Source: CNET Green Tech
Last year, Lotus announced the development of its Omnivore engine, the name denoting flex fuel capability. Today Lotus released test results for the engine, along with the kind of detail on how it operates only an engineer could love. These test results cover the first phase of testing the Omnivore engine with gasoline. Presumably, testing with fuels derived from alcohol and other sources are in the next phases.
In Lotus’ lab, the Omnivore engine brought in 10 percent better fuel economy than current direct injection engines, which are the most efficient on the market.
Two-stroke engines have twice as many “power strokes” at any given RPM when compared to the common four-stroke engines, making them more powerful and naturally efficient. (The engine is not “wasting” as much energy moving the piston up and down in power-robbing intake and scavenging strokes.) Two-strokes are smaller and lighter when compared to four-stroke engine of similar horsepower, and have fewer moving parts that simplifies the inner workings, making them cheaper to build and maintain.
In the past, the problem has always been pollution – it was considered near-impossible to build a two-stroke engine that could meet modern emission standards. Apparently Lotus is solving this problem:
Omnivore also uses a two-stroke, rather than a four stroke cycle, but still manages to turn in emission levels equivalent to modern production engines.
This Lotus prototype engine uses an ignition system called “homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI), meaning that instead of igniting its fuel charge with a spark plug, the compression of the cylinder causes the charge to ignite, similar to a diesel engine.”
More good news – the prototype is a flex-fuel engine, which would allow the owner/operator to choose what kind of fuel preferred to power it with – fossil-fuel gasoline (and diesel?) or bio-mass alcohol (ethanol/methanol) or a combination of the two.
Flex-fuel engines already exist, the problem with the current crop is that they are engineered as gasoline engines, and re-programmed to also run on alcohol blends – meaning that mechanically they are still designed for the lower compression ratios required to run on modern gasoline blends. Alcohol fuels have “less energy” per gallon than gasoline, but can run at a much higher compression ratios, allowing a properly-built alcohol engine to “gain” additional efficiency and reduce the “MPG” gap with gasoline.
The Lotus engine can apparently modify it’s compression ratio thanks to what they call the “puck” – or the “variable compression mechanism…at the top of the cylinder which dynamically changes the displacement depending on running conditions.”
Once again innovative engineering is proving that there still are many ways to improve fuel efficiency with the internal combustion engines, and there are no technical reasons we can’t be driving cars that get 60+ MPG regularly. The “fuel efficiency flat-line” from the mid-1980’s until just recently was due to something else – not because it was “technically impossible” to build more efficient engines.
Fuelishness! Feed: Lessons in Fuel-Efficient Driving; Txting and driving film; New battery could change the world; Ethanol faces challenges ahead
- Lessons in Fuel-Efficient Driving — One of the interesting features of our Prius is that it keeps a running tab on your current gas mileage. You can see both the mileage at any given moment or the average over your trip. Having such easy access to this information while you’re driving subtly teaches you how to drive more efficiently. Here are a few things we’ve learned.
- This film that will stop you txting and driving — Gwent police is proud to have helped Brynmawr filmmaker Peter Watkins- Hughes in the production, which stars local drama students Jenny Davies as Cassie, and Amy Ingram and Laura Quantick as her friends, Emm and Jules. The film is a sequel to a previous documentary called ‘Lucky Luke’, made 14 years ago, which showed the devastating consequences of joy riding. It is hoped the film will become part of the core schools programme across Wales and ultimately the UK.
- New battery could change world, one house at a time — It promises to nudge the world to a paradigm shift as big as the switch from centralized mainframe computers in the 1980s to personal laptops. But this time the mainframe is America’s antiquated electrical grid; and the switch is to personal power stations in millions of individual homes.
- Ethanol faces challenges ahead — New technologies, supporting infrastructures, and greater demand will be needed to meet the country’s ambitious mandate to increase biofuel use.
Fuelishness Marathon! – Part 4: Cellulosic Ethanol Could Have “Unintended” Environmental Consequences; $25 Billion For Green Cars;
- MIT Study Says Cellulosic Ethanol Could Have “Unintended” Environmental Consequences : Producing cellulosic ethanol from non-food feedstocks has been studied extensively at a local scale, but it’s difficult to estimate the environmental impacts on larger, heterogeneous regions. In this study, researchers evaluated two potential consequences of diverting usable land to biofuel production: either existing agricultural operations are intensified, or large areas of natural forest are cleared to increase cropland.
- $25 Billion Federal Loan Fund For Green Car Manufacturing Still Untapped : The program wasn’t funded until September 2008, and DOE reports that 43 of the initial applications landed during the final three days leading up to a Dec. 31, 2008 deadline.
- 1936 Chevy Sedan gets the electric car conversion treatment [w/video] : Shade tree mechanics. A 1936 Chevy Sedan. Down home narrator vibe. Yup, this video from a local TV station in Oklahoma has got everything you might be looking for to prove that electric cars are as American as apple pie.
Fuelishness! Marathon – Part 3: What is cellulosic ethanol; Algae Farming; Most Efficient Way to Travel 350 Miles
- What is cellulosic ethanol and how does it fit with green cars? : There is a lot of controversy surrounding biofuels. Various studies have shown that crop-based biofuels contribute to global warming more than they help prevent it, that ethanol is no better than gasoline, and that South East Asian rainforests are suffering for biofuels, to name just three. The most dramatic recent claim was that ethanol was the worst type of renewable energy.
- Algae Sizzle and Algae Steak : Bionavitas “Light Rod” idea called Light Immersion Technology that looks like a giant tapered optical fiber that places light at depth into algae cultures. Ingenious as ideas go, with a near stunning amount of coverage on Wednesday the idea might get some financial and research legs. What has been left out is the details about the light. The photos seem to leave out the top of the rod or fiber or just show a shaft, whose top area sets the amount of light; no matter how deep it is distributed. The idea solves a problem in algae culturing, getting light deep so that the culture isn’t just a thin layer at the sunlit surface.
- How Many Gallons of Fuel Does it Take to Travel 350 Miles? : GOOD Magazine, in collaboration with Robert A. Di Leso, Jr., explores fuel use by various modes of transportation. In what is essentially a fancied up bar chart, we see how many gallons of fuel it takes for a passenger to travel 350 miles by cruise ship, Amtrak, Boeing 737, Sedan, hybrid, etc. A couple of non-fuel modes of transportation are included as well using caloric conversions. It’ll take about 48 Whoppers with cheese to walk 350 miles. Good to know, especially since I was planning on walking 350 miles today. Totally kidding. I’m walking 360. Like a circle.
Here’s an anti-ethanol argument I never saw coming…
A prominent Saudi scholar warned youths studying abroad of using ethanol or other fuel that contains alcohol in their cars since they could be committing a sin, local press reported Thursday.
Sheikh Mohamed Al-Najimi, member of the Saudi Islamic Jurisprudence Academy, based his statement on a saying by the prophet that prohibited all kinds of dealings with alcohol including buying, selling, carrying, serving, drinking, and manufacturing, the Saudi newspaper Shams reported Thursday.
Saudi and Muslim youth studying abroad would violate the prohibition if they used bio fuel, he said, since it “is basically made up of alcohol.”
Fuelishness! Marathon – Part 1: Cellulosic Ethanol in NY; GM’s Fuel Economy Estimates Drop; A Turbo For Every Car
- Mascoma Begins Cellulosic Ethanol Production in New York : Mascoma Corporation has begun producing cellulosic ethanol from non-food biomass at its demonstration facility in Rome, New York. Mascoma’s Consolidated Bioprocessing (CBP) process consists of a mild pretreatment followed by the introduction of cellulose-utilizing and ethanol-fermenting microbes that both hydrolyze and ferment the sugars into ethanol.
- GM’s Future Fuel Economy Estimates Drop in New Federal Aid Application : Citing the possibility of an ongoing increase in sales of larger, less-efficient cars and trucks as one factor, General Motors Corp. has revised its future average fuel economy numbers sharply downward in its most recent application for federal aid.
- Popular Mechanics: 5 TurboCharger Innovations for Fuel Efficiency and Power : In the 1980s, it was difficult to escape the turbocharger. The twin energy crises of the 1970s forced automakers to produce cars that delivered better fuel economy. And that meant downsizing engines. By the 1980s, turbo technology was evolving and automakers installed them to boost the power of these smaller engines. But turbos promised more than just power—they promised fuel economy benefits too.
Last year I had a quick conversation with Bob Casper, President of POET Ethanol Products, after a conference where he had said that the ethanol industry in America was about to meet the current 10% blend-wall mandate, providing all the fuel the market could use, while continuing to improve efficiencies and producing more fuel with fewer resources.
I asked him what his single greatest challenge is, and he told me that the industry was about to have excess capacity, without any real FFV progress, the blend-wall for non-FFV vehicle fuel needed to be raised to 12% or 15% in order to create room for the industry to continue to grow, to encourage continued innovation and investment.
One of the challenges of increasing the blend-wall is certifying that the existing equipment like pumps, tanks, and dispensing machines can operate without problems due to the higher alcohol content. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) creates standards for this kind of equipment, and recently announced it will support the sale of E15 in existing approved 87-regular gasoline systems.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) says it will support the sale of 15% ethanol blends through “legacy” dispensers, as long as those pumps meet current UL standards for the sale of 87-regular gasoline. The decision by the Chicago-based standards-setting group is a major coup for marketers and ethanol suppliers, who have pushed for UL approval of higher blend sales. UL has tested pumps up to a 15% blend but until now has said it will only give its stamp of approval to dispensers cleared for 10% ethanol fuel, the current limit for non-flex fuel vehicles under the Clean Air Act.
There are other challenges, from auto manufacturer warranties, to congressional action still needed, to consumers potentially noticing reduced mileage from using a greater percentage of alcohol in their low-compression gasoline engines. (While “miles-per-gallon” may slip, the “miles-per-gallon-of-gasoline” will increase significantly.)
One of the most compelling arguments against ethanol states that there is “less heat energy” in a gallon of ethanol vs. a gallon of gasoline. When used in current automotive engines, the driver will find overall “miles-per-gallon” (MPG) mileage reduced, even as the “miles-per-gallon-of-gasoline” (MPGG) is increased substantially.
I’ve argued that once engineers begin to design engines to take advantage of the properties of ethanol (specifically the very high octane), that mileage and power would at least equal that of a gasoline engine. Over the last few weeks there have been announcements from Ricardo and Bentley that their engineers have done just that…
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.
According to the press release, Ricardo 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.” (Diesel engines are approximately 30% more fuel efficient than gasoline engines.)
EBDI is another example of how professional racing is the NASA of the automotive industry, developing the full potential of automotive technologies that will benefit all of us.
Science continues to find better and more efficient ways to break down the sugars in inedible biomass feedstock for bio-fuels. A few years ago critics talked about cellulosic ethanol as if it was a myth that should be ignored. Today, with plants already in production, cellulosic ethanol is a reality – and with continued research finding natural processes to help convert the feedstock to energy, the future of cellulosic ethanol looks bright.
The latest bug helping to break-down bio-mass is our long-time nemesis, wood rot…
An international team led by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) have translated the genetic code that explains the complex biochemical machinery making brown-rot fungi uniquely destructive to wood. The same processes that provide easier access to the energy-rich sugar molecules bound up in the plant’s tenacious architecture are leading to innovations for the biofuels industry. The research, conducted by more than 50 authors, is reported in the February 4 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Among the challenges to more cost-effective production of biofuels from cellulosic biomass—the fibrous material of whole plants—is to find effective means to work around the polymer lignin, the scaffolding that endows the plant’s architecture with rigidity and protection from pests. By doing so, the organic compound cellulose—the long chain of glucose (sugar) units can be unbound, broken down, fermented, and distilled into liquid transportation fuel. This is where the destructive capabilities of rot come in.
“The microbial world represents a little explored yet bountiful resource for enzymes that can play a central role in the deconstruction of plant biomass—an early step in biofuel production,” said Eddy Rubin, Director of the DOE JGI, where the genome sequencing was conducted. “The brown-rot Postia placenta’s genome offers us a detailed inventory of the biomass-degrading enzymes that this and other fungi possess.”
Fuelishness! Feed: Airlines Finds Biofuel More Efficient; Curtailing Ethanol Carbon Loss; Pryolysis-Gasification of Bio-Mass; Venezuela heading for collapse.
- Earlier in the month Continental Airlines completed a test flight using biofuels, and now a few weeks later Japan Airlines has joined a (slowly) expanding number of airlines trying to green their fuel usage. The fuel used was a mixture of jatropha oil, algae oil, and camelina oil (the first time that feedstock has been employed in a jet fuel).
- Scientists at Michigan State University are finding ways to curtail carbon loss when transforming plant waste into ethanol…“These results demonstrate that bio-energy cropping systems, particularly those integrating livestock manure into their management scheme, are a win-win option on both alternative energy and environmental fronts,” Thelen said. “Under proper management, livestock manure can replace carbon lost from corn stover removal and actually provide an environmental benefit, both in terms of greenhouse gas mitigation and the improved soil properties associated with increasing (soil carbon) levels, such as increased water retention.”
- Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) think they have a winner with Bioliq, a fuel produce by pyrolysis-gasification processing of wood, straw, or other substances. They are constructing a pilot plant, to be completed in 2012. process to create relatively affordable biofuels out of common plant wastes, such as waste wood. They hope the technology will yield fuel that costs €0.50 a liter or $2.49/gallon USD.
- The collapse in oil prices has hit OPEC nations hard, but perhaps none more so than Venezuela. Hugo Chavez apparently put more of his profits into his socialization programs than in paying contractors for their work. Now they have stopped working altogether as Chavez has no money to pay their past-due notices, which will curtail production just when Chavez needs it most…