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Old 05-02-2009, 07:56 AM   #1
AVANTI R5
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Default Geekfest: 2009 SAE World Congress

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This year's SAE World Congress was kicked off with a rousing speech by someone many of the engineers in the room may have wanted to throw vegetables at, California's CO2-reducer-in-chief, Governator A. Schwarzenegger. By way of conciliation he conceded that perhaps Detroit hadn't enjoyed as much regulatory support as it could have used in developing high-efficiency cars, and he concluded (about an hour late) with an offer to produce commercials for the Detroit Three's green cars free of charge. Thanks, awfully. Once the hot air dissipated, we set out to uncover the hidden gems of future tech that always lie hidden amongst the booths of gaskets, seals, and hard-candy dishes.


Vengeance Power! SAE often serves as a launching pad for unconventional engines, most of which boast immense improvements in efficiency (what else would be the point?), and this rotary-vane design is no exception. Some of the basic advantages are shared with the Wankel rotary: intake and combustion happen in different places, reducing the chance of heat-related predetonation; there are fewer moving parts, because simple intake and exhaust porting means no valves are needed; and operation is inherently smooth, because no parts ever have to stop and reverse direction like pistons do. But the Vengeance design uses a round rotating element out of which eight vanes roll to follow the vaguely oval outer wall of the intake/compression/combustion/exhaust chamber.
The vanes are driven in and out of the spinning rotor by rollers tracing a path that just keeps their seals in contact with the chamber walls, which supposedly results in far less friction than in a piston engine of similar displacement. One of the big advantages claimed is the shape of the combustion chamber, which is designed to allow considerably more time for the exploding gasses to expand, extracting far more of the heat value from the fuel, all of which is expended on a vane that remains perpendicular to the output shaft to extract the work efficiently. How efficiently? Up to a claimed 53 percent when running on gasoline. Interchangeable combustion chamber bowls can quickly alter the compression ratio, allowing the engine to run on almost any combustible fuel, even syngas or hydrogen (which requires ceramic seals). Because the explosion has time to end before the exhaust port is exposed, far less noise and heat flows out the tailpipe.
Torque of the 640-cube eight-vane prototype is rated at 2500 pound-feet-plus over most of the low operating speed range of the engine, with power peaking at 551 hp at 1200 rpm. At a claimed weight of only 300 pounds it's a dense power unit, and indeed the greatest interest to date has been for use as a pusher-prop airplane engine. It could also be an ideal tank engine, but the Windsor, Ontario-based Vengeance Power engineers say that with a 5:1 up-ratio, it could also drive a car through a conventional transmission burning whatever fuel was most advantageous. It's a concept we'll keep a keen eye on as development progresses. Contact: vengeancepower@yahoo.com
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Old 05-02-2009, 07:56 AM   #2
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Pneumatic valves. Sweden's Cargine Engineering reckons it may have cracked the camless engine concept to provide infinitely variable valve timing and lift (within limits), using air pressure to shoot the valve open while hydraulic pressure holds it open and cushions its closing. The system reportedly requires air pressure of 3-16 bar (44-232 psi) and can provide 8mm lift for 5 milliseconds of duration, with a max lift of 14mm, and can operate at engine speeds of up to 8000 rpm. The setup consumes 50 percent less space than a conventional DOHC 4-valve setup and reduces mass by 30 percent. It doesn't require 42-volt electricity, and net power consumption of the air compressor needed to run the system is said to average out about the same as a camshaft over the entire driving range, consuming more power at high rpm (reportedly 4kW at 6000 rpm for a 2.0-liter 16-valve four) and less at lower rpm. Several development partners have signed on, including supercar-maker Koenigsegg and the Split-Cycle engine folks at the Scuderi Group. www.cargine.com
Split-Cycle Engine. We've covered the Scuderi Group's innovative concept, splitting the four traditional combustion strokes between two different cylinders, with one handling intake and compression, the other combustion and exhaust. At this year's SAE show, the company announced that its first running prototype will be operational in May 2009, and revealed more details. The first prototype will be naturally aspirated, and will be followed shortly by a turbocharged variant (because the split-cycle engine fires after the cylinder passes top dead center, the risk of predetonation is very low, so higher boost pressures can be tolerated for greater efficiency), followed by the air-hybrid concept (in which a tank recovers surplus compressed air during overrun and braking, then gives it back under acceleration-another significant efficiency-booster).
The inlet and exhaust valves are likely to be operated by conventional camshafts, but the smaller valves that admit air from the crossover tubes (two per cylinder pair) will be likely be pneumatic. They open upward, into the crossover, not down into the cylinder, and timing will be critical, hence the exotic valvetrain. Fuel will be injected in the crossover tubes just before entering the combustion cylinder, but because of the high pressures in those tubes, a direct-injection type Bosch injection system will be used. The Scuderi folks say they've signed their first licensees this year, and three to five years of development will be needed for production. Stay tuned.
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Old 05-02-2009, 07:57 AM   #3
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100-mpg Hummer H3! Provo, Utah-based Raser Technologies in cooperation with FEV has developed a series hybrid drivetrain that it claims could be the Volt of off-road and light trucks. Replacing the standard drivetrain of a typical H3 is a 2.0-liter Ecotec four-cylinder bolted only to a 100-kW generator and geared to run at around its efficiency peak of 2000 rpm (or the power peak of 6000 rpm if needed) to charge a 700-volt, 41-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. All four wheels are powered by a single 200kW (268 hp) electric motor capable of propelling the H3 for the now familiar 40 miles of pure EV range while providing better acceleration performance than the standard H3's five-banger. Home recharging with a 220-volt line takes 3-4 hours, or 11 hours with 110 volts.
The powerful onboard generator is capable of powering several homes, and as such the system is attractive to emergency and first-responder agencies. As for that 100-mpg claim, it's arrived at by assuming several days of 40-mile electric running and then a longer distance weekend drive that fires the Ecotec, averaging out to 100 mpg for the week (we can't wait for EPA to rule on a scientific means of reporting plug-in HEV fuel economy).
The companies also displayed a smaller system fitted to a Dodge Caliber, powered by a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder Mitsubishi range-extending engine coupled to a 41kW generator and a 20-kilowatt-hour, 350-volt lithium-ion battery pack. The electric motor can deliver 125 kW of peak power/75 kW continuous (167/100 hp), and it's bolted to the Caliber's manual transmission locked in third gear.


Mother of all Generators. Honda displayed one of its top-of-the-line MCHP1.2 Micro-sized Combined Heat and Power gas-fired generators. Intended for permanent installation in the home, it burns natural gas or propane in a 163cc single-cylinder piston engine with a catalyst. When the power grid is up and running, it generates 1.2kW of electricity (with any surplus being sold back onto the grid) and uses the 2.8kW of waste heat produced by the engine for space heating. Should the power fail, the system can produce 1.8kW of electricity to power essential systems (the generator could also be directed by the power company to switch on and provide 1.8kW of energy when the grid is nearing its capacity). The system is quieter than a furnace when operating (47 dBA vs 50-52), but it's pricey: $16,000-$18,000 dollars.
Onboard shoe-shine. Mercedes-Benz's M-B Tech engineering subsidiary showed off its ability to engineer low-volume production items, like this shoe-shine buffing wheel designed to deploy from a Maybach's rear door panel. I found the overall wheel torque to be somewhat lacking for a deep shine, but then my shoes may not have been expensive enough for this gizmo to shine them. Whatever they think of next, I guess M-B Tech will work out a way to build it.
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