Lotus reveals its Trifuel Exige 270E concept car
22 April 2008

Lotus has revealed its Trifuel Exige 270E concept car, demonstrating the sportscar maker’s belief in the future of methanol as an automotive fuel. The 270E uses the supercharged Toyota engine from the conventional Exige and can run on three different fuels: petrol, ethanol and methanol, or any combination of the three. Sensors measure the proportions of each fuel in the mix and adjust the engine management accordingly, meaning the new Lotus only needs one tank. Unlike hydrogen, which must be stored at very high pressure, or at temperatures as low as minus 253deg C, methanol is a liquid at room temperature. It can also burn with greater thermal efficiency than diesel, explained James Turner, Lotus’s head of powertrain research, and Richard Pearson, a technical specialist on the engine project. It therefore offers a vastly more viable solution than running internal combustion engines on liquid or pressurised hydrogen, and it is also a more convenient energy source for a fuel-cell vehicle.Most attractively of all, given the current environmental pressures, methanol can be synthesised from a mixture of hydrogen and carbon dioxide – one of the gases that we are told is responsible for global warming. Given that hydrogen can be extracted from water, using nuclear or solar energy, it’s easy to imagine how the whole process of manufacturing and burning the methanol could be carbon neutral. The supercharged Elise also demonstrates the other benefit of methanol: it has a higher octane rating, allowing it to produce more power. With no other modifications the output of the supercharged Toyota engine goes from its standard 237bhp to 266bhp. Lotus has no plans to sell the 270E, instead it is being used to demonstrate the relative ease with which an internal combustion engine and its fuel systems, whose seals and pumps need to be resistant to the corrosive properties of alcohol-based fuels, can be modified to run on ethanol and methanol. The company reckons the cost would be around £40 per car and that every new car should have multi-fuel compatibility.

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

Richard Bremner

Join the debate


22 April 2008

Quote: "Lotus has no plans to sell the 270E". Maybe it was the thought of having Methanol 'powering' an Elise at warp factor Slug & Snail that brought them to their senses!

The Lotus teckno-boffins state "It therefore offers a vastly more viable solution than running internal combustion engines on liquid or pressurised hydrogen, and it is also a more convenient energy source for a fuel-cell vehicle." Mmmm!! How about this;

Methanol (M85) = 66,000 BTUs

Ethanol (E85) = 80,000 BTUs

LPG Liquefied Petroleum Gas = 84,000 BTUs

Gasoline = 125,000 BTUs (per gallon)

I know the Elise is light and therefore the most 'viable' for putting p*ss in your tank but an Elise would lose its lightness very quickly carrying an oil tanker on its roof to have enough fuel (energy) to go 200 miles. Oil. You can't beat the stuff - despite the losers in Government and the private sector trying to re-invent the wheel with green angles!!

23 April 2008

I find your attitude very strange. The oil 'wheel' needs re-inventing - unless you're going to claim that there's an infinite supply of the stuff? Yes, it may last for a while, but who knows - especially when politics gets involved (not just domestic - think of where the oil is, and how quickly the energy demands of developing countries are increasing...)

If you weren't aware, methanol has an octane rating of 114 and is widely used in motorsport. Yes, the energy density is lower, but you'll have more power. Since it can be generated from renewable sources (wood), unlike oil, you should be thankful. Think of it as a claw-hammer with which a nail can be removed from the coffin of the ICE-powered sports car.

23 April 2008

JJBoxster is right. Methanol's energy density is less than half of petroleum spirit - 19.7 compared to 43.5MJ/kg - 45%. Methanol is only 50% hydrocarbons(38%C,12%H, 50%O) whereas petrol/diesel is 100%(86% C, 14/13% H).

As petrol's and methanol's densities are similar, filling your car with methanol, litre for litre, gives you less than half the energy, so mpg will be less than half too. To maintain range the fuel tank will be need to be more than twice the size, adding approximately 60kg to the average car with a full tank - increasing fuel consumption, and so on - dog chasing tail comes to mind.

If alcohol fuels, methanol, ethanol, are to be priced at approximately 50% of the current petrol price than maybe they will be a commercial goer for concerned greenies. But as we've already seen where mixes of 2.5%, 5%, even 10% bioethanol lead to no price reduction per litre as should be due to their reduced energy content, then we can safely assume that this will not be so. I'm afraid it's just another ripoff flying under the 'save the world banner'. If you're that concerned about saving a 4.5bn year old planet, go ahead, pay through the nose, for what JJ correctly calls p*ss.

Which brings us to why the sudden mania for alternative, especially alcohol fuels of late. Of course we know it's a lot to do with taxpayer dough being doled out to mickey-mouse 'green' enterprises coining it over the GW scam mania. But the real cause is the price of crude oil. This is not, as we are brainwashed to believe being driven by shortages or greedy Chinese killing blacks in Darfur for the oil there. It is caused by the hyperinflating of the money supply by the central banks, the US Fed foremost, which is destroying the value of the dollar. Supply and demand are not the problem. Gasoline consumption in America is falling - there's a depression there - what MSM not reported this? Quelle Surprise! OPEC have confirmed that there are no real supply problems, and that at least $30 of the current $110/barrel price is due entirely to speculators buying forward options, betting on higher future prices - self-fulfilling - on the London petroleum exchange.

Add to this that all the hot money - trillions - have left the 2000-2006 global housing bubble looking for a 'home' where investment returns are minimum 10-15% pa and you can understand why oil, food and metals have increased by two to five fold in the last 18 months. Oil is NOT running out any time soon! You are being literally put over a barrel by reckless, deliberate hyperinflation of fiat currency money supply by the moneylenders, which is driving the hyperinflation of oil, all its derivatives, plus food and energy. The world, not just the 3rd world is being pauperised to save the major banks being bankrupted by their multi-trillion losses on the blown housing bubble and associated derivatives - estimated at $600+ TRILLION!

Go search the Net for information on untapped giagntic oil field in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, discovered in the early 70s but deliberately kept under ground. Go look up the gen on ambiotic oil. Go look up the discovery of hydrocarbons on Saturn's moon, Titan, estimated by NASA at greater than the earth's total. You're being conned with this oil shortage, Green crap. The intention is first to save the banks, driving up the cost of energy, transport, food and impoverishing the independent middle classes - of America primarily, but also the UK. After, there'll only be the super-rich and the new serfdom, unable to move - too costly - and existing on ration diets in your minimum wage job or benefit. Mission accomplished as Dubya is given to saying.

23 April 2008

Prudhoe Bay, untapped? Really?

"As for Prudhoe's remaining oil, about 2 billion barrels can be recovered."

Out of a total of 25 billion barrels. Perhaps you're thinking of somewhere else? As for oil on Titan - how do you suggest getting it back in useful quantities? I've looked up Abiotic oil, and it's a nice idea, but hard to see as more than desparate wishful thinking.

Oil may not be about to run out soon, but what do you suggest as a long-term plan? Continue using it until it runs out and then worry about a replacement? You and I will be dead by then, I guess history shows that we're never especially bothered about the long-term.

I'm still amused by your description of methanol as 'piss'. How about you go and tell Cosworth their 800bhp CART engines run on 'piss'. Always looking for a problem - how hard is 60kg to lose from a typical car? Regardless of GW, CO2, peak oil, 'greens', taxation and the rest - why would you not want to use renewable energy sources?

23 April 2008

Because my dear Niall methanol reduces fuel economy by up to 43% and we currently have a fuel that does a far better job! Maybe you like using the lowest gear on your bicycle for the straights and think that's 'green' !!!

Why switch to a 'renewable' source? Because there's no need. Oil is in plentiful supply (despite the latest $120 per barrel price - which is a real rip-off scandal). No country that's found oil has ever run out and more is being discovered all the time.

Indeed the oceans with exception of the North Sea are largely untapped (2/3rds of the Earth). The worlds 3rd largest known reserve has just been found off Brazil with aprox. 33 billion barrels. What's the betting there's considerably bigger fields out there:

Brazil Oil find link. http://tinyurl.com/6n64qf

Methanol is also extremely poisonous, prolonged exposure can cause blindness (or death) is colourless so has to be dyed and is a dead weight compared to petrol/diesel.

I'm all for choice however. So if the Politbureau British government could stop force-feeding us their Marxist-Lennonist directives to control capital and markets (which is a scandal) that forces p*ss-poor Ethanol fuel from food sources and let consumers CHOOSE and make their own decisions at the pumps it would go a long way to returning DEMOCRACY to this eco-extreme Big Brother legally p*ssing in our tanks and legally ripping us off.

23 April 2008

Niall, JJBoxster has answered most of your points. Regards ambiotic oil - apologies. Yes, you're right, is abiotic, as in not from bio, or 'fossils'.

Regards Titan(Saturn moon) the point is not one of hauling it to earth, but that hydrocarbons do not have to come from fossils. I believe it's mainly methane there.

The Prudhoe Bay thing was a little inaccurate. I was referring, without the time to check it, to Lindsey William's claim, written up in his book 'The Energy Non-Crisis', that there is as much crude on the North Slope of Alaska as there is in Saudi Arabia. Enough he claims to supply the whole of the US for 200 years - barring I presume Mexico emptying even more of its population into the US.

Can you supply details of the CART engine motors running on methanol. Aside from higher octane(higher compression?) why would they want to run with a larger 'gas' tank - makes no sense. Is it hooked up with some alternative fuels programme?

Finally, do you believe in this whole 'green' thing? Specifically man-made global warming? You do know that global temps. have not risen since 1998 and that 2007 was one of the coldest years in the last hundred? As for 'renewable' energy just what does that mean? Is not oil in the long run in a cycle? Windpower is a non-starter. Once the real cost of per MW generation is known people will wise up. Beyond wind what's left of renewables? The answer for the next fifty years is coal and nuclear for electricity generation. Beyond that? Does anyone, seriously ever plan beyond that long? The immediate problem is to put the biofuel green nutters back in their box and tackle the real problem of the deliberate and avoidable hyperinflating of the cost of oil.

23 April 2008

JJ, in case you haven't seen it already Richard Bremner is singing the praises of the methanol fuelled Lotus Exige. Going on something about carbon footprints, carbon neutrality and nailing the throttle pedal with a clear conscience. My god, is this guy too on the 'green'/'green' fuel payroll? CO2 as the evil that stalks the land/earth! Do they think that everyone is a BBC-brainwashed, dumbed-down idiot? A litre of fuel is going as high as £1.45 a litre - in G.Brown's own constituency - the price of basic food's gone through the roof and utility bills are a shocking ripoff and this 'on-side' journo spouts carbon mantras as the most pressing problem. Truly amazing. Though there must be sizeable dough in it somewhere.

23 April 2008

[quote loather]Can you supply details of the CART engine motors running on methanol. Aside from higher octane(higher compression?) why would they want to run with a larger 'gas' tank - makes no sense. Is it hooked up with some alternative fuels programme?

Finally, do you believe in this whole 'green' thing? Specifically man-made global warming?[/quote]

As far as I can see the original motivation was one of safety, bizzarely enough. My point was, that as a performance fuel, it's hardly 'piss'.

No. I do not 'believe' - that would be verging on the religious. On the basis that man-made GW has not been conclusively proven (which I sometimes think is wishful thinking), I think that *both* the 'greens' and the 'anti-greens' are as bad as each other in taking positions, having effectively decided the outcome for themselves. If the evidence for/against increases, I expect to see increased levels of desperation from the 'believers' on both sides. At the moment, both sides can wheel out evidence and studies and shout until they're blue in the face - who to believe?

I don't want to fall into the trap of committing to one 'outcome' just because I enjoy driving a car, which I think a lot of people are guilty of doing. Perfectly understandable, though. I dislike what the government are doing though, especially having seen an 'Act on CO2' advert last night, which ended in the almost comically twee scene of a street full of people on bikes. I see lots of stick, no carrot, and no talk of solutions, only problems.

At the moment, I simply think renewable generation is a 'good idea', since once you're over the installation cost, generating electricity is essentially free. It's a great untapped natural resource - why not use it? In comparison to fossil fuel reserves, energy from the sun is essentially infinite. Have you figures for cost per MW? The US gov't study I've seen puts wind all but identical to coal. Given the nascent nature of the technologies involved, it's reasonable to expect costs to continue to fall as volume increases.

Wind, Solar, Tidal, Geothermal are far from non-starters. Denmark generates 19% of its electricity from wind power. There is enough capturable energy in the wind to supply the current world energy demand many times over. Even more so with solar. 120,000TW vs 15TW demand.

Yes, there's a lot of details to be worked out, and no, no-one has ever really planned that far in advance before. Perhaps we should though?

23 April 2008

[quote JJBoxster] No country that's found oil has ever run out and more is being discovered all the time.[/quote]

Nice logic JJ. I needed a laugh...

23 April 2008

Niall, I don''t buy this methanol racing fuel thing, for safety or otherwise. Why if it's so obvious, does not F1 use it - the ultimate open-wheel formula - or DTM the ultimate saloon car racing series?

As to figures for electricity generation, yeah - coal(Drax-type primemover, 45% thermal efficiency) less than 5p per kWh. Nuclear more at somewhere between 5-10p depending on inclusion of dismantling costs. 'mills about 15-20p. Most all windfarm projects currently would not be viable without govt. 'green' subsidies. And guess what; the price of electricity is climbing north of 15p per kWh to consumers as a result, which may then allow E.ON, the govt. and others to then claim it's commercially viable. For a good summary of windmill hype and exploding of see Ambrose Evan-Pritchard's recent article on the Spain windmill experience - and more importantly the comments - in the Telegraph from a couple of weeks back.

Niall, you must stop with the glib trotting out of 'renewables'. Wind as most in the knows accept is an expensive, subsidy greedy non-starter for base-load generation and only benfits the large mainly German power companies and Danish turbine makers. Solar - what's that? In UK? Are you kidding? It's known that anywhere above 50deg latitude or so solar is a non-starter too. And until the price of silicon comes down substantially it's a commercial non-starter for normal payback times, i.e within 5-10 years max.

Tidal? Dunno - you tell me. Any practical, large-scale example in existence anywhere? Geothermal - let's all move to Iceland and hug a geyser. Denmark - wind? How many people in Denmark? 5m? Largest maker of 'mills don't forget - large vested interest as marketleader. Any alternative energy sources like UK? Coal - UK 2-300 years min; oil/gas - okay diminishing but still significant. Point is, Denmark hardly representative of UK/world demands.

I expected more from you, but your response is, well, for want of a better word, windy.


Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week