"How low can you go: Engines shedding cylinders"
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Cooley On Cars
Cooley On Cars
How low can you go: Engines shedding cylinders
There's a new enemy under the hood of cars.
Now, I know, the cylinder is the whole point of a combustion engine.
That's where the power is generated.
But there's two problems.
That's also where the fuel is guzzled and that's also where the emissions are created.
Now, we used to venerate cylinders, literally.
Through the 1950s and 60s, it wasn't a matter of whether you got a V8 but which one.
Big, bigger, or biggest?
Mach 1 with an optional 428 Cobra Jet V8 that starts the hoods quivering to deliver extra power.
Then things changed.
Fuel crises and environmental awareness royaled the industry in the 1970s and the so-called malaise years in the 1980s.
We learn to love Pinto's and Vega's with inline Ford.
No we really didn't, then in 1981 Cadillac takes to the road with what they thought was going to be the engine for all seasons.
Literally for all displacements.
The V864 which mechanically shut down some of its cylinders while running.
To strip the V8 down to a smaller count at certain times.
It was visionary, but a real POS.
The tech to do it just wasn't ready yet.
Now today modern vehicles have a lot more electronics and sensors to do cylinder deactivation much more elegantly.
But a perception still lingers And perhaps fairly so that a cylinder deactivation engine is one that cripples itself, for the sake being green.
It does not fully all there when it's saving fuel.
And that is doing that in a way that is perceptible in the cabin.
And that's never good.
So a long comes this technology called dynamic skip fire.
It doesn't look at the engine as in this case, a pair of banks of four cylinders that make a V8.
It just sees a pool, a flexible pool of cylinders to use almost any way that makes the most sense.
DSF uses a vast array of sensors to evaluate engine load up to four times each rotation At 3,000 RPM, that's about 200 times a second.
But rather than grabbing a bank, or half a bank, or some other fixed rigid look at the engine, dynamic skip fire just says, I'm gonna grab whatever number of cylinders and not worry about their geometric orientation.
All in the aim of that algorithm delivering the best power, the best fuel efficiency, which also means lowest emissions
And doing all of that with the least perception that any of it's happening in the driver's seat.
That's key for marketability.
The 2019 Chevy Silverado is an early adopter of DSF, and it's V8 can run on anything, from the full eight, to a single cylinder.
Now in parallel to what is honestly a golden age of cylinder deactivation is another similar trend.
A golden age of engine shrinkage.
Four cylinder engines recently became the most popular in new car sales in the US, edging past the once Goldilocks six.
And the six is not coming back, in fact, threes might ascend next.
Mini, Ford, Volvo, just some of the companies offering a turbo three in their cars.
And Ford is using cylinder deactivation to shut their three down to two sometimes.
The logical next step might be Fred Flintstone mode.
You know, the final piece of this whole story is of course the consumer's mind.
The modern car buyer today doesn't often know or care how How many cylinders their engine has.
That's really paved the way for engines with fewer cylinders or engine schemes as we've seen that simply use fewer cylinders.
The combination of this elegant cylinder management technology with the proliferation of automatic start-stop tech.
Has brought us to the cusp of an era where engines may soon never use fuel to do nothing.
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