Ricardo creates ethanol boosting engine

By Luke Geiver | January 04, 2010
Posted Jan. 27, 2010

Ricardo Inc., an auto supplier and engine manufacturer, announced the creation of an ethanol burning engine with better fuel economy than a traditional gas engine. The engine, developed through a collaborative project with Growth Energy, has been dubbed the Ethanol Boost Direct Injection engine (EBDI). Ricardo says the EBDI was created by using technology designed for diesel engines and the engine is tuned to take advantage of ethanol fuel properties that have an advantage over other fuels.

By taking advantage of ethanol's properties of high octane and latent heat vaporization, the EBDI delivers near-diesel levels of engine efficiency. Through boosting technologies, fueling strategy and combustion control, the engine can match effective compression ratios and in-cylinder conditions for optimal performance and fuel efficiency. "People are likely to be amazed with the performance and fuel economy that can be delivered from a comparatively small displacement engine running on a renewable fuel such as ethanol," said Rod Beazley, director of the Ricardo Inc. Spark Ignited Engines Product Group. According to Beazley, because ethanol burns cooler than gasoline, the EBDI doesn't have to "overfuel" to keep the engine cool. "We can get much higher performance. We don't need to overfuel to keep components cool. We don't have to run as rich so we gain some fuel economy."

"We think this could replace conventional engines, and could even replace diesels," says Kent Niederhofer, president of Ricardo. The EBDI flex fuel engine, developed from a production V6 gasoline engine, will be placed in two demonstrator vehicles as part of the project. The vehicles for the project are two GMC Sierra 3500 HD pickup trucks, each with a curb weight of 6,000 pounds. Based on tests already completed, Ricardo estimates fuel economy improvement up to 30 percent is possible without the loss of power or performance.

"In the project ... with Growth Energy, we will be substituting a 3.2-litre V6 engine in a 1 ton pickup truck vehicle usually powered by a 6.0l V8 gasoline or a 6.6l diesel engine. The reason we are doing this is that while the engine test results speak for themselves, there is no substitute for experiencing in a vehicle the benefits of uncompromised performance and extremely high fuel economy that can be achieved using a renewable fuel like ethanol in an optimal manner," Beazley said. He later added, "Moreover by using a truly flex-optimized engine such as EBDI, the best possible performance and fuel efficiency can be delivered from whichever gasoline-ethanol mix is selected by the driver when next stopping for fuel."

When used with an optimal blend of ethanol the GMC demonstration truck could get 15 mile per gallon (mpg), as opposed to 12.7 mpg on gasoline or 12.1 mpg on ethanol alone.

Ricardo says its engine would cost about $4,500 more than a conventional gasoline motor but less than a comparable-size diesel, which can cost up to $8,000 more. The engine weighs about 400 to 500 pounds less than a diesel engine, but the company says it offers the same higher towing capacity and torque of a diesel.

"EBDI engine technology offers a uniquely American solution for a wide range of vehicle applications, combining extreme optimized flex-fuel engine technology offering high fuel economy, low emissions and uncompromised performance using a source of renewable fuel produced here in the United States," Niederhofer said.

Co-Chairman of Growth Energy, (Ret.) Gen. Wesley K. Clark, commented, "Through this project with Ricardo we aim to be able to put potential customers in the driving seat and demonstrate to them that with EBDI technology, ethanol can deliver performance and fuel economy and offers an attractive and sustainable transport solution using an American produced renewable fuel."

Completion of the EBDI project should take 10 months.