Transonic Combustion, a start-up company is developing a more efficient ICE technology that could lead to further increases in efficiency.
The gasoline-powered internal combustion engine [ICE] has seen more improvement in the last five years than in the last twenty, Quieter timing chain technology, direct fuel injection, and variable intake and exhaust valve timing, among others, have led to better fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.
Everyone knows that, in the case of a gasoline-powered ICE, three things are needed, compressed air, fuel, and spark, which are facilitated by, respectively, the crank and pistons, the injection system, and the ignition system.
By eliminating the ignition system and introducing a completely redesigned fuel injection system, Transonic claims to realize a 50% increase in efficiency. Transonic even showed a prototype vehicle with the new technology that was rated at 64 mpg.
To get around the need for spark to ignite the fuel, the new injection system heats the fuel to a critical point, just shy of spontaneous combustion. When the superheated and pressurized fuel is injected into the cylinder under compression, the heat of compression, much like diesel technology, ignites the fuel. One benefit of the new system is that it can burn pretty much any fuel, from gasoline to biofuels and even diesel.
The new technology should cost about the same as current engine systems, and Transonic is looking to put them into production by the end of 2014, which the US market sorely needs if it is to meet the latest EPA emissions regulations and reduce dependence on petroleum imports.