Testing biofuels’ effect on engines

Ricardo today announced the formation of a consortium that aims to evaluate the impact of biofuels on current and future light-duty engine technologies.

Concerns about carbon emissions and energy security are said to be leading to a global increase in the use of biofuels within the traditional fuel supply chain for pump blends of petrol and diesel.

In addition to this, many regions are making higher biofuel blends available to consumers that wish to use these for financial or operational reasons or through personal concern for the environment.

There are engineering issues associated with the increased use of biofuels and such areas of concern are likely to change and develop as new automotive powertrain technologies are deployed. 

In terms of biodiesel, areas of focus will include understanding the effect of the wide variability of fuel chemistry resulting from the broad range of potential feedstocks, challenges of fuel storage resulting from instability and reactivity to air, and the potential for fuel dilution of lube oil.

The work of the consortium will be structured as a series of modules.

The first module will look at the effect of biofuel content on diesel performance, emissions and economy, using conventional and advanced combustion-control systems.

Three further modules are currently under consideration: investigating the effects of biodiesel on fuel in oil dilution and how advanced post-injection calibration techniques can reduce the problem; the effects of biofuel content on petrol performance, emissions and economy; and the effects of biodiesel on vehicle stability.

Craig Goodfellow, Ricardo project director for fuels and lubricants, said: ‘The increasing use of biofuels offers some potentially attractive benefits in terms of reduced global carbon emissions and increased energy security through diversity of fuel resources. 

‘However, for biodiesel in particular, the challenge of creating stable and consistent supplies of fuel, and engineering the powertrain system to operate without detriment to performance and durability, is both complex and considerable.

‘By drawing together this pre-competitive consortium of interested partners, we aim to focus research and help chart the means by which such challenges can be addressed.’

The consortium’s first module, which is part-funded by the UK government’s Department for Transport, will be formally launched today but will remain open to applications from prospective members throughout the duration of the work.

Organisations (vehicle manufacturers, Tier 1 suppliers, oil companies, additive manufacturers and government agencies) wishing to participate should contact F&LConsortium@ricardo.com.