All of the discussion going on here at the North American International Auto Show, in the hallways and over a beer here and there is, what's the lifespan of the combustion engine versus electric power trains?
Well, here's an argument in favor of combustion having a longer life than you might think, on both a technical and a business case front.
This is an Achates Power opposed piston engine.
What this actually is is a 2.7 liter three cylinder.
But it's kind of a six, because every cylinder has two pistons in it.
The pistons move back and forth opposing each other, mounted to one of two crankshafts that are coupled.
One of them is down low in the engine in a traditional position along the flywheel.
The other rotates up high in part of the engine where you'd expect to find a head.
But this engine doesn't have one of those.
No valve, because it's a two-strong engine.
It uses ports inside of the cylinder.
And those are controlled by the movement of the pistons exposing or covering them.
There are some for air to come in, some for exhaust to go out, and some for direct injection of fuel.
And no spark plugs.
This is a compression ignition engine.
The way diesels operate but it's nots a diesel it uses pump gas.
Well you might be asking modern combustion engine always have elaborate variable valve trains where is that handled?
Here they handle it very precise the intake pressures that are going into the engine.
Okay, so what's the point about upending everything we've know about engines, well today's extract maybe 25% of a gallon of gas in moving the car, the rest goes to heat.
The most important thing is to take as much of the fuel energy as possible and delivery it to the drive line.
So we're rejecting less of that fuel energy to heat And we're getting more of it to the drive line.
Achates says this engine can put 45% of a gallon of gas to work, doing work.
So you're gonna see on a vehicle like this, on a cafe basis, which is what manufacturers care about, 37 miles per gallon city and highway combined with gasoline.
The reason we chose Ford's F-150 is it's the best-selling vehicle, and it uses a lot of fuel, and it goes a lot of miles.
That testing will be done in some vehicles of Aramco Services, the US arm of the Saudi oil apparatus.
You can imagine they're up for anything that extends the palatability of burning oil to move cars.
Okay, now, opposed-piston engines have been bouncing around in the pages of Popular Mechanics, and all kinds of engineering blogs for a lot of years, now.
Some of you might be getting a little bit of skepticism going on, but this is going to be an engine in some vehicles, operated in the real world, by Aramco Services, late 2018.
The challenges are many.
Prove the efficiency of this engine over and over.
And while you're at it, prove the reliability as well.
Meet or barely exceed current build costs for a combustion engine of similar power.
Meet those emission standards, government's pretty picky about those things these days.
Win a major OEM to use it and then another.
And educate consumers to buy a car with an engine they've never heard of.
Even if all that goes swimmingly, the question will be does the opposed piston engine extend the game for combustion engines, or is it just a notable rookie in the fourth quarter of it.