Lotus Engineering, the automotive consultancy division of Lotus, is back in the news again, this time with a new engine concept called the Omnivore. Lotus announced that it would be collaborating with Queen's University Belfast and Jaguar Cars to develop the engine, which is said to maximize fuel efficiency when running on renewable fuels. Essentially, the Omnivore is an engine that can run on almost anything, from gasoline to alcohol.
This engine design is expected to significantly increase fuel efficiency for sustainable bio alcohol fuels (such as ethanol or methanol) by using a combination of direct injection and variable compression ratio. According to Lotus, the bio alcohol fuels have a much higher octane rating than regular gasoline, allowing for very high compression ratios and much more efficient operation. However, because the system has a variable compression ratio, the system can be scaled back to a lower compression to run regular gasoline or a blend of gasoline and bio alcohol.
The benefit is that the Omnivore engine will be able to gain the high mpg and sustainability of bio alcohol blends without losing the convenience of the established gasoline infrastructure. All of this is accomplished, according to Lotus, without the power and efficiency compromises of today's flex fuel vehicles, thanks to the Omnivore's ability to better optimize itself to any gasoline/alcohol blend.
The Omnivore program complements the recently unveiled Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel as part of Lotus' research into running mixtures of alcohol fuels and gasoline.
As fuel costs rise, consumers are demanding more economical cars, but their demand for performance hasn't tapered at all. In the future we can look forward to automakers trying even more unconventional ways to avoid putting fuel efficiency at odds with high performance.