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New Internal Combustion Engine Technology

Are the days numbered for the internal combustion engine?  With ever stricter emission standards becoming the norm and all the talk about electric vehicles being the current rave, you would have to be forgiven for thinking that the future for the internal combustion engine is looking rather bleak.  However, here are some findings that suggest that the internal combustion engine might just be around for quite some time yet.

Let’s start off with one of the world’s biggest automotive manufacturers: Toyota.  Toyota continues to employ their hugely effective hybrid technology in many of their current models.  Even the little Yaris has just recently had its own special hybrid motor become available to its line-up.  Toyota’s hybrid systems are so successful at being efficient and they are proven in everyday, real-world situations to be reliable.  You only have to look at the incredibly low fuel consumption figures of the latest Camry Sedans and RAV4 SUVs to get an insight into how effective Toyota hybrid engines are at lowering fuel consumption and reducing pollution levels in and around CBDs.

But there are also other areas of the internal combustion engine that haven’t been pushed quite to the boundaries of exploration and these are in the areas of compression ignition.  ‘Engineering Explained’ host Jason Fenske has recently talked about homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) being a big gain area for the internal combustion engine, particularly for the engine’s burning efficiency.  The HCCI engine burns gasoline but uses compression ignition like a diesel engine rather than a spark plug.  So, in theory, gasoline/petrol HCCI technology provides huge efficiency gains like you find with some of the current diesel motors; however, the huge efficiency gains would be without the soot and high levels of nitrogen-oxide (NOx) emissions.  HCCI does require much finer controls in the area of fuel intake temperature, as well as the timing of ignition to get spot on.

Another vicinity that Fenske sees as being a big gain aera for internal combustion engine technology is the area of pre-mix charge compression ignition (PCCI).  What PCCI does is inject some of the fuel early to let it mix with air in the combustion chamber, before injecting more fuel later on in the combustion process.  This method of combustion provides more control over the engine’s ignition timing than HCCI, however it can also create pockets of unburned hydrocarbons.  The key here is to limit the unburned hydrocarbons but access the higher efficiency potential that PCCI offers.

Then there is reactivity-controlled compression ignition (RCCI), where Fenske suggests that this technology uses two fuels, where one fuel is a low-reactivity fuel (like gasoline) that is port injected, and a high-reactivity fuel (like diesel) that is direct injected.  “Reactivity” refers to a fuel’s tendency to ignite under compression.  RCCI is a method that leads to big gains in fuel efficiency, where Fenske says that some lab research has shown 60% gains in fuel efficiency.

Something else that is being worked on by researchers from Valencia’s Polytechnic University (UPV) is that of a new internal combustion engine that does not generate carbon dioxide and other harmful gases.  According to the engine’s designers, it is a “revolutionary” engine that meets the regulation on emissions planned for 2040 and also has excellent efficiency.  There master stroke is in using special ceramic membranes in the engine’s design, these membranes enable the selective separation of oxygen from the air to produce ‘oxycombustion’, where pure combustion gas is generated.  This pure combustion gas that is composed of water and CO2 can be captured inside the vehicle and stored, without having it expelled from the exhaust system.

Motoring big wigs, Toyota and Ferrari, still have an extensive long-term plan for using internal combustion technology into the future.  Hybrid technology is delivering impressive gains in fuel efficiency and emission reduction, particularly in built up, congested areas.

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