Alcohol for the OMNIVORE

  • 05-Sep-2008 09:25 EDT
LotusOMNIVORE Exige.jpg

Lotus is using an Exige 270E for research into the combustion process involved in alternative fuels, particularly when mixed with gasoline. Part of the company's alt-fuels research effort is a joint experimental OMNIVORE engine, which should be ready to run early next year, burning second- and third-generation biofuels.

Lotus Engineering, Jaguar, and Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, are collaborating on a variable-compression-ratio research-engine project targeted at maximizing fuel efficiency when burning renewable fuels. The single-cylinder two-stroke unit, called OMNIVORE, will be fitted with direct fuel injection and should be built and ready to run early next year, burning second- and third-generation biofuels.

"It is expected to significantly increase fuel efficiency for sustainable bio-alcohol fuels," said Group Lotus CEO Mike Kimberley. He added that Lotus Engineering is now working on all aspects of future fuels, investigating alternative powertrains to accommodate alcohol fuels as they reach the market.

And Geraint Castleton-White, Lotus Engineering’s Head of Powertrain, added: "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."

Each partner in the project, which is sponsored by the U.K. Dept. for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment, has clearly defined tasks.

Lotus Engineering is now undertaking the engine design study and build, for completion in January 2009. Vehicle modeling will validate the anticipated reduction in CO2 emissions. Queen’s University’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering will be involved in engine simulation, while Jaguar will take the role of consultative partner throughout the project.

Lotus believes the OMNIVORE will offer a higher degree of flex-fuel optimization than most existing architectures can achieve. Said Kimberley: "Alcohols possess superior combustion characteristics to gasoline, which allows greater optimization. Taking full advantage of the benefits of sustainable bio-alcohols will ensure a greater percentage of vehicle miles using renewable fuels."

The company sees the new research project as complementing its tri-fuel program, which centers on research into the complex combustion process when mixing alcohol fuels and gasoline, a situation seen as significant in the transition period to increasing use of synthetic fuels. Lotus uses an Exige 270E as a mobile laboratory for this work.

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