PORTLAND, Ore. — Piggyback electronics and an add-on "vapor chamber" could be used to increase the mileage of existing automobile and truck engines by almost one-third while lowering emissions.
Vapor Fuel Technologies (Beavercreek, Ore.) claims it accomplishes this by vaporizing fuel and mixing it with super-hot air, enabling modified electronic control circuitry to coax the same horsepower out of engines while burning less fuel and cutting emissions. The company plans to offer retrofit kits for American vehicles within a year, and hopes to close deals to include its technology on new models from U.S., European and Asian auto makers by 2010.
"What we have is a fuel-conditioning system," said Raymond Bushnell, founder of Bushnell Engineering Inc., also of Beavercreek, the contract engineering company developing the fuel vaporization system for Vapor Fuel Technologies. "We are working with Unichip of North America, which is creating the necessary electronic control circuitry to integrate our vaporization system into a retrofit. So we can take this technology and put it on existing vehicles, typically the gas hogs."
Electronic modules from Unichip (Hillsboro, Ore.) are typically used to boost the performance of existing vehicles by intercepting signals from sensors and modifying their values before delivery to an engine control unit. Instead of increasing horsepower, a module being created by Unichip for Vapor Fuel Technologies will modify data flowing to and from the stock control unit to accommodate the super-heated vaporized fuel mix that provides increased fuel economy and lower emissions.
"We are currently finalizing the specifications of the electronics we will supply to Vapor Fuel Technologies as an OEM module," said Jack Friedman, general manager for Unichip of North America. "By modifying our firmware so that it offers the necessary functions to manage the vaporized fuel mix, Vapor Fuel Technologies will be able to fine tune our unit to control the engines of existing vehicles."
Electronics supplied by Unichip for retrofits, however, will not be needed by auto makers that license the vapor fuel technology. Car manufacturers will only need to modify their intake manifolds and reprogram their existing control units to boost fuel economy and reduce emissions.
Vapor Fuel Technologies hired an independent laboratory, California Environmental Engineering (Santa Ana, Calif.), which is certified by both the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board . The results of the testing showed performance comparable to a stock Ford F-150 test vehicle, while achieving fuel economy that was better by more than 30 percent; about 30 percent less emissions were released, the tests found.
"It's hard to both increase gas mileage and reduce emissions at the tailpipe, but Vapor Fuel Technologies has accomplished just that," said Joe Jones, California Environmental Engineering research director. "We think they have room to make even more improvements in future versions."