Hybrid powertrains grab all the headlines these days, but conventional internal combustion engines are also advancing at a torrid pace. Technologies such as variable valve timing, cylinder deactivation, direct injection, and turbocharging are boosting engine performance and fuel efficiency as never before.
Here, we've collected photos of engines representing some of the latest innovations in powertrain technology. From tiny inline-fours to muscular diesels to split-cycle engines, we offer a potpourri of engine technologies.
Click the image below to start the slideshow:
The Chevy Cruze Eco punched up its fuel economy to 42mpg highway by using a 1.4-liter Ecotec turbocharged engine. The engine's Turbo Airflow uses a compressor wheel (driven by hot exhaust gas) to draw air into the intake. The air is forced through an intercooler and then travels to the engine's intake manifold. The intake manifold subsequently distributes air to cylinders, where fuel is added, and combustion takes place. (Source: GM)
Perfect timing, Chuck. This slide show does wonders in illustrating the progress being made in combustion engine development. With all the industry focus on EV technology, it overshadows traditional engine development and as you've written pretty extensively, EV adoption will be a slow ramp. That said, it's encouraging to see that the auto makers have a dual strategy to address performance/fuel efficiency issues.
Great slideshow which showcases new developments in combustion engine technology. After seeing this article, I am amazed at the innovations that continue to evolve and am starting to realize how I've been taking the technology of these engines for granted.
Greg, there really are a lot of innovations in internal combustion engines.
Until EVs become practical, improvements in the internal combustion engine will be key. The hybrid is really not a viable technology going forward. I say this becuase of the increased cost and comlexity for really little advantage. If you look at the Prius, for example, it is a very small car. I am not sure that if Toyota just put one of their newer high efficiency internal combustion engines in it that they wouldn't get close to the mileage the Prius gets. Of course, the Prius will do well in the city for lots of short trips, but that does not cover the majority of people I see driving them. When you look at the hybrids of existing designs, they do not get much better overall mileage than their conventional counterparts.
One of the interesting things about the slide show and the technologies that are highlighted there is that many of those technologies were originally developed for racing and high performance cars. Using hydralics and variable valve timing is key to Formula 1 engines. While living in England around the turn of the millenium, I had an Alfa Romeo that had variable valve timing (as well as two spark plugs per cylinder). It was light and got great power. I must admit, though, that I did not pay much attention to gas mileage back then.
EVs *are* practical and have been for a long time (over 100 years), though they have limitations and those limitations have been under the magnifying glass of the marketing depts of the people with oil-interests for a long time. Reason to focus on the limitations was the potential to take over a majority position in vehicle technology, just like a century ago. The rapid increase in Nissan Leafs also show that the times are again a'changing. I have been driving an EV since some 8 years, others have for decades. I find that it satisfies over 90% of my driving needs, so I hardly need to use an oil burner. I hear from others who have a Volt and use the car every day, still they have been to the pump no more than 3 times in a year.
I see that there are performance improvements in the shown engines, though I think there were only 2 engines that had a concept I never saw before in a commercial vehicle and which I would classify as innovation. The other 10 engine simply looked at what was already there and designed a new engine (no small feat) that reaches high output or low consumption, but no innovations were claimed, they simply used state-of-the-art technology.
Funny that a lot of these improvements come from what made "ricers" claim big power from small blocks, while the American motto was "there is no replacement for displacement". That is - until you need a highly efficient engine...
Remember the old BMW E32 750 with 5 liter V12 that was designed as if it was two separate V6, run by two sets of everything - sensors, injectors, computers. If one of the crankshaft position sensors or computers or even a dumb wire had an issue then you lost performance because it suddenly started running only on 6 cylinders. Today that would be a feature....
currently, variable timing (and variable length inlet tracts, and a bunch of other things) are banned in f1. look elsewhere for power/efficiency gains in ICE, at least until 2014. bmw's valvetronic comes to mind.
I agree, naperlou. The Chevy Cruze ECO is a perfect example of the advancement of internal combustion engine. In terms of fuel efficiency, it's competitive with the Chevy Volt, which has a series hybrid powertrain.
The items shown in the slideshow great advances for the internal combustion engine. One great thing about improving on existing technology is that repair technicians are already trained in the workings of the internal combustion engine, so the training on repair techniques for the upgrades is not starting from scratch. Repairing an EV requires an entirely different skill set that mechanics may or may not have.
cvandewater, I am not sure that I can agree with you that EVs are practical. This is more true of the current generation of EVs that of the first or any previous. The problem is in the battery pack. It is monstorously expensive. The Tesla roadster boasts a 900lb battery pack with a manufacturers cost of at least $25K. Replacements, if you have let it completely discharge, can run the consumer $40K. The older EV's had more conventional batteries. It was fairly easy to either recharge them or replace them. That is not the case with the Li-ion batteries.
The car's initial cost is $100K. That is not practical. The new Tesla, the S model costs less. It is still in the $50-75K range. Now, I mention the Tesla and not the Leaf, becuase at least the Tesla cars have a reasonable driving range. The Roadster is just a toy, like any other roadster (I know, I started out driving such cars). For practical cars, the electric vehicles still have a way to go. They are much too expensive and have some major limitations that gasoline vehicles do not have. Frankly I have not calculated the price of gasoline at which the cost curves cross between electric and gasoline vehicles, but it is very high. Much higher than even what we are seeing today.
Where's the recent advancement in ICE's? My wife drives a 2003 Honda Civic manual with ULEV engine and has consistantly gotten 42 MPG or better all these years without complex, expensive hybrid technology.
Ironically, later model year Honda's have reduced fuel economy. Something was lost along the way to the next decade!
Turbocharging does not really save fuel. Rather it improves performance so a smaller displacement engine can produce a bit more horsepower for those who insist upon burning rubber.
Forsake peeling out from stop lights and you can gain the same economy with a lower cost engine.
A recently released government report has raised the hopes of automakers looking for a break on future fuel economy regulations, despite the warnings of an Environmental Protection Agency official who said the agency is unlikely to back down on its goal of 54.5 mpg by 2025.
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