Brazil's Alternative Fuel Research

Here's a short look at the Centro Tecnico Aerospacial, the Brazilian facility that conducted much of the country's alternative fuel research in the 1970s and '80s.

| September/October 1980

Brazil has been running a successful program to replace diesel fuel with "homegrown" liquid alternatives. We want to fill you in on the renewable fuel work which one of that nation's most qualified research facilities—Centro Tecnico Aerospacial (CTA)—has been doing at its impressive engineering labs outside of Sao Paulo.

Until five years ago the Aerospace Technical Center was a little-known organization which, as its name implies, undertook various kinds of studies—including laboratory and field testing—on power plants, aircraft, and aerospace equipment. In 1975, however, the then-president of Brazil attended a CTA demonstration of an alcohol-powered auto that intrigued him immensely ... especially in light of the fact that OPEC had, just months before, nearly quadrupled crude oil prices (Brazil's petroleum import bill rose from $400 million in 1972 to $4 billion in 1975).

Within several weeks of that presidential visit, the South American nation witnessed the birth of a national plan—labeled the "pro-alcohol program"—which not only established guidelines for the massive production of ethanol fuel, but also set the wheels in motion to [1] begin an exhaustive study of the effects of burning alcohol in different types of machines, and [2] design and build an engine to burn the renewable fuel exclusively. The people at CTA, of course, were in the forefront of the new research and development effort.

First Things First

Naturally, the CTA gave top priority to automotive alcohol fuel experiments. Brazilian engineers adapted four popular automobiles to ethanol and took each of the vehicles on a 5,000-mile "shakedown" tour along the border of their country, experiencing no serious difficulties.

The test run was made under "real-life" conditions ... and included unpaved roads, steep mountains, extreme weather, and ordinary cross-country driving.

Because both the original design of—and the modifications made to—each auto's engine had been studied and recorded, the scientists learned exactly what parameters were desirable for alcohol-powered motors ... and they applied that knowledge to their next phase of operations: developing an engine specifically for use with ethanol.

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