With the trending hybrid, electric, and alternative fuel cars, you might think traditional gas engines are slowly becoming a thing of the past and rightly so given how sleek and modern newer technology appears. But as you check out car dealerships, the lots are still filled with vehicles with gasoline powered engines. And according to the automotive gurus, this isn’t changing anytime soon. Gasoline engines continue to be effective today and still seem to fit the needs of our rapidly developing and ever changing culture in America.
While gasoline engines still pollute our environment and keep us dependent on gasoline and at the mercy of its ever changing prices, there are still many advances that have been made within the engine model that continue today. With advancements made in power, fuel efficiency and emissions, we are able to maintain the luxury of the vehicles we love most while not totally compromising on fuel economy or eco-friendliness.
Small improvements in gas mileage may seem minuscule, but with 98 percent of cars on the road operating with gas engines, an improvement of a few miles per gallon has a much larger impact than you can imagine. It seems as though we should continue to strive for advancements in the efficiency of gasoline engines because they continue to fill our roads, and this will save money and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Here are a few advancements that could transform the future of the gas engine:
Improvements in Fuel Injection
One way gas engines are being refined is through adjusting the way fuel reaches the combustion chamber. Typically within the engine, a spark ignites in the combustion chamber. New research developments have discovered that through heating and pressurizing fuel before it's injected into the combustion chamber they can ignite the fuel without a spark, similar to how diesel engines operate. This cuts the amount of fuel the engine needs to operate so is much more efficient and also helps the fuel burn cleaner.
Typical gasoline engines have a compression ratio that is around 10/1. However, a new engine has been released that uses this direct fuel injection technology and has a compression ratio of 14/1. This enables a car to get 70 miles per gallon. The U.S. Department of Energy has researched this same technology and reports that direct fuel injection can improve engine efficiency by 12 percent.
Depending on the process, an engine will require different levels of fuel. Much like your body, the more energy you burn, the more oxygen and calories or fuel you need to fuel it! In a vehicle, the engine valves open for the same amount of time despite how hard the engine is working, so fuel is wasted when the vehicle is coasting or operating is not towing something.
A V-6 engine has six cylinders so when the engine is on, all six of those cylinders are working burning fuel and air. Sports cars and heavy duty trucks that have V-8 engines typically have them to make them more powerful. So while people drive their cars with V-8 engines for speed or to tow heavy loads, the amount of power the engine is capable of is not always necessary. Through varying the time and distance that the valves open, the engine would get just enough fuel and air for the task it's currently performing. Cylinder deactivation helps with this.
Cylinder deactivation disables the engine's cylinders that are not needed at a specific time. So when a driver maintains a consistent speed without accelerating, some cylinders aren't activated which saves fuel. While this technology has been put to use in some V-8-powered vehicles, companies that produce cars are beginning to use it in six-cylinder engines as well. The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that cylinder deactivation technology has the capacity to improve engine efficiency by 7.5%.
Gas-Powered Diesel Engines
Government funded research has developed an engine framework that is supposed to be cleaner than a diesel engine and around twice as efficient as a gasoline-powered engine. The engineers assigned to this U.S. Department of Energy project have been working to develop a process to specifically improve the fuel efficiency of gas-powered engines. They have focused on how they might best utilize the fuel efficient technologies in diesel engines while maintaining dangerous emissions.
What differentiates gas and diesel engines is the process used to ignite the fuel. In gasoline engines the air and fuel are mixed prior to compressing and igniting the mixture; but with diesel engines, the air is compressed then the fuel is injected. The process within the diesel engine allows the fuel to mix much more evenly with air so that more of can be burned. The downside to this method is the dangerous loads of emissions that are released.
In order to reduce those dangerous emissions, the engineers remove the throttle and spark plugs which create inefficiencies and use a diesel engine while injecting gasoline as a substitute. Because gasoline is slower to ignite, they were able to create a process where the fuel is injected multiple times so that all of the fuel is mixed with the air before it is ignited, which in turn drastically decreases the emission of toxic substances. While this combination engine has a bit less power density than the traditional gasoline and diesel engines, it doesn't affect the car's performance unless you drive with a lead foot!
Who would ever think that turbochargers would improve fuel economy? The cars they are associated with are typically not the most fuel efficient on the market! Turbochargers are powered by gasses from the car's exhaust system and work to push more compressed air into the cylinder. Much like direct fuel injection, this process allows for a higher compression ratio and more efficient combustion.
Turbochargers are typically used to allow performance cars to generate even more power but placing them on a smaller engine allows them to do the work of a bigger engine which saves fuel. Ford’s EcoBoost engines are a great example of this technology in use. With Ford’s F-150 EcoBoost V-6 it gets 16/22 miles per gallon city/highway, while the base V-8 gets 15/21 miles per gallon.
You’ve got the power too!
The biggest variable in how much gas an engine uses isn't completely in its technology—we must learn to drive our cars in an efficient way.
The good news is that car companies are trying to help through implementing technology that will help. With newer model of vehicles you get a digital reading that constantly updates your MPG which is super helpful, but some producers like Honda and Kia are including lights on the dashboard of some vehicles that indicate when they're being driven efficiently.
So next time you are in the driver’s seat be surety pay attention to your lead foot and slowly accelerate, so you can keep that fuel economy up!
Source: U.S. Department of Energy