How can alcohol fuels reduce emissions in gasoline direct injection engines?

Part of Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy?

Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy? shines a spotlight on research projects under development in the Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs). Learn more about the initiative, read the launch commentary, or explore the TCPs.

What is the aim of this project?

Gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines can reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions but may emit more particulate matter (PM) than vehicles with port fuel injection (PFI) engines. This project aimed to determine how using alcohol fuels affected emissions from GDI engines. The fuels investigated included ethanol, methanol and isobutanol, and their blends with gasoline. The impact of gasoline particulate filters (GPFs) and start-stop operation on emissions from GDI engines with varying fuels was also investigated, along with secondary organic aerosol formation potential in a smog chamber, and genotoxicity of emissions.

How could this technology be explained to a high school student?

GDI technology, which is used in internal combustion engines that run on petrol,  involves creating an air-fuel mixture inside the engine cylinder by injecting high-pressure gasoline directly into the air present in the cylinder.  GDI engines consume less fuel than traditional gasoline combustion engines. Alcohol fuels have greater combustion efficiency than gasoline and diesel and can reduce air pollution.

What is the value of this project for society?

  • improves understanding of particle formation in GDI engines and how to reduce particulate matter emissions
  • improves understanding of the effects of alcohol fuels on fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants
  • produces scientific information about how GDI engines and alcohol fuels affect the environment and human health.

At what stage of development is this project?

This project, which began in 2016, was completed in November 2019. It showed the potential for alcohol fuels to reduce gaseous and particulate matter emissions from GDI engines, while maintaining GDI engine fuel efficiency. Initial studies showed the benefits of using alcohol fuels in tandem with other technologies such as gasoline particulate filters and start-stop operation. As these technologies advance, ongoing studies will analyse the benefits of using alcohol fuels in combination with engine and emission control technologies.

What government policies could bring this from the lab to the market?

  • implementing stricter regulations and standards to control particulate matter emissions
  • maintaining greenhouse gas and fuel economy regulations
  • expanding renewable fuel regulations.

Vehicle emissions testing at the Emissions Research and Measurement Section, Environment and Climate Change Canada. Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada


  • Emissions Research and Measurement Section of Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canada
  • Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
  • Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Israel
  • Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland
  • University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, Switzerland
  • University of Applied Sciences Bern, Switzerland
  • Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Switzerland
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratories with the U.S. Department of Energy, United States
  • Laboratories in Chile also contributed to the final report.


  • The project was funded by the partners.

About the Technology Collaboration Programme on Advanced Motor Fuels (AMF TCP)

The mission of the AMF TCP is to advance the understanding and appreciation of the potential of advanced motor fuels to boost transport sustainability. The programme achieves this mission by providing sound information and technology assessments to facilitate informed and science-based decisions regarding advanced motor fuels at all levels of decision-making.