OPOC Diesel Engine a “GO”….But there is a catch!

Well, it appears as though the OPOC engine technology that I wrote about some time ago is a “go” for production. But there is a catch. EcoMotors is reporting to Fox News that the design has been backed by a foreign company with the catch being that the engines will ultimately be produced in….China. Here’s hoping that EcoMotors has a good QC department!

Link to the story

Reportedly EcoMotors has a letter of intent from Generac to use the engine design in their generators. A stationary application like this may prove to be a very good proving ground for this up-and-coming technology.

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A fuel economy rant

This all started with a video sent to me by someone else. Here’s the rub.

Watch this video:

I love how this guy starts the video by saying “I got something here to tick you off!” It worked…

Now I know that the numbers are a little fuzzy and they don’t convert directly, but here is my thought process. Follow me here:

I wanted to make sure this comparison was as close an “Apples to Apples” comparison as possible so I selected the Jetta since it was available in very much the same configurations in the US and UK. Both were 6 speed manual transmission 2.0 TDI powertrains, in the same model car.

HERE is the link to the US version and HERE is a link to the UK version. Following me so far? Good.

Now to complicate the comparison slightly is the fact that the MPG rating of the two vehicles are measured differently. The UK rating is based upon the imperial gallon which, of course is about 20% larger than a US gallon (1 Imperial Gallon = 1.2009504234173434 Gallons US). Also, European cars are frequently rated in liters of fuel used to travel 100km. So you have to make the conversion to be able to compare the hard numbers. Luckily, once again the internet is your friend and saves you from having to strain your brain to recall all of those long forgotten algebra lessons. HERE is a link to a handy conversion site that I like to frequent for matters such as these.

So… you punch in the numbers and this is what you find out: The UK version of the same car gets the equivalent of 38.559 MPG (US) city and 57.369 MPG (US) highway. You can calculate this by either converting MPG Imperial to MPG US or by converting the L/100km figures to MPG US.  They agree either way.

One of two things must be going on here. One possible explanation is that the fuel in the UK is more efficient than what we have here and that could make some sense, but more likely in my mind is the fact that the US models are saddled with more emissions controls than the UK versions and that decreases their mechanical efficiency. Either way this is pretty frustrating. In addition, the 1.6 liter Blue Motion TDI engine that is mentioned in the video (which gets 45.2 MPG (US) city and a stunning 65.4 MPG (US) highway) isn’t even offered in the US. I can’t speculate on the reasoning for the exclusion of this option from the US market, but I don’t have any reason to doubt the explanation offered in the video.

All this begs the question “what is the goal here?”. Are we really striving to make the most fuel efficient vehicles possible or are we trying to shape the market to fit our preconceived goal or reshaping the way that America moves and works? Is it just a power grab? Why the obsession with gas/electric hybrids when these TDI’s get as good or better fuel economy? Why the big push to the all electric vehicle when it clearly isn’t what the majority of Americans want? I guess it is just another case of “Big brother knows best”. Maybe we peons aren’t smart enough o know what is best for us. It’s a good thing we don’t have to fend for ourselves out there in the big, scary world like all those folks in the UK who get to choose their cars from all the options available.

One think is for sure, It does tick you off to think about it (at least it does for me).

The Internal Combustion Revolution – Part 5 The Six Stroke “Crower Cycle” Engine

Gear heads of that have been around a while will immediately recognize the name of Bruce Crower. The founder of the engine parts manufacturer that is know by his name, Crower Cams are a big big name in motorsports. Needless to say Bruce Crower understands how an engine works and what needs to be done to make them run well.

I first saw an article about Crower’s work on a 6 cycle engine a couple years ago, and in fact the date on the story I link to below is about 6 years old. Crower has pioneered an approach that combines a typical internal combustion engine with the power of steam and I for one thin he may have really stumbled onto something here.

Unfortunately I can’t find a whole lot of recent information on the project so I don’t know where it stands. The design would have one major downfall that I can see and that would be the added weight of carrying a second fuel tank full of distilled water (and the rather problematic issue of finding a way to refuel that tank). Other than that I think the design is pure genius.

The engine’s first 4 strokes are the same as those of a typical Otto cycle engine: Intake, Compression, Combustion, Exhaust. Where this engine departs from the norm is that after those initial 4 strokes, a shot of distilled water is injected through a diesel style injector and onto the super heated surfaces of the piston and cylinder. The water immediately vaporizes, expands to approximately 1600 times its original mass and produces a second power stroke of the piston. He has essentially combined an internal combustion engine and a steam engine into one cylinder and in doing so capitalized on the most inefficient part of the internal combustion process — excess heat. Reportedly the process uses so much heat that Crower thinks the engines could be run with no cooling system whatsoever.

This one has got to be one of my favorite designs. It is simple, effective and truly a different approach to the process of making power.

Check out the story at the link below:

6 Stroke Engine

The Internal Combustion Revolution – Part 4 The Split Cycle (Scuderi) Engine

Another intriguing example of an innovative design in internal combustion engines is the Split Cycle or Scuderi engine. Essentially this design uses matched pairs of cylinders to split the 4 strokes of a piston driven engine. A smaller piston and cylinder handle the intake and compression strokes while a larger piston handles the combustion and exhaust strokes. This effectively allows each pair of pistons to produce one power stroke per revolution of the engine, whereas a typical Otto cycle engine takes two full revolutions of the engine to produce a combustion event. This, in effect allows the engine to make more power out of a smaller engine.

Again this design utilizes many of the latest gadgets and gizmos to squeeze every last drop of energy out of that gallon of fuel. Variable valve timing, turbo chargers, and a full compliment of electronic controls make this engine another up and coming design that may help the auto makes of Detroit meet the impending CAFE standards.

More information on the Scuderi design can be found at the following links —

Scuderi Group

Forbes Magazine Article

The Internal Combustion Revolution – Part 3 The Opposed Piston Opposed Cylinder (OPOC) Engine

This is one of the most popular of the up-and-coming alternative engine designs. A couple of major players in this design are EcoMotors and Navistar. While the appearances of this design are similar to the design of a boxer style “flat” engine, the design has more similarities to the 2 stroke engines used in small power equipment and motorcycles. The main difference in this design lies in the fact that each cylinder contains not one but two pistons moving in opposite directions. The fact that the design harnesses much of the force lost buy inefficiencies in the design of the Otto Cycle engine makes this a very smart and viable design. This engine architecture is on the cutting edge of technology using electronically controlled turbo chargers, and cutting edge design to achieve some pretty impressive results. EcoMotors lists a long list of benefits of their patented design including: lower weight, smaller size, an inherent balanced design, improved emissions, simplicity of design, lower production costs and perhaps most importantly improved fuel economy.The improvements in design improve the engine’s efficiency to approximately 40-50% which is impressive when you compare it to the 24% efficiency of a gas Otto cycle engine and the 33% of a well designed turbo diesel engine.

The fact that Navistar and EcoMotors have joined forces on this innovation leads many to believe that this could be one of the front running designs that makes its way into commercial and automotive use. One thing is for sure, it sure looks and sounds like a promising innovation. Time will tell….

For more information on the OPOC design EcoMotors and their joint venture with Navistar, follow the links below:

Press Release

Engine Design

How It Works — Video

The Internal Combustion Revolution – Part 2 The Wankel Engine

Aside form the Otto Cycle design we discussed last time, the next most popular design used to date has been the Wankel Engine.

The engine design was created by another German Engineer by the name of Felix Wankel. The first working prototype of the engine was completed in 1957. While the Wankel (some may know it by the incorrect slang term “rotary”) design is based upon the same 4 cycles it achieves this by a completely different means.

Instead of having reciprocating pistons that move up and down inside a cylinder the Wankel design uses an eccentric rotary design to achieve the same 4 strokes. Below is a visual that demonstrates the design.

Animation of Wankel engine, with English annot...

Animation of Wankel engine, with English annotation Español: Animación de un motor Wankel Eesti: Wankel- ehk rootormootor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The most popular use of this type of engine in automotive use has been in the form of a well known Japanese sports car. The Mazda RX7 is responsible largely for the notoriety of this type of engine.The engines have been used in motorcycles built by Yamaha, Suzuki, and BSA and has been used aircraft as well, but in the minds of many a gear head, when you hear the word Wankel (or “Rotary Engine”) the term summons the picture of an RX7. Driving a vehicle equipped with a Wankel engine has been described by many as being more similar to riding a motorcycle than driving a car. This can be largely attributed to the much higher speeds that the engine is capable of. While most automotive engines have a speed limited to around 5,000-6,000 RPMs and make their best power around the mid range of that speed, Wankel engines are routinely capable of 7,000-8,000 RPMs and their power curve is very linear making the higher engine speeds much more usable.

The major difference in the designs of this and the Otto Cycle engine is that while the Otto needs two complete rotations of the crankshaft to have on power stroke (1/2 power stroke per revolution) the Wankel engine has one power stroke per revolution.

For more information on the Wankel design follow the links by clicking on the highlighted and underlined phrases in the article above.

The Internal Combustion Revolution – Part 1 The Otto Cycle Engine

The reciprocating piston engine has been the basis for modern automotive power for a hundred or so years now and the majority of the engines used during this time frame have had the same basic design. Not until recent years has the automotive world strayed from the traditional Otto engine design to begin looking at an alternative. The advent of the hybrid drive train, while still being based around the Otto engine has, in recent years,  opened the minds of many  to alternative designs.

In the next few posts I intend to review the Otto design, and introduce some promising alternatives that seem to be gaining some traction as they attempt to enter the market.

But since it has been the standard for the past years, let’ start with the Otto design.

Nikolaus Otto

Nikolaus Otto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The four stroke engine as we know it today was developed first by German Engineer  Nikolaus August Otto in 1876 in Cologne, Germany. It is the basis for the vast majority of the engines used in automobiles and power machinery today. It is based upon a design that uses 4 distinct action or “strokes” to achieve combustion and create power. The strokes are identified as 1-Intake, 2-Compression, 3-Combustion, and 4-Exhaust. The following illustration demonstrates the design.

Four-stroke cycle (or Otto cycle) 1. Intake 2....

Four-stroke cycle (or Otto cycle) 1. Intake 2. Compression 3. Power 4. Exhaust (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This design is the basis for the vast majority of engines in use on land and sea today. The variations of adding turbo charger, supplemental electric motors (as in the case of a hybrid drive train), different fuels (like diesel fuel, compressed natural gas – CNG, and liquid propane) and various configurations of multiple cylinders, all are based essentially on this one singular design.

For more reading on the design and it’s creator, follow the links by clicking on the highlighted and underlined phrases in the post above.