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Developing a downsized, fuel efficient, low emissions, high power output car engine

Project HOTFIRE - the drive for greener cars

  • Developing a downsized, fuel efficient, low emissions, high power output car engine

The four-year HOTFIRE project (2004-08) led to the development of a turbo-charged downsized three-cylinder engine with a high-spec output, excellent fuel efficiency, and reduced CO2 emissions.

The EPSRC-funded collaboration brought together experts from Loughborough, University College London, Lotus Engineering and Continental Powertrains (formerly Siemens VDO).

In 2008, the engine was trialled in an Opel Astra and deemed to provide excellent driving performance, class-leading fuel consumption, and a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions.

Key to the success of the project was a unique Lotus high-speed optical research engine and diagnostic equipment at Loughborough, including their pioneering application of particle image velocimetry to measure temporal charge motion – which is now an internationally recognised fluid flow measurement tool.

The project led to a major engine family project for a Lotus Engineering OEM client based in the Far East. Meanwhile, many major automotive companies are now developing their own similar three-cylinder engines to improve fuel efficiency and reduce harmful emissions.



    The research has launched next-generation three-cylinder engines which demonstrate improved efficiency and reduced environmental impact.


    The HOTFIRE project won The Engineer Technology and Innovation Award’s automotive category in 2008, and was selected to feature in 10 ways we have made an impact published by the EPSRC in 2009. The research has also been published – by invitation – in international journals.


    Researchers involved in the project have since taken up R&D positions with global automotive engineering companies, including MAHLE Powertrain, and the expertise amassed during the project still underpins on-going commercial research.