Emerging Engine Technologies

Posted on 15 August 2012 by Tony Santos

Car Engine

With the world’s focus on green practice, scientists and engineers are working toward making cars travel as efficiently as possible. The push towards electric engines is often view as the primary means to accomplish this goal; the transition to fully-electric vehicles, however, is expected to take several decades. There are other techniques that can be used to significantly increase a vehicle’s mileage. TrueCar Reveals The Best Price for a New Car, and those who use it in the future will likely see advanced techniques to save fuel as standard features. Here are some of the technologies that may be used to increase a vehicle’s efficiency.

Diesel Engines

Many think of diesel engines as slight modifications of petroleum engines. There are, however, some significant differences. Diesel engines, for example, do not require spark plugs; the fuel is ignited from compression alone. These engines are also significantly more efficient than petroleum engines.

Diesel vehicles are popular in Europe, but North American vehicle buyers have far fewer options. Much of the discrepancy is due to the fact that North American oil refineries produce far more petroleum than diesel while the techniques used in European refineries produce more diesel fuel. Still, it seems likely that new refineries will produce more diesel if the market demands it.

Three-cylinder Engines

Most vehicles on the road today use four-cylinder engines. The four-stroke operation of these engines means that one of these cylinders is firing at all times. Six-cylinder engines are another popular options, and they provide more horsepower and a smoother ride at the cost of reduced fuel efficiency.

Another option that was more popular in the past was the three-cylinder engine. These vehicles have a distinctively choppy feel, and they typically produce little power. The did, however, operate far more efficiently than most other vehicles.

The new emphasis on efficient vehicle operations has encouraged automakers to re-examine these engines, and engineers are finding ways to work around their limitations. Some cars with small, turbocharged three-cylinder engines are rivaling the efficiency of hybrid electric-petroleum vehicles.

Six-stroke Engines

Almost all vehicles on the road today use four-stroke engines. The first stroke is used to bring fuel into the cylinder. The second stroke compresses it, and the third stroke ignites it to create torque. Finally, the fourth stroke pushes the cylinder down to expel the hot exhaust.

With a six-stroke engine design, this hot exhaust is used to generate power. A fifth stroke compresses this exhaust, and a small amount of water is introduced during the sixth stroke. This water is instantly converted into steam; through this procedure, six-stroke engines are able to harness heat that would normally be lost as waste heat.

Although these engines are substantially more complex than standard four-stroke engines, their added efficiency may make them worthwhile as the cost of fuel continues to rise.

These technologies, and others, can be used in conjunction to create vehicles that can match and surpass the performance of hybrid vehicles. Experts disagree about how long it will take before the electrical grid is able to handle high numbers of electrical vehicles, and even fewer agree about how long it will take before electrical vehicles become standard. In the meantime, however, companies can be expected to strongly consider the energy-saving options discussed above.

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