News / Science & Technology

    This Internal Combustion Engine is 50% More Efficient

    A 50% More Efficient Internal Combustion Enginei
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    George Putic
    March 22, 2016 10:02 PM
    Internal combustion engines in cars may be on their way out, but experts agree it will take a few decades before electric-powered vehicles become dominant. Meanwhile, the existing gas and diesel engines can be made more efficient and less polluting. With a $9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, a U.S.-based company is using an old technological concept to build a power train that is 50 percent more fuel-efficient and just as powerful as conventional engines, as VOA’s George Putic reports.
    George Putic

    Internal combustion engines in cars may be on their way out, but experts agree it will take a few decades before electric-powered vehicles become dominant. Meanwhile, the existing gas and diesel engines can be made more efficient and less polluting.  With a $9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, a U.S.-based company is using an old technological concept to build a power train that is 50 percent more fuel-efficient and just as powerful as conventional engines.

    This little engine looks like it has only three pistons, but in fact, it has six, sharing only three cylinders.

    With the help of modern technology California-based Achates Power has given new life to the concept of the opposed-piston engine, mostly abandoned after the second World War.

    “With the opposed-piston engine, you're able to achieve the efficiency of a much larger engine in a much smaller package," said Fabien Redon of Achates Power.

    An opposed-piston engine is a two-stroke engine with separate oil flow.  It has no cylinder heads and no valves, both sources of considerable loss of heat and power in conventional combustion engines.

    Two pistons move against each other in the cylinder, compressing a fuel-air mixture, which self-ignites, pushing the pistons apart, generating power.

    Exhaust gases escape through ports in the cylinder walls.

    Stripped of many conventional engine parts, the opposed-piston engine is inexpensive and simple to manufacture.

    “We make sure that we do not over scavenge and achieve a very good combustion efficiency, so that unburned hydro-carbons and the emissions are reduced to a great extent," said Redon.

    Larger opposed-piston engines have long been used for military and other applications.  But developing them for consumer vehicles was not easy.

    “This combustion strategy has some difficulties and weaknesses at low loads, because it needs a certain level of temperature inside the combustion chamber to make sure that the gasoline gets ignited," said Redon.

    Achates Power, together with Argonne National Laboratory and Delphi Automotive, say they are sure they will overcome the obstacles, and by 2018 will have a 50 percent more efficient three-liter three-cylinder engine that will be suitable for passenger cars and trucks.

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    by: Jo
    March 24, 2016 12:10 AM
    Ecomotors was invented in 2003, proof of concept in a helicopter in 2008, and given a government grant too. But hasn't had an engine yet on the US market. Ecomotors even said they build a $200 million dollar production facility in China. If Achates says an engine in 2018 that it could be ready, convincing consumers to switch their reliable V-8 engines will be harder with an engine that with a lot more piston wear rubbing over the intake and exhaust ports. Not to mention that car manufacturers will have to pay a lot more for an engine that isn't made by themselves, which will cost more.
    In Response

    by: Robert Cornelison from: USA
    March 25, 2016 9:41 PM
    The engine will be made by car manufacturers under license in their own engine plants without significant retooling. Cost savings will exceed 10% per engine over existing engines. Achates engine weight is 10% less per equal horse power. The engine is ready now. One has been running on the dyno for thousands of hours. Wide acceptance date is estimated to be 2018. Most OEM's have already asked Achates to size an engine for an existing model line. Cummin's is the partner for the diesel version that is currently 30% more efficient with lower emissions than conventional diesel engines. This article was a once over lightly with several incorrect assumptions. See the Achates power site for all the specifications and dyno results.

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