Lotus announced it has begun development on a new generation of internal combustion engine specifically designed to increase the fuel-efficiency of bio-alcohol fuels. The automaker will be working in concert with Jaguar Cars and the School of Medical and Aerospace Engineering at Queens University, Belfast, to create an experimental one-cylinder test engine under the project name OMNIVORE. Primary sponsorship is being provided by the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department of the Environment Northern Ireland (DOE NI) through the Renewable Materials LINK Programme.
Unlike virtually all of today's four-cycle passenger car engines, the OMNIVORE is a two-stroke design that also features a variable compression ratio and direct fuel injection. According to Lotus, the first operational example should be completed by January of 2009. Its unique configuration promises to make the OMNNIVORE particularly adept at lowering CO2 emissions when burning second- and third-generation bio-alcohols while optimizing its performance and overall economy under any type of flex-fuel operation.
In characterizing the upside of the bio-alcohol optimized OMNIVORE package, Geraint Castleton-White, Head of Powertrain at Lotus Engineering said, "The requirement to operate on gasoline in today's flex-fuel engines limits their thermal efficiency when operating on alcohol fuels. However, the physical and chemical properties of alcohols, when compared to gasoline, provide the potential for higher thermal efficiency operation to be achieved. This single-cylinder research engine will investigate a highly thermal efficient combustion system that optimizes engine performance to fully exploit the properties of both gasoline and alcohol fuels and maximize efficiency."