Ethanol conversion. New “intelligent” E85 box at Flexfuel

Driven by soaring fuel prices, demand for ethanol conversion kits is rising sharply. For the manufacturers of these electronic boxes, life could therefore seem like a long calm river. In particular for Flexfuel Energy Development, which claims the leading position in France with nearly 70% market share and more than 12,500 installations carried out in the first quarter of 2022. But, on the ground, things are sometimes less rosy. To adapt to ever more complex petrol engines, ransom of ever stricter anti-pollution standards, authorized garages sometimes have to make very time-consuming manual adjustments. A “chore” that the new Flexfuel box is supposed to eliminate from the beginning of April 2022.

TO READ. E85 bioethanol: a market boosted by fuel prices

Sophisticated artificial intelligence

The operating principle of the box remains the same: it increases the injection time to compensate for the reduced calorific value of ethanol compared to unleaded.

For this, under an unchanged appearance, it relies on a completely revised electronic part, with the addition of a patented artificial intelligence system. This new self-learning technology will “read” the signal emitted by the engine computer on each start in order to adapt more quickly and more finely than before. Remember that the role of these conversion kits is to extend the fuel injection time in order to compensate for the low calorific value of ethanol, which is 30% lower than that of unleaded.

E85 injection curves
The box still acts on fuel injection times, but it does so more finely and quickly than before.

But the old Flexfuel boxes, designed in 2009 for indirect injection engines and in 2017 for those with direct injection, were finding it increasingly difficult to respond to the multiple injection curves adopted by car manufacturers. This is what prompted the company to design this new technology, which required almost three years of research and development. As a bonus, this finer management would make it possible to slightly reduce excess fuel consumption compared to unleaded use: it would drop from 25% to around 22%. Finally, it would become much easier to recover his box before reselling his vehicle in order to reinstall it later in another car.

Reduced installation costs

The box itself is offered at the same price as before, starting at €600 including tax for indirect injection and €1,000 including tax for direct injection. But the installation costs should logically decrease, since the adjustment times are expected to be much shorter. According to Flexfuel, installation costs would thus increase from €200 to €150 on average for direct injection. Note that the three-cylinder 1.2 PureTech from Stellantis will be entitled to a specific treatment with the addition of a fuel sensor under the bonnet, because its lambda sensor at the level of the exhaust does not feed back information quickly enough.

peugeot 2008 flexfuel
On the Stellantis 1.2 PureTech engine, a fuel sensor had to be added to overcome the weaknesses of the original lambda sensor.
renault 1.2 tce flexfuel
Victim of serious reliability problems, the Renault-Nissan 1.2 TCe can no longer be converted to E85 via an approved Flexfuel box.

On the other hand, the conversion will no longer be offered on another fairly widespread engine, the Renault-Nissan 1.2 TCe, which poses too many reliability problems. The 1.3 TCe from the same group will have to wait a little longer, but its adaptation is well in the cards. This new box, which will be available from the beginning of April 2022 in the network of more than 2,000 Flexfuel approved garages, is now the only one to be produced, in two different versions depending on the type of injection. It should in particular be used to honor the many orders made since mid-February, even if its predecessor can still be used in certain garages while stocks run out.

TO READ. Everything you need to know about E85 bioethanol fuel: prices, models, packaging…

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Ethanol conversion. New “intelligent” E85 box at Flexfuel

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