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Ford is looking for ways to pack their automobiles with innovative technology that achieves the seemingly impossible goal of using smaller, more efficient engines while still delivering the performance wallop customers are demanding. Not only is the Blue Oval seeking more involvement from their suppliers to push new technology and techniques forward, but the automaker's also looking outside the typical realm of automotive OEMs.
One promising new technology is a system developed by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology startup company. Putting a modern-day spin on the concept of water or alcohol injection to either boost octane or cool the cylinder charge (or both), the MIT developed fuel injection system uses direct injection to deliver a shot of ethanol when the engine is under heavy load. The intravenous drip allows turbocharger boost pressure to be cranked way up, adding a significant amount of power gain. Normally, with your wastegate actuators cranked all the way down, you'd discover new and exciting ways to ventilate the crankcase, but this system keeps detonation at bay, which keeps the pistons in the block.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]

Another MIT-developed technique is switching operating modes between spark ignition (SI) and homogenous charge compression ignition (HCCI). HCCI is basically a gasoline engine running like a diesel, using high compression to generate the heat that causes ignition. Sure, any engine can do that if you push it in to preignition, but since HCCI doesn't rely on a single flame front propagating through the cylinder, the combustion temperature is lower, keeping NOx emissions at bay. It also helps that the engine is designed to exploit self-ignition, rather than avoid it at all costs. NOx is the typical bugaboo that rears its head when you're running high combustion temps and pressures - which is what you get with extreme boost pressure or ultra-lean mixtures.

Whether or not these particular technologies end up in Ford engine bays, Ford and its suppliers will gain valuable knowledge. All of the low hanging fruit for boosting the efficiency of engines has long since been harvested, so the future is going to be lots of innovative techniques and out of the box thinking combining to deliver efficiency gains. Ford's strategy for meeting the emissions and performance demands of the future will involve typical automotive suppliers, as well as being amenable to jointly developing new technology, even if it means co-branding. Hey, if the propeller-heads in Cambridge can figure out how to scam Vegas for big money, getting more work out of less engine should be feasible, right?

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      So, if Ethanol injection is used then you'd have to carry a separate tank full of it. Since it's hard enough to find Ethanol at gas stations then the person would have to find another place to fill that up. Which means spending more money and adding something else to do to maintain the car, which isn't good. Considering the amount of people I know who either don't know they have to change their oil or don't like to, this could be more of a disaster than a boon to Ford. It's an interesting idea, I'm just skeptical of the feasibility of adopting these systems. Ford wants to (and desperately needs to) make money, the cost of actually implementing this system will probably lead to it being abandoned by Ford, and shelved.

        • 8 Years Ago
        The volume of ethanol required is very small. A one gallon tank of ethanol would last a few tank fulls of gasoline.
        • 8 Years Ago
        The ethanol required for this process, or a liquid with similar chemical characteristics can be produced with an on-board distillation unit that uses latent engine heat...Ford owns the patent for that one.
        • 8 Years Ago
        uh, isn't this the nature of change (and as Remy says, "nature IS change")? by your logic, nothing that requires adaptation would be feasible... and we'd all still be living in caves. 20 years ago few homes had personal computers and http hadn't even been invented, yet look at us now...

        if the gains in power and efficiency are great enough, market forces and consumer demand would align accordingly to support this endeavor as would investors with their money, and people who'd want to partake in progress most definitely will learn to adapt. not to say that Ford couldn't then screw it up, but in any case, it's probably too early to tell in this case, in terms of the technology itself, the suitability of Ford as its adopter/proponent, etc.. one thing for sure tho: it certainly is too early to discount the whole thing as unfeasible.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Old's and Chevy both used a water & alcohol mixture in their 1962 turbocharged engines...
      The first production turbocharged automobile engines came from General Motors. The A-body Oldsmobile Cutlass Jetfire and Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder were both fitted with turbochargers in 1962. The Oldsmobile is often recognized as the first, since it came out a few months earlier than the Corvair. Its Turbo Jetfire was a 215 in³ (3.5 L) V8, while the Corvair engine was either a 145 in³ (2.3 L)(1962-63) or a 164 in³ (2.7 L) (1964-66) flat-6. Both of these engines were abandoned within a few years, and GM's next turbo engine came more than ten years later.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Thanks for figuring this stuff out for us, MIT.


      I sure hope Ford isn't paying much money for this.
        • 8 Years Ago
        that's a hoot.
        • 8 Years Ago
        no one said that using water/methanol to keep tempatures down was new.

        whats new is using direct inject to introduce the alcohol to the combustion chamber. the benefits being that the tank will last much longer than the old method because it can be controled much more precisely. the take would last thousands of miles.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Thank goodness MIT is there to think of new ideas for Ford, as they are out of them :::rolls eyes:::

      Idiots, Ford spent more on R & D than anyone else in the country. That is a fact. There is nothing wrong with tapping other sources for ideas, while funding them as well. There is only more to be gained for both.
      • 8 Years Ago
      It's times like this when I really wonder WTF legislators are thinking when they say automakers are not trying to make more fuel-efficient vehicles. WTF??????????
        • 8 Years Ago
        The legislators are thinking the same thing as I am. All the car companies have to do is make it look as if they are trying and the public will smile and go on about their way. It doesn't cost Ford much to send a couple of engineers to MIT and the PR they get is well worth it. What will cost and arm and a leg is to try and add this technology to the cars. We will just have to wait and see if that ever happens. Keep your fingers crossed for the next 15 years.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Actually, this is common practice in Germany. BMW, Audi and Mercedes have used universities for many many years.
        • 8 Years Ago
        I guess Audi gets their help from community colleges then...

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