Evaluating Engine Innovation

I had the opportunity to speak at the Engine Expo in Stuttgart this week. I was struck, as I always am, by the number of unconventional engines being promoted by small companies. There were new engine concepts from the U .S., Germany, England and the Democratic Republic of Georgia.
While I admire the inventiveness and ambition of the entrepreneurs behind these new companies, I don’t envy their task. The great age of engine innovation, it seems to me, was in the early part of the last century, when talented and hard-working engineers used their mechanical intuition to try a wide variety of engine ideas. By the second half of the last century, engine designs coalesced around the basic four-stroke concept of today. Continue reading

Changing the Game

Several weeks ago, I participated in AVL’s SAE World Congress Technology Leadership Panel. The topic: advanced propulsion. The focus: what are the new and innovative “game-changing” technologies?
As an industry, we’re facing daunting challenges, including CAFE 2025 and Tier 3/LEV III emissions standards. After decades of significant development and investment, there have been dramatic improvements in vehicle emissions, performance, safety, durability, quality and reliability. Now we must deliver year-over-year fleet-wide fuel efficiency improvements through 2025 without sacrificing what we’ve already accomplished and while keeping our products affordable. As such, game changers are required. Continue reading

News from Detroit: SAE Wrap-Up

David Johnson
David Johnson
President & CEO
Achates Power, Inc.
Fabien Redon
Fabien Redon
Vice President, Technology Development
Achates Power, Inc.

SAE has done a great job organizing the High Efficiency IC Engine Symposium, held just prior to and in conjunction with their annual World Congress. This is the third year of the Symposium, and it was very well attended with many more participants from overseas than the previous years. We were pleased to be invited to speak at the Symposium for the third year in a row.
During our Monday afternoon presentation, we described how our efficient and low cost, opposed-piston engine can be applied to light-duty applications in an OP4™ configuration. Continue reading

Powering Tomorrow’s Military

This week, I was pleased to attend and present at a workshop hosted by MITRE on the topic of expeditionary power and energy. MITRE is a non-profit organization that applies their deep technical capabilities to support the U.S. Department of Defense and other branches of the U.S. government. Topics addressed in the workshop covered every aspect of energy—from well to wheels, including biofuels, storage, transmission, conversion and usage. It is clear that an “all of the above” approach to energy is necessary to support our troops, just as it is to improve our environment and economy via better passenger and commercial vehicles. Continue reading

The Achates Power Engine: Low NOx and Superior Efficiency

Diesel engines have many virtues, including excellent fuel economy, great low-end torque and superior durability. They tend, though, to be more expensive than gasoline engines. One reason: for cars and trucks to meet global emissions standards, diesel engines need expensive aftertreatment equipment. The two most problematic diesel engine pollutants are NOx and particulate matter (PM). NOx—the general name for nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2)—and PM have a somewhat inverse relationship. With low combustion temperatures, PM is higher and NOx is lower. With high combustion temperatures, NOx is higher and PM is lower.
Diesel engine manufacturers have several ways to reduce NOx emissions. Continue reading

Opposed-Piston Engines with Variable Compression Ratio

Opposed-piston engines (OPEs) have been around since 1858 and serious variable compression ratio (VCR) devices have been available since the early 1950s. Most applications were primarily research endeavors, with the goal of creating mechanisms that can achieve the benefits of VCR reliably, durably and for reasonably low cost.
Before exploring previous OPEs that have experimented with VCR, it is perhaps appropriate to examine the variable compression ratio benefits that have already been identified and achieved. Continue reading

Turbocharger Efficiency: An Underappreciated OP2S Advantage

There are a number of factors that contribute to the inherent thermal efficiency of the opposed-piston engine. Often, however, turbocharger efficiency is an overlooked and underappreciated advantage of opposed-piston, two-stroke engines (OP2S) like ours. Due to the two-stroke cycle, the OP2S has a natural fit to the high efficiency points of a turbocharger’s compressor map.
Turbochargers are used in all clean diesel engines—and, increasingly, in gasoline engines—to improve engine performance and powertrain efficiency. Continue reading

The Latest from SIAT

This week, I am pleased to attend the bi-annual Symposium on International Automotive Technology (SIAT) in Pune, India, where I will present a paper: Modernizing the Opposed-Piston, Two-Stroke Engine for Clean, Efficient Transportation. India, of course, is the second most populous country in the world and its economy is one of the fastest growing. At the Inaugural Function of the Symposium, Member of Parliament Supriya Sule noted that the transportation sector is growing more quickly than other industries, while also highlighting how the perception of diesel engines has changed from dirty to clean and efficient. In addition, Mrs. Sule identified one of the important challenges to the sector—the need to reduce vehicle emissions. Continue reading

Developing the Next-Generation Combat Engine

Improved fuel economy is important for many applications, but it is especially important for military vehicles. These vehicles are adding armor to protect against improvised explosive devices. They’re also adding expensive and heavy armament and communication technology. As the vehicle weight increases, so does the need for more powerful engines to maintain the same performance characteristics. And, these more powerful engines add weight.
One way to reduce this weight, however, is to use propulsion systems with high power density. A paper written by Charles Raffa, Ernest Schwarz and John Tasdemir of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) emphasized that the “real need is for the complete propulsion system to be power dense”. This includes the engine, transmission, cooling system, air filtration system, intake and exhaust ducting, controls, accessories, batteries, fuel systems and final drives. A key way to increase the power density of the propulsion system: use a more efficient engine, since it can dramatically reduce the volume and weight of the fuel required for a given range. Continue reading

The Emissions Challenge

In 1970, the U.S. passed the Clean Air Act, putting limits on the emissions produced by motor vehicles. Since then, emissions regulations have become even more stringent, with modifications made in 1977 and again in 1990. Nearly every country in the world has implemented similar increasingly stringent emissions standards. In response, automotive manufacturers have developed innovative new technologies (such as improved engine performance and exhaust aftertreatment) and systems (including on-board vapor recovery and on-board diagnostics) to meet the latest regulations. The result: a nearly 99% reduction in criteria pollutants—which include carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM).
While a 99% reduction is an impressive accomplishment, the regulations and associated technical improvements that have been implemented don’t address carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in any meaningful way. Continue reading