Partnership advances fuel-efficient options for greener motoring
More fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly motoring is the focus of a long-term research collaboration involving the Ford Motor Company and the University of Melbourne.
Together they have established the Advanced Centre for Automotive Research and Testing (ACART) – an ongoing partnership spanning more than a decade.
Professor Michael Brear leads the University of Melbourne’s role in ACART, coordinating expertise from within the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
“Essentially we want to make vehicles more efficient using current fuels, or think about designing engines for different fuels,” Professor Brear says. “We are always searching for ways to design cleaner, cost-effective cars.”
ACART provides Ford with access to the Thermodynamics Laboratory at the University of Melbourne, where researchers are able to study the fundamental principles that determine the performance of internal combustion engines.
“The latest generation of Ford engines are all directly injected and that’s a global program we’re working on with them in the US, Germany and Australia.”
Professor Brear says direct injection is now standard engine technology in all higher-income countries. It is more fuel-efficient, which reduces running costs; using less fuel also reduces emissions.
These benefits can be further enhanced by fuels that produce fewer emissions than gasoline, or in combination with hybrid vehicles. The potential of directly injecting ethanol, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or compressed natural gas (CNG), in either conventional or hybrid vehicles, is something several car manufacturers including Ford are evaluating.
These fuels offer superior environmental performance in terms of lower greenhouse gas and other emissions, and can be cheaper than gasoline or diesel. “But there are no direct-injected LPG or CNG vehicles currently on sale by the major manufacturers,” Professor Brear says.
ACART has been researching ethanol and LPG direct injection for some time, and has recently received an Australian Research Council grant to investigate CNG direct injection.
Professor Brear says emissions are a major concern for vehicle manufacturers, who need to meet limits on regulated emissions such as carbon monoxide and nitric oxide. New national mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide, are also on the horizon, he says.
“Regulation is already driving innovation in the passenger vehicle industry, and this will continue as we get more serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” he says. “There will be lower emitting, more fuel-efficient vehicles that can make a large impact on greenhouse gas emissions. These vehicles will be cost-effective to own and to run.”