Innovative engines of the future

Posted by stephen avv


In the modern age of engine development, many engineers are focusing on hybrid and electrical engines for cars and other vehicles, which may have marked the beginning of the end of diesel and petroleum engines that have been used for many years to power vehicles. In fact, the UK Government has just announced that by 2040, there will be a ban on the sale of cars that utilise these types of engines.

However, in the US alone, only 2% of the cars on the road utilise hybrid or electrical technologies, which means the other 98% are still powered by fossil fuels. There are many reasons why manufacturers still rely on traditional forms of engine design, and the infrastructure that supports them; fuel stations, and journey lengths, are just some of the reasons why we are still so reliant on older forms of engine design.

Now, so that manufacturers can negate the negative effects of pollution caused from engines powered by fossil fuels, the aim is to develop innovative designs and electric alternatives. Together with Nifty Lifts, providers of cherry pickers with hybrid engine technologies for the construction industry, we assess how engineers are developing engines that we will rely on in the future to power our vehicles.

Ecomotors opposed, piston-opposed cylinder engine

This engine was originally utilised as a means to shrink the average size of a military vehicle, because of its small and lightweight nature; however, after trials were conducted to establish whether it could be used within the automotive industry, it's clear the engine could be used within the domestic car market.

As a horizontally opposed, four-piston engine with twin-bores, the engine has two engines worth of pistons combined into one, making its capacity for power greater than a standard petrol or diesel engine.

The combustion within this engine occurs between two moveable positions in the middle of the cylinder bore, and because there is more surface area for the pressure to take effect, more energy is converted into mechanical force. What this means is that less fuel is required for a greater output of power, lending itself to the automotive industry that is looking for engines that are more powerful, but also more economically efficient for the future.

Variable valve timings and lift

Although it's evident that within Europe the diesel engine's days are numbered, engineers are finding ways to improve the efficiencies of these engines by up to 5%, so that they are cleaner while they are still on our roads.

How it works

To control how air and fuel enters an engine in order to create the combustion that powers it, valves open and close in order to control this process. However, in traditional engine designs, these valves open and close at the same rate and distance irregardless of whether the car is travelling at 30mph or 100mph.

Within the engine itself, engine speed does not refer to the car's speed. Rather, it refers to how fast the engine's crankshaft is rotating. Within the engine's cylinders, rotation comes from the pistons; the faster they go determines how hard the engine will work. To keep this in mind, if the valves open and close at the same rate no matter how hard the engine is working, then fuel is wasted because the engine is always receiving the same amount of fuel.

Engineers are beginning to change this, and now, engines are being designed with technology that variates the time and distance of the valve's open and closing mechanism. So, to save fuel, the engine's valves open and close so that it receives the appropriate amount of energy for the task it is currently performing.

Natural gas engines: FEV CNG

As fossil fuels become scarcer, and prices rise, natural gas has become an appealing alternative when it comes to powering engines. This is because natural gas comes in plentiful supplies, and it is usually burned off at well heads and refineries. So, rather than wasting it, engineers have attempted to power engines with it.

Although the energy density of natural gas is a lot less in comparison to gasoline, and in the past an engine powered in this way would create less power, FEV have created a prototype engine that has been designed to burn natural gas with the same output of power.

By replacing the injectors with a spark plug, the pistons have been milled to create more turbulence within the chamber – as well as turbocharging it so that more fuel and air can gain access to the chamber. With this design, high compression levels can be created, allowing for as much fuel burn as possible. An engine of this kind reduces our need to burn fossil fuels, whilst maximising the amount of fuel turned to energy from a plentiful supply.



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