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Internal Combustion Engine has a future?
Old 08-20-2017, 01:26 PM   #1
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Internal Combustion Engine has a future?

Who'da thunk it?

Conventional (popular?) wisdom says the ICE is on its way out, to be replaced by the electric motor and batteries for our vehicles. And the electric motor sure has some attractive features: simplicity (basically one moving part), efficiency in converting battery power to motive power (but there's a catch there), quiet, the torque curve of the electric motor provides great acceleration without the need for a transmission in most cases, and no “tailpipe emissions” (but there's a catch there, too).

OK, range and cost of battery pack are issues for the EV, but those are improving.

Compared to a modern ICE, with all it's moving parts, fluids for lubrication and cooling system, electric system required to run and start, catalytic converters, spark ignition system, variable valve timing, turbocharger, air cleaners, fuel injectors, sensors everywhere feeding a computer to maintain this delicate balance, etc. Wow, what a mess! I'm actually amazed every time I think about this controlled combustion process, rolling along at ~ 2,000 RPM as we cruise down the highway - it almost seems impossible!

And yet, the modern ICE is extremely reliable. Oil changes are an annual thing for many people, and by that time you probably want to take it in to get the tires rotated, the same as an EV. Spark plugs and many other old-time maintenance components are good for 100,000 miles. Seems we rarely ever have an actual engine/drive-train problem. Our auto problems are far more likely to be in one of the other many systems in our cars, which are common to an EV anyhow.

Despite this complexity, using hybrid technology, we get some very good gas mileage w/o range concerns and less of a cost issue with the much smaller battery pack (just enough to absorb and utilize braking energy). But this is just a stop-gap to full EVs? It would seem so, but...

The engineers and material scientists are not not done improving the ICE. One advance that has been understood for a while, but beyond being ready for “prime time”, is the HCCI mode. But it may hit the road in 2 years. In simple terms HCCI is a gasoline powered ICE that combines the efficiency of a diesel engine, and is cleaner than a gasoline engine. HCCI is kind of a hybrid of gasoline spark ignition and diesel compression ignition, but it is neither.

See this video for more detail, but I think that getting another boost in efficiency, with simpler/lower emissions means the ICE will be around for a long time.

Engineering Explained : Mazda Creates The Holy Grail Of Gasoline Engines - HCCI SkyActiv-X

https://goo.gl/sYT4UG

But what about the efficiency and emissions of an EV? Sure, an EV is efficient in getting battery power to the wheels, but that battery is charged from the grid. And to produce the extra kWh to charge EVs, most grids will need to draw on their fossil fuel plants (the renewable energy is already fully utilized, as its 'fuel' is 'free') for that energy. And power plants use turbines for their simplicity and low maintenance - but turbines aren't as efficient as diesel/HCCI engines. And there are losses in the grid and charging process. So more fossil fuel will be burned doing all this electrical conversion, than will be burned in a high efficiency HCCI-hybrid.

So yes, I expect the ICE to be a part of our future for a very long time. You just can't get these efficiency improvements from EVs, as they are already, by their nature, very efficient. The ICE keeps moving the goalposts forward, and I think material advances will give some incremental improvements as well.

Surprised? Thoughts?

-ERD50
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Old 08-20-2017, 01:42 PM   #2
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Batteries are the Achilles' heel of EVs. Until battery tech improves we'll need ICEs around because the known supply of battery minerals is limited and insufficient to convert all ICEs to EVs.
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Old 08-20-2017, 02:01 PM   #3
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Except a better battery doesn't change that efficiency and emissions issue.

Efficiency is already very good in present batteries, so there isn't much room/need for improvement. It's getting the power to them that is the overall issue.

Better/cheaper batteries will make EVs more affordable and more practical for many. But these ICE advances mean that these new hybrids will use less energy than an EV, and likely lower emissions, overall.

Isn't that what we want? We should remain technology agnostic, and let the best solution prevail, regardless if it is old (like the wheel!), or 'modern'.

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Old 08-20-2017, 02:01 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by GrayHare View Post
Batteries are the Achilles' heel of EVs. Until battery tech improves we'll need ICEs around because the known supply of battery minerals is limited and insufficient to convert all ICEs to EVs.
I'm thinking so too - despite the remarkable pace of EV development, ICEs will be with us for quite some time
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Old 08-20-2017, 02:10 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
... So yes, I expect the ICE to be a part of our future for a very long time...
+1

There will always be applications where ICEs are needed. Can anyone imagine the Army EV tanks needing a charge in the middle of a battle? Or an industrial vehicle gets stranded in Alaska because its charging cable cannot reach a charging station 500 miles away?

The question is how soon the individual passenger vehicles are converted to EV. It will be interesting to see. Yes, as GrayHare pointed out, we are still waiting for the battery technology to catch up to produce cheap batteries.

When that happens, people will be doing street drag racing all over town with the "incredulous" or "stupendous" acceleration mode or something like that. Will need laws to slow them down.

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The ICE keeps moving the goalposts forward, and I think material advances will give some incremental improvements as well.
My "superior memory" reminded me of an article I saw recently about ICE R&D. I searched and found it here.

Continental, which makes regulators for exhaust gas cleaning systems in diesel cars and nitrogen oxide-measuring sensors, expects German carmakers to abandon efforts to develop combustion engines from about 2023.

"A new generation of combustion engines will again be developed but after that (around 2023), a further development will no longer be economically justifiable because more and more work will switch into electric mobility," finance chief Wolfgang Schaefer said on Thursday.


See: http://europe.autonews.com/article/2...engines-in-six
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Plenty of miles left in Ol' Reliable
Old 08-20-2017, 02:18 PM   #6
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Plenty of miles left in Ol' Reliable

I can think of at least three reasons why ICEs have a long life ahead of them:

1. Momentum... and I don't mean mass*velocity. The existing technology performs its function; users understand it; and there are trillions of dollars of infrastructure supporting it. A competing technology would need to offer a compelling financial and utility advantage to overcome these barriers. (When Elon Musk delivers a Star Trek transporter, let me know.)
2. There is plenty of 2nd Law efficiency left to be wrung out. If you are interested in one such method, consult the proceedings of the 1993 Annual Fall Technical Conference of the ASME Internal Combustion Engine Division.
3. They sound really, really cool. Vroom!
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Old 08-20-2017, 02:56 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by NW-Bound View Post
+1

There will always be applications where ICEs are needed. Can anyone imagine the Army EV tanks needing a charge in the middle of a battle? Or an industrial vehicle gets stranded in Alaska because its charging cable cannot reach a charging station 500 miles away? ...

True, I was really thinking (but didn't say it) about passenger cars first, where many people expect the ICE to be a relic.


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Originally Posted by NW-Bound View Post
... My "superior memory" reminded me of an article I saw recently about ICE R&D. I searched and found it here.

Continental, which makes regulators for exhaust gas cleaning systems in diesel cars and nitrogen oxide-measuring sensors, expects German carmakers to abandon efforts to develop combustion engines from about 2023.

"A new generation of combustion engines will again be developed but after that (around 2023), a further development will no longer be economically justifiable because more and more work will switch into electric mobility," finance chief Wolfgang Schaefer said on Thursday.


See: http://europe.autonews.com/article/2...engines-in-six
Interesting - but apparently the Japanese don't agree. They are the ones doing work on HCCI and free-piston engines and maybe some others. There's also the Achates engine (out of USA), where two pistons share a combustion chamber for reduced heat loss - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achates_Power

and the FreeValve engine, out of Sweden -

Some of these technologies might be able to be combined, for some further incremental improvements (no, we won't get 30% improvements summed from 4 different advances!).

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Old 08-20-2017, 03:23 PM   #8
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Here's an older video (2013) of the Freevalve design, near the end he says something I had not heard of:

This could be modified and an air tank added. When braking, the valves could be arranged to pump up the tank, absorbing the energy. The stored energy could be used later, driving a cylinder as an air engine.

Storing air has its problems, during storage it loses the heat it gained from compression. But for short term use, maybe this isn't an issue? But no added electric motor and battery. Hmmm....



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Old 08-20-2017, 03:47 PM   #9
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To paraphrase poorly "they will have to pry my ICE from my cold dead hands"

Basic physics is behind the energy. It does not matter the source of that energy, it takes some defined amount to go from point A to point B. Right now the best solution is ICE technologies. Of course the Tesla fanboys and others will be on here shortly to say why the electric car is the solution to transportation issues
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Old 08-20-2017, 04:06 PM   #10
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I see a hybrid type of car a the only workable solution over the next few decades. Should the Mazda engine tech gain speed along with improved battery technology it's will be a win win. Humans will come up with solutions when they need too.
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Old 08-20-2017, 04:15 PM   #11
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...

Basic physics is behind the energy. It does not matter the source of that energy, it takes some defined amount to go from point A to point B. Right now the best solution is ICE technologies. ...
Yes. I might post this question on another, more technical forum, but I wonder why an ICE piston engine is able to be more efficient than a turbine engine?

The power plants use a turbine because they can make them very big and very maintenance free. A mega-horsepower piston engine just can't compete with a turbine when you have to run long hours. I just saw some figures for gas turbines, they talk about inspections (not repairs, not maintenance, inspections) at XX,000 hours!

Obviously, big turbine operators want fuel efficiency too. I guess it just isn't practical to keep increasing the size of those blades to capture the lower energy density as the gasses cool.

There's the co-gen plants, but there seems to be limited opportunity to use the waste heat, especially as most turbines are used to do some peaking, so the heat output isn't a constant.

It really does seem counter-intuitive that a piston engine can remain competitive in cars and trucks, but that seems to be the case. And as I mentioned, I expect material advances (ceramics?) to keep making incremental improvements.

And here in the cold climates, we get the heating in our car for 'free'! Hmm, I guess a car could use an absorption chiller to turn the waste heat into 'cool' in the summer (commonly used in RVs to power a fridge with propane). But those aren't efficient, so probably need to be big for a car A/C, and we'd have to wait for the engine to warm up before we could start cooling - not good with a car parked in the sun on a hot day!

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Old 08-20-2017, 04:23 PM   #12
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One thing that makes modern (post 1990) ICE's in automobiles a popular choice for consumers is their durability in the face of ignored maintenance. Unless you run it out of oil or coolant, it will continue to run with vacuum leaks, excessive blow by, inoperative EGR valves, leaking exhaust piping, worn motor mounts, oxygen sensor failure, etc, etc.
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Old 08-20-2017, 04:26 PM   #13
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tick tock..
"Britain will ban sales of new gasoline and diesel cars starting in 2040 as part of a bid to clean up the country's air."

Logic, technology, and reason as to the longevity of ICE does not apply when legislation can be invoked.

Britain bans gasoline and diesel cars starting in 2040 - Jul. 26, 2017
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Old 08-20-2017, 04:31 PM   #14
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How about summarizing this for us rather than posting a link?
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Old 08-20-2017, 04:38 PM   #15
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How about summarizing this for us rather than posting a link?
Head line in the link looks pretty self-explanatory
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Old 08-20-2017, 04:53 PM   #16
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Head line in the link looks pretty self-explanatory
Naked links are discouraged here without a summary paragraph by the poster, especially from newer members.
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Old 08-20-2017, 04:58 PM   #17
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Head line in the link looks pretty self-explanatory
Perhaps, in this case but that is by far the exception. Nonetheless, from the CR's, a link is at the bottom of every page:

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Old 08-20-2017, 05:04 PM   #18
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When I saw the title of this thread, I thought the recent Economist article on the "Death of the ICE" was what prompted it. But, even though it was HCCI, the discussion points are pretty much the same.

1. As a class, electric & hybrid vehicles emit ~50% less CO2 equivalent than ICE vehicles in the US (US States vary, as do other countries, based on electric grid fuel source) but, the pattern holds. So, it's beneficial to convert from the current ICE model.

2. Virtually all of the emissions reduction is at the driving end from more MPG. IOW, it's not because batteries are the primary vehicle motive force versus gasoline or diesel. [Note: This is because most of our electricity comes from CO2 emitting fossil fuels (electricity production is the leading CO2 emissions source in the US, slightly ahead of transportion) and, because the energy losses incurred to produce electricity are amazingly only marginally smaller than the tremendous losses from using fossil fuel for transportation.

3. New & improved infrastructure (as noted by an earlier poster) is key to the conversion. Improvements are required primarily in two areas: (1) the support of all-electric & hybrid vehicles with quick-charging stations, etc. and, (2) dramatic efficiency improvements in the production & transmission of electricity.

4. Lastly but, perhaps most interestingly, is the possibility (probability?) that the entire "individual driver/vehicle" model will give way to a "ride sharing & driverless car" model; see Economist article excerpt below. Now that would be a game changer.

Assuming, of course, that people want to own cars at all. Electric propulsion, along with ride-hailing and self-driving technology, could mean that ownership is largely replaced by “transport as a service”, in which fleets of cars offer rides on demand. On the most extreme estimates, that could shrink the industry by as much as 90%. Lots of shared, self-driving electric cars would let cities replace car parks (up to 24% of the area in some places) with new housing, and let people commute from far away as they sleep—suburbanisation in reverse.
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Old 08-20-2017, 05:42 PM   #19
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Interesting topic, thanks.
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
HCCI is kind of a hybrid of gasoline spark ignition and diesel compression ignition, but it is neither.
My Dad had one of those engines in his 1975 Mustang II: Turn off the conventional spark ignition and it would keep running as a diesel.

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And there are losses in the grid and charging process. So more fossil fuel will be burned doing all this electrical conversion, than will be burned in a high efficiency HCCI-hybrid.
To be apples-to-apples, we'd also need to include the losses in our present petroleum distribution system that allows the ubiquitous IC engines we enjoy. I've never seen a number comparing electrical grid/charging losses to losses from production, storage, transportation, pumping, evaporation, etc of our retail liquid fuels (though I'm sure someone has done the calculation).
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Old 08-20-2017, 08:37 PM   #20
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I can see where a family will have a city electric car and a road car/SUV that is gas powered or hybrid.

We have a Ford Explorer road vehicle that gets 25 mpg on the open road. My new 2018 Camry hybrid will be built next week and they're looking to get EPA 52 mpg--48 mpg real world. The gas version Camry has greatly improved economy with an all new 2.4 engine of 39 mpg EPA. I know the.payback on the hybrid will be nonexistent at $2 gasoline, but it will be.a source of conversation.

Toyota engines have new technology with direct injection, new head/valves that swirl the.charge and a 40% heat usage which is substantially more efficient than any other engine on the market. They are doing away with the Atkinson Cycle on new hybrid designs. The new tranny is a conventional 8 speed and CVT on hybrids. The competition is going to.1.5/turbo and CVT trannys on future vehicles. Toyota is making a big bet on their technology.
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