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Orbital is a Perth-based company with a long history of innovate engine-related engineering. You might remember Ralph Sarich and his revolutionary Orbital Engine way back in the 1970s. Despite being unable to bring that engine to market, the company evolved to become a leader in fuel delivery technology. Today, Its research and development facilities in Perth are the envy of any auto manufacturer, attracting Interest from customers around the world. In rooms simulating everything from arctic cold to Sahara heat, engines with Orbital-developed fuel systems undergo testing and development, with many of the resultant systems and technologies licensed for production globally.

LPG - or Liquid Petroleum Gas - Is a gas stored under pressure in liquid form. It's a by-product of both the oil extraction and refining processes that's easily stored and transported and has an established delivery Infrastructure across the country. Although it produces less energy than petrol, it also produces less C02 and is a fuel independent of global supply issues.

Both Ford and Holden's current LPG systems take liquid from a vehicle tank and change It to a gas by warming It with heat from the engine's cooling system, in a special converter. This gas is then sent to either an old-style carburettor (Ford) or vapour injection system (Holden) for mixing with the Intake air before being drawn Into the engine for combustion.

Orbltal's liquid LPG Injection system - LLi - does away with the gas converter and takes liquid directly to fuel Injector In the Intake manifold, just like most petrol engines. The liquid is then vaporised as It's injected into the airstream and delivered to each cylinder. Not only Is this method more efficient, It does away with the converter which can be prone to freezing up and/or leaking engine coolant.

That's how the mechanical side works, but there are other factors to consider. The whole process Is controlled by an engine management computer (EMC) working seamlessly with the vehicle's resident EMC which Integrates any systems, such as traction control, Into the power delivery management protocol. Because Orbital has developed and tested this system with the same resources as a car company, the engine meets all Its emissions and efficiency targets.

Not only is the liquid LPG Injection system more fuel efficient. Orbital claims that, because of the software-controlled Injection process, an engine will produce the same power on LPG as when using petrol. Because of this, Holden's performance arm - Holden Special Vehicles or HSV - is soon to release a high-performance V8 Commodore running the new system. Insiders expect HSV's introduction of an LPG performance model to singlehandedly do more to promote the cause of the fuel in Australia than all other efforts to date.

Orbital uses components, from leading suppliers including Continental from Europe and Motonlc from Korea (a company responsible for supplying 750,000-plus liquid LPG systems to Hyundai), and combines them into an integrated, world-class system.

Orbital Is no stranger to the LPG conversion business in Australia. In 2008, it bought Boral Alternate Fuel Systems, the company used by Ford Australia to supply the E-gas systems on all current-model Falcons. Ford has also been keen to promote further product development In the LPG field because, without the new technology, Its E-gas engines will be unable to meet the new ADR79/02 (Euro-IV) emissions standards, due to take effect In July 2010.

The release of the next Falcon update, scheduled for early 2011, Is expected to coincide with the unveiling of the all-new, liquid-injected E-gas engine. Believed to be a gas-only system, this will be the first time the gas alternative has been able to match its petrol counterpart for power, torque and drivablllty.

If you like the sound of the new technology, it Is possible to jump ahead of the official Ford and Holden introduction. Owners of VZ and VE Commodores and BA, BF and FG Falcons can today buy an Orbital dual-fuel LLI system from an authorised installer. List price Is around $3500, plus Installation, but you'll qualify for the Federal Government's rebate, which should cover Installation and a bit of the kit price. The kits are model-specific, and as momentum grows, so will the range of vehicles covered. Next cab-off-the-rank (pardon the LPG-related pun) is believed to be Mitsubishi's Triton Ute.

(Below)The Orbital system provides improved performance and substantially better fuel efficiency and is available now on the aftermarket.

Performance is a subjective thing, unless you have all the right measuring equipment. But, having recently driven an E-gas XR6, we can only say the difference was eye-opening. Off-the-line performance was Instant; followed by smooth, linear acceleration right up to redline.

Orbital Is to be congratulated on this major advancement In LPG technology,

The Company claims operating costs are 41% lower than an equivalent petrol fuelled vehicle while retaining the same performance, which now makes LPG an even more compelling case. Over 270 km of freeway and town driving Delivery averaged an excellent 10.95 1/100 km. This compares to the quoted 14.4 1/100 km for the combined section of the official ADR fuel test (compared to 11.1 1/100 km for the same vehicle on petrol).

Hopefully, Orbital's developments will spur other manufacturers to explore the LPG option. Including looking at smaller engined vehicles. There's no reason why LPG availability should not be extended down into the four cylinder market rather than remaining the prerogative of the six cylinder user.

To add fact to theory, ECOcar Magazine borrowed Orbital's dual-fuel kitted XR6 Falcon for a few days to see how it would perform in the real world.

Orbital's XR6 Is a converted petrol car with the luxury of a six-speed automatic, unlike the factory E-Gas XR6 which is saddled with the old four-speed automatic (expect to see that change with the Introduction of the new engine).

The dual-fuel system starts on petrol and switches automatically to LPG when the computer is happy, which is usually within 60-90 seconds. There's no indication to the driver of the change-over, and this is the same system that HSV will be using In its new 6.0-litre V8s.

Available now for fitment to cars and utes as a retro-fit, it is anticipated it will become available as original equipment on Ford products from 2011.

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