optimizes ethanol-fuelled engines to a level of performance that exceeds gasoline engine efficiency and approaches levels previously reached only by diesel engines. The technology, called Ethanol Boosted Direct Injection or EBDI, takes full advantage of ethanol’s best properties – higher octane and higher heat of vaporization – to create a truly renewable fuel scenario that is independent of the cost of oil.  Work on this research project has been carried out at the Detroit Technology Campus of Ricardo Inc.

“Developing renewable energy applications that can lead to energy independence is a top priority at Ricardo,” said Ricardo Inc President Dean Harlow.  “We’ve moved past theoretical discussion and are busy applying renewable energy technology to the real world.  The EBDI engine project is a great example because it turns the gasoline-ethanol equation upside down.  It has the performance of a diesel at the cost of a gasoline engine, and runs on ethanol, gasoline, or a blend of both.“

EBDI solves many of the challenges faced by flex-fuel engines because it is optimized for both alternative fuels and gasoline.  Current flex-fuel engines pay a fuel economy penalty of about 30 percent compared to gasoline 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,”  said 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.  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 gasoline.”

The prototype EBDI is a 3.2-liter V6 engine that ultimately could serve as a replacement for a large gasoline or turbo-diesel engine in a large SUV. The first firing of the engine & initial development is currently taking place and will be installed into a dual-wheel pick-up truck demonstration vehicle later this year.  Beazley emphasized 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.”

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.

Image Credit: the Ricardo Company.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.