Fuel-efficiency and emissions focus of motoring research partnership

A commercial collaboration with Ford Motor Company.

The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is driving innovation in the passenger vehicle industry, and the University of Melbourne is at the forefront of research efforts through its longstanding partnership with the Ford Motor Company.

Essentially we want to make vehicles more efficient using current fuels, or think about designing engines for different fuels, Professor Michael Brear says. He leads the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s research with Ford through the Advanced Centre for Automotive Research and Testing (ACART).

We are always searching for ways to design cleaner, cost-effective cars. 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.

He 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.

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.

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