Congress recently passed a law that raised the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirement to 35 miles per gallon by the year 2020, and automakers jumped right into this ambitious CAFE goal. As we get closer to 2020, we will likely see an emphasis on EVs and hybrids but most vehicles sold are going to be powered by good, old gasoline engines – only more efficient ones.
Here are four of many engine technologies on the drawing board that could boost the fuel economy of the next generation of gas-powered vehicles:
Electromagnetic Valve Actuators – It’s easy, the intake camshafts of twin-cam engines are taken away and valves move up and down via electro-magnetic actuators. This idea eliminates camshafts, timing belts and rocker arms. Fuel economy between 16 and 19% is possible. This is still a comparatively expensive technology, but offers an improvement in gas mileage.
Variable Compression Ratios – An engine’s thermal efficiency gets better if it operates with a compression ratio that increases with light engine loads. In theory you’ll get better fuel economy when the load on the engine is light, like when cruising. Designs have been suggested that involve variable length connecting rods with internal activators that increase your compression ratio from 14:1 to 17:1 when cruising speeds are sensed. The idea will be to make these variable length connecting rods sturdy enough for ten, maybe even twenty years.
Multistage Oil Pumps – Regular engine oil pumps are simple; they come with a side that oil gets sucked into and a side it gets let out. Aisin, an automotive supplier, has just introduced an oil pump with two different pressure stages. There is full pressure from both chambers at idle and full pressure from only your main chamber with light load conditions. By custom tailoring the oil pressure amount pumped to the engine, it basically reduces the total amount of work the pump has to do. This, of course, reduces energy losses. This is according to the Service department at Ames, a Ford and Lincoln dealership in Ames, IA.
Lighter Cylinder Heads – Automotive cylinder heads are heavy and large. An ingenious new method for conserving weight while reducing valve size has been created. Instead of a full-length valve-stem guide to hold the valve stem in alignment, FEV’s system created a cylindrical bore around the valve’s top that holds it in alignment. This allows a manufacturer to make a shorter and lighter cylinder head assembly.
What to do meanwhile
We can expect to see an expansion of existing engine efficiency technologies like smaller engines and turbocharging but with a lot more tweaks, however, it may be some time before these technologies are out.That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care any less about your gas mileage until then, though! One thing you may be asked to do is get your mass air flow sensor replaced if recommended. Another component of a vehicle that often needs replacing to create for great gas mileage is the car’s oxygen sensor.