Lotus Builds "Omnivore" Engine For Biofuels Research

Ah, Lotus, is there anything you can’t do or won’t try? The company has spent the last few decades making sedans handle like sports cars, inventing active suspension systems, and most recently, doing the structural engineering for the Tesla roadster. The latest example of this engineering derring-do is its newly announced OMNIVORE research engine (hat tip AutoblogGreen), which will supposedly deliver an engine design that will increase the fuel efficiency of biofuels. Lotus is working with Queen’s University Belfast and Jaguar Cars on the project, and the research will be sponsored by the U.K. government’s Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs, and the Department of the Environment of Northern Ireland.

There’s a whole bunch of fiddling and futzing that has to go on when it comes to working through the details of using alcohol-based fuels. My understanding (usually from watching engines blow up at drag strips and road courses) is that the more alcohol in the fuel, the more compression and displacement you want. That means the possibility of better performance — better higher compression and more torque lower in the rev range.

But the variables in Lotus’ announcement beg numerous questions: What kind of “bioalcohols” will it be optimized for? Mixed with what other base constituents? In what kind of combustion chamber? You could, if you were a lesser company, just do it by guess and by golly, but Lotus ain’t that kind of shop. Hence the name OMNIVORE, which will likely be flexible and can be reconfigured to suit the specific needs of specific fuels.

Beyond the unknowns, two things in the release stand out.

The first is: “The OMNIVORE will be a two-stroke engine with direct injection and a variable compression ratio.” Direct injection and variable compression ratio is just a given, that’s to be expected, but it’s going to be a two-stroke? That’s curious, since two strokes offer many potential advantages concerning efficiency but are notoriously dirty in their emissions.

The other is this: “Jaguar Cars Ltd a consultative partner at all stages of development.”

Jaguar? Jaguar, who was recently bought by India’s Tata (Tata who just got a lot of press with their Nano ultra-cheap micro car). Hmmm….could Jag be interested in using OMNIVORE-derived tech in their big, heavy luxo-boats, or could the tech just be filtered back to parent company Tata for use in smaller, more eco-friendly cars?