Eco-Boost Flex-Fuel (E-85/Gasoline) Engines With No Mileage Penalties Would Decrease Oil Imports
The use of E-85 (85% ethanol) fuel in “Flex-Fuel” vehicles has been limited by its 25 percent lower energy content than gasoline. When used in engines designed for only gasoline this results in approximately 25 percent less mileage for a fuel that costs as much as gasoline. So, unless E-85 costs 75% of the price of gasoline (If gasoline is $2.65/gallon, E-85 would have to sell at $1.99/gallon) there will continue to be little demand for E-85 and little reduction in our use of imported oil.
Enhancements, primarily software and sensor calibration, to the Eco-Boost engines could utilize the higher octane of ethanol to resist early ignition thereby increasing thermal efficiency that would regain much of this fuel economy loss. Possibly even more important, these engine designs produce increased low speed power (torque) when using E-85. This torque increase allows lower-cost E-85 engines to replace more expensive diesel engines in light-duty trucks such as the Ford F-150.
Achieving improved thermal efficiency with E-85 or, similar ethanol concentrations, is however, just one side of the equation. The other is building a “Flex-Fuel” engine that can achieve high mileage with lower octane gasoline as well.
Fortunately, the Eco-Boost engine family combines comprehensive computer engine controls involving multiple sensors and actuators, direct fuel injection, sequential turbocharging technology, and some previously overlooked historical engine designs, that allows these two seemingly competing goals to be simultaneously met.
The widespread use of these engines in both automobiles and light trucks would result in a significant reduction of imported oil which would greatly improve our Energy Security. Equally important, this demand would be met by cellulosic E-85 that would be produced from sustainable, non-food biomass. It is also very important to realize that this market would be a sustainable, rather than an artificial subsidized market, since it would be based on vehicles having equal or superior performance characteristics to gasoline or diesel powered vehicles.
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