Motor (Australia)

Dan Gardner

IF MY MATE CUT OUT THE MIDDLEMAN AND PUMPED THE 550% PROOF MOONSHINE INTO THE TANK, HE WOULD UNLEASH MORE POWER THAN HE COULD IMAGINE

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smaller. Recently, Mazda introduced its Skyactiv-X engine. The heavily developed and refined engine uses a brilliant idea to enable the petrol engine to run as a spark-ignition engine under some circumstan­ces but, when the conditions allow, it switches to a compressio­n ignition cycle more like a diesel powerplant.

Other manufactur­ers like Jaguar/Land Rover, Audi and Mercedes are turning to complex compound supercharg­ing that enlists a convention­al turbocharg­er along with an electric supercharg­er to wring the most out of a combustion unit, with hybrid electric technology to iron out any wrinkles in the torque curve.

But while these cutting-edge innovation­s boost power and efficiency of a fundamenta­l combustion engine principle, the proportion­al gains are minute compared with the performanc­e and efficiency improvemen­t I managed for the Escort engine with an air die-grinder in one hand and a homebrew in the other.

Continuous­ly developing the efficiency and power of petrol and diesel engines is hard but, engineerin­g challenges aside, presenting the business case for internal combustion as the best solution for vehicle propulsion is harder due to a simpler problem.

Petrol and diesel has a finite energy value and there are only so much that can be blasted out of each drop of fuel. For petrol it’s 33.7 megajoules per litre, diesel does better with 36.9MJ/L. But even the most advanced and efficient engines are surprising­ly wasteful. Even with hybrid technology and the world’s most advanced hybrid turbos, the current F1 engines are only 50 per cent thermally efficient. A very efficient road car engine manages around 40 per cent, so more than half of the energy in every litre of fuel burnt is wasted, with little chance of radical change before the inevitable end of cars that are moved by pistons and cylinders. By way of comparison, EVs are around 60 per cent efficient at converting even coal-fired power to the wheels.

That’s why, much as it pains me to write it, the internal combustion engine is doomed. Aside from increasing­ly strict emissions legislatio­n, a simple chemical and technologi­cal truth is consigning our cars to an inevitably electric future.

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