Governments worldwide are tightening regulations on vehicle fuel economy and emissions, putting extreme pressure on OEMs to clean up their act. Thus, we have seen a very strong initiative to design, market and sell electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. However, consumers so far have been reluctant to buy these options, leaving OEMs with a difficult choice to make: continue to invest in poorly-selling technology or look for improvements to options already accepted by the public. Many experts anticipate that the adoption of non-fossil fuel technologies will take several decades to occur, due to the limitations of the technology and the exorbitant infrastructure and development costs. In addition, developing economies like China, India and Brazil have seen skyrocketing sales of conventional engine vehicles, making large-scale infrastructure changes an even greater challenge.
Many experts anticipate that the adoption of non-fossil fuel technologies will take several decades to occur, due to the limitations of the technology and the exorbitant infrastructure and development costs.
There are approximately 165 million internal combustion engines (ICE) built in the world each year for vehicle, power generation and various commercial applications, with 62 million in vehicles alone. Given that demand for ICEs has not waned, focus has now turned to optimising and revolutionising processes that enhance combustion. Research and development companies are working to improve high-efficiency engine designs, giving OEMs an easier option to meet government regulations while satisfying consumer demand for better engines. New technologies for ICEs can bridge the gap between fossil fuels and renewables for decades to come by making the burden less costly for OEMs and palatable for consumers.
One of those processes being used to enhance combustion is turbocharging. It has been shown to improve the fuel economy of a gas-powered ICE by up to 20%. By incorporating a turbocharger, not only do you see a significant increase in fuel economy and reduced emissions; turbochargers also use the engine’s flowing exhaust to spin turbine blades and activate the compressor, forcing air to fan ignition flames. Turbocharged vehicles are an especially appealing option to the consumer, as currently, the incorporation of a turbo is expected to add just a few hundred dollars to the overall price of a vehicle – insignificant compared with the cost of buying an EV. Another technology that has demonstrated an ability to further improve the fuel economy of ICEs is air hybridisation. This process involves the addition of a small air tank, which captures and reuses wasted energy typically lost during idling, braking or driving downhill.
New technologies for ICEs can bridge the gap between fossil fuels and renewables for decades to come by making the burden less costly for OEMs and palatable for consumers.
The split-cycle engine design from Scuderi Group has achieved its lowest rate of fuel consumption when incorporating air hybridisation with a turbocharger in Miller Cycle configuration (using differential sizing of the compressor and expander cylinders). When fitted with these fuel economy-increasing technologies, it has been shown that an ICE inside a European ‘high economy’ class vehicle can reach 65 US MPG (77 UK mpg or 3.7 litres per 100km) while emitting significantly less CO2.
The central reason for OEMs to evaluate new technologies is the ability to demonstrate consistent power and improved efficiencies with credible analysis of new internal combustion engine designs. However, the process of innovation is not static; the introduction of new fuel economy-increasing technologies such as turbocharging, air hybridisation and engine downsizing have led to new ICE designs that have already achieved results that meet CAFE standards. New advancements continue to build progress for getting these innovations closer to commercialisation, and the best part is that the cost to improve and produce ICEs is much less than developing electric vehicle technology. As the engineering community continues to innovate and invent, the internal combustion engine will only improve.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Nick Scuderi is VP of Marketing & Sales, Scuderi Group. For more information, visit: http://www.scuderigroup.com/
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