Ricardo, Inc has announced a new system that it claims can effectively bridge the mpg gap that exists between gasoline and E85 in flex-fuel engines. Dubbed Ethanol Boosted Direct Injection (EBDI), the technology reportedly can make E85 ethanol even more fuel efficient than pure gasoline. According to Ricardo, Inc President Dean Harlow, "The EBDI engine project is a great example that 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."
Today's flex-fuel engines generally suffer about a 30 percent economy penalty when running on E85 or a similar blend of alcohol. Harlow says the EBDI package overcomes that by playing to the inherent strengths of ethanol, which include both higher octane 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." Under ideal conditions, these gains put an EBDI's engine efficiency on par with a modern diesel.
Developed in conjunction with Behr, Bosch, Delphi, Federal Mogul, GW Castings and Honeywell, the prototype EBDI technology is being applied to a 3.2-liter V6 that will be installed and evaluated in a dually pickup truck later this year. While Ricardo anticipates the initial applications for EBDI will be on larger trucks and SUVs, this fully-scalable system can just as easily and effectively be applied to passenger cars and smaller-displacement engines -- as well as various other types of industrial and agricultural equipment. The appeal of EBDI is only destined to increase over time as new strains of cellulosic ethanol become cheaper and more readily available.