It’s no secret that many car enthusiasts are less than thrilled about the auto industry’s electric future. However, many countries are gradually banning Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) sales over the next several years due to policy changes to curb vehicle carbon emissions.
But what if a new ICE was invented to meet these reduced emissions standards?
That may be the case. Engineering firm Ricardo North America partnered with Achates Power to create an unusual engine design to meet strict U.S. emissions standards – giving ICEs a possible lifeline.
Giving an Old Engine New Purpose.
The opposed-piston engine (OPE) is fuel efficient and lightweight, intended to be used in full-sized American pick-up trucks and passenger vehicles. It’s said to produce diesel-like torque while weighing 60 percent less than traditional truck engines while being 20 percent more fuel efficient.
If OPE engines sound familiar to gearheads (or WWII junkies), it’s because this type of engine design was utilized by German planes during the Second World War. However, regarding commercial automotives, OPEs are a radical development.
How It Works.
Typical ICEs for cars utilize a crankshaft, moving pistons through cylinder bores. OPEs differ because they use two crankshafts on opposite sides of the engine to push two pistons directly toward each other in the same cylinder bore. Fuel and air meet in the middle of the bore, and the mixture ignites, creating a combustion force that pushes the ‘opposed’ pistons apart.
Another unique feature is that this engine ignites the gasoline through the intense heat created when its pistons compress the fuel. Achates’ OPE engine is more efficient at using the thermal energy created during this combustion process to power a vehicle, losing less energy to heat than a typical engine.
As mentioned earlier, this engine is also lighter due to its ‘opposed’ pistons setup, which foregoes camshafts and cylinder heads, along with having fewer bores, to create a three-cylinder 270bhp gas-powered engine that’s cheaper to produce.
Achates Power has yet to announce a date for when their OPE might debut, though the announcement of their OPE work in and of itself is promising.
Moreover, the Achates Power-backed Hydrogen Opposed-Piston Engine Working Group is developing versions of spark-ignition and direct-injection engines that will cleanly burn hydrogen while producing a minimum of NOx.
Though there has been no specific mention of it, it seems highly plausible that Achates Power’s OPEs could run on synthetic fuels, too.