The Lotus Exige 270e Tri-Fuel---A Car Of A Future That Hasn't Quite Materialised Yet.
So, the Lotus Exige 270e Tri-Fuel. What is it? Its basically a design study to see what happens when we use Synthetic Fuels in the future. By Lotus. Or, to give you Lotus’s Press Writing, ‘part of Lotus’ research to understand the complex combustion process involved in running on mixtures of alcohol fuels and gasoline, which will be important for a successful transition from today’s fuels to the sustainable, synthetic fuels of the future.’ Lets remember that this was 2006, first. And as usual, people were fantasizing about the future. Because it was possible. And still is.
The 270e was powered by your usual Toyota 2ZZ-GE-VVTL-i 1.8-Litre 4-Pot engine(The engine used in the 111R Elise) with a Eaton Roots M62 Supercharger(Complete with a sealed-for-life internal mechanism so that it didn’t run on the engine’s oil) and a Air-to-air intercooler attached to it. Using a development of the Exige S’s supercharger and intercooler package, the engine now had a peak power output of 270 HP at 8000(hence the name, and if running on Ethanol?)RPM, and 184 lb/ft of Torque at 5500 RPM, up by 51 hp and 25 lb/ft when compared to the standard, gasoline-using Exige S. Redline? 8000 RPM(though 8500 rpm was transient[Achievable? I don’t know..] for up to 2 seconds.)
Then, there was the fact that it could run on any combination of Gasoline, Methanol, or Ethanol.
Now, in case you didn’t know, low carbon number alcohol fuels like methanol and ethanol give more power when burned in the engine than conventional gasoline (petrol). The performance benefits come largely from the high heats of vaporization of methanol and ethanol, which give strong charge-cooling effects, and the increased octane ratings. There are other secondary thermodynamic effects. Methanol’s higher heat of vaporization leads to a slightly higher performance relative to ethanol. That’s why cars make more power when running on E85 Bio-Ethanol(85% Ethanol, 15% Petrol).
Now, methanol (CH3OH, for those budding chemists) can be produced synthetically from CO2 and hydrogen. Ultimately, emerging processes to recover atmospheric CO2 will provide the required carbon that can entirely balance the CO2 emissions at the tailpipe that result from the internal combustion of synthetic methanol. The result is that a car running on synthetic methanol, such as the Tri-Fuel, would effectively be environmentally neutral.
Plus, methanol does possess properties better suited to the ICE than the Liquid Fuels of today, giving improved performance and thermal efficiency. And it’s totally ideal for pressure-charging turbos and superchargers being introduced by manufacturers in an effort to downsize the engines to reduce emissions and overall kerbweight.
Now, since synthetic methanol’s green credentials arise from its potential to be CO2 completely neutral. The most likely future mass-production of the fuel is by using electrochemical techniques to combine oxygen, hydrogen and carbon:
Carbon could be sourced from carbon dioxide recovered from the atmosphere using either large scale extraction facilities or biomass. Oxygen would be taken from the atmosphere and Hydrogen would be acquired through the electrolysis(chemical break-down of a compound due to reaction with water) due to of water; challenges remain in the electrical power required; in a green future, this could be supplied from renewable sources, an issue already being addressed by supporters of hydrogen as a fuel.
So, at this point, you’re wondering: Sounds great(Probably not)! Now, how do we make this stuff?
Well, here’s Lotus’ verdict: ‘An early solution would be the co-location of a nuclear or hydroelectric powerplant with a conventional power station the hydrogen generated by hydrolysis of water would be combined with CO2 from either fossil or biomass sources to make liquid methanol. In the future, large volumes of CO2 could be extracted from the atmosphere.’
Although, realising this idea will take time, money, effort, space, and maybe a few scientists(Chemists, something….Uh..) to make sure that everything checks out. Plus, if every car on the planet was to run on this stuff, you’d need numerous plants everywhere around the world: I mean, one can’t possibly be enough, right? Maybe unless it was bloody huge, maybe. But what do I know? I’m not a budding chemist or something.
…And that’s about it. All you really need to know about the Exige 270e Tri-Fuel. Its basically just a design study just to research about ‘understanding the complex combustion process when running on mixtures of alcohol fuels’. Its more powerful than ye-olde-Exige S, is vastly more economical, and is more of a look into the future than a look back to the past, although that look into the future does seem to mean that it’s had a fashion crisis: Those graphics are gaudy, my Gosh. No one really know the fate to this car, though all I can assume is that they’ve either pushed it into the back of their collection, making it a forgotten project, or they’re still trying to further improve the idea, just in secret. Feel free to leave overlooked details and advice in the comments below, and if any of you budding chemists are reading, and actually understand this stuff(since I don’t), feel free to explain to your heart’s content. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to thinking about what to write on next.
See you at the next one.
[Writers Note: So, if you’ve read to here again, then, Thanks for sticking around. This was a kinda complicated thing to write on, since most of the info on it was from Lotus’ website, and you know how much Press Writing companies can stuff into one page. Plus, it had something to do with Chemistry, a topic I’m surely to hate when I study it, with damned Alegbra taking the top spot(Not the Company in Armored Core 4 and/or 4 Answer), so yeah. Half of this is just me taking what I can and trying to simplify it. Possibly to no avail. If anyone who knows more about this than I do, contact me. I want to know.
Hoped you enjoyed it, though errors may be present— I don’t understand this car from end to end. Tell me if there are errors. Thanks again—-Joel.]