Researchers want to transform the hybrid vehicle, so that it will run on two different types of gasoline, plus ethanol, CNG, and biomethane.

The FAPESP-Shell Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI) is seeking automobile manufacturers that are interested in one of the projects from its portfolio: the transformation of a hybrid car into a hybrid/flex vehicle. The objective is to adapt its fuel use to such as pure gasoline (E0); Brazilian gasoline (E27, with 27% anhydrous ethanol); hydrous ethanol (E100); compressed natural gas (CNG); and biomethane (purified biogas, from which carbon dioxide and other gases are removed).

“We are looking for an automobile manufacturer that is interested in this project, in which we already have a partner: The Mauá Institute of Technology. We are dealing with two manufacturers, in initial negotiations for transforming the vehicle. First, we will deal with the flex function, modifying it so that it uses ethanol and gasoline in any proportion. Then, we will move on to adapt it to natural gas and biomethane,” explains Julio Meneghini, RCGI’s Scientific Director.

According to him, this will be the world’s first hybrid/flex car. A hybrid vehicle is one that has more than one motor, with each of them running on a different type of energy source, such as fuel and electricity, for example. However, a flex vehicle has a single motor that runs on gasoline, alcohol, or natural gas. “We believe that the future, at least in the medium term in Brazil, is for the hybrid car to be a flex vehicle. Mainly using gasoline and ethanol and, eventually, natural gas and biomethane.”

Meneghini believes that the biggest challenge, besides the adaptations, is to achieve a level of efficiency that goes beyond the conventional flex car, in terms of consumption and pollution emissions. “Because it has hybrid technology, we believe that we will have a flex car that will be more economical, from the standpoint of both fuel consumption and the emission of greenhouse gases. And I am talking about both carbon dioxide emissions coming from fossil fuels and CO2 coming from renewable sources, like ethanol.”

He also believes that, eventually, the transformations will imply the use of pre-heated injection beaks, due to the use of ethanol. “Other modifications will be necessary for the vehicle to run on CNG or biomethane, but they are feasible, proven to be proven viable, changes. We believe that the development of that technology will be important for strengthening the hybrid car market in Brazil.”

The project, which is called “Development of a hybrid penta-fuel flex vehicle”, is in the portfolio of 29 research projects of the RCGI, whose mission is to develop research and innovation for the sustainable use of natural gas, biogas, and hydrogen, as well as to transport and store CO2 on a global scale.