Thursday, December 22, 2005


Compression ignition engines - the best overlooked invention in the mass automobile industry.

In early 1892, Rudolph Diesel filed for a patent with the patent office in Germany for an idea that he had. It was an engine that would compress the air in the combustion chamber to such a degree that it would become hot enough to ignite fuel. The fuel of choice and the basis for his vision was peanut oil. He chose peanut oil because farmer's would be able to grow it themselves and be more self-sufficient. Unfortunately, in the 1900's, the internal combustion engine came into the mix. Running on petroleum based gasoline, it had the backing of the "oil tycoons." They pushed it and over the course of a few years and many political issues, gasoline became the fuel of choice in the USA. Dirty, inefficient, expensive, fossil-fuel gasoline is what everybody wanted because the oil companies pushed it. Europe continued to research and push combustion ignition engines, and in the oil crisis of the 70's, the USA finally started looking towards more efficient types of engines. Combustion ignition engine sales skyrocketed and even the American car manufacturers started offering these efficient engines in their passenger cars. Unfortunately, the oil crisis was short lived and America once again forgot how dependent it is on foreign oil. Thus, the efficient engines like diesel engines were not wanted any more. Nobody felt the need to be conservative and hence, the fuel conserving diesels all but went away in the USA. Only Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen still imported diesel engine passenger cars to the US.

Now with people finally starting to realize the need for a cleaner, more efficient engine, we are turning towards fuel saving vehicles once again. Many have come on the market, e.g. hybrids, electrics, smaller engined cars, turbocharged cars, and hydrogen fuel is becoming a possibility, etc. These have all helped to offer more choices to efficiency-minded consumers, however most of them require a change in the infrastructure that already exists for fueling our cars. Hydrogen needs aa completely different storage and dispensing system, hybrids have batteries that must be replaced every few years at rediculous costs, electrics are the same way, and many electrically driven cars (hybrid or full electric) pose problems for rescue crews who are not yet trained to handle high voltages in car accidents. All of these problems can be solved, but the solution will cost millions if not billions of dollars to our economy.

Diesel engines on the other hand would not require any changes to the infrastructure that we are used to. One would still be able to pull up to the pump and pump their fuel from the same tanks and pumps. One step better than using petroleum based diesel fuel would be a move back to what Rudolph Diesel himself had envisioned - crop based fuel. Today, biodiesel fuel is beginning to be mass produced; it is usually derived from soy bean oil here in the US and comes in different mixtures. B100 is 100% biodiesel (soy-based), B20 is a little more common (20% soy-based, 80% petroleum based), and it goes all the way down to B2.

Biodiesel is cleaner burning, doesn't produce polluting exhaust and is generally cheaper than regular petroleum diesel fuel. It also doesn't rely on anything foreign to produce it, it just helps to keep the US farmers in business!! In my opinion it is a complete joke that more car manufacturers don't start pushing this type of technology just to see how the government will react. On the other hand, the government needs to push it more because it would ultimately help to boost the agricultural economy.

Anyway, back to the actual diesel technology.... Audi, the german car manufacturer, has been winning Le Mans races with it's R8 racecar. They have won 5 out of 6 Le Mans series that they have been in. The Le Mans governing body continues to put restrictions on the cars so that Audi will stop winning, but Audi continues to lead and stay in front of the pack. This upcoming year Audi plans to race their new R10 racecar which will be fueled by a diesel engine. It is the first race car of it's type to run on diesel fuel ever!! It produces plenty of horsepower and torque so it can easily compete in speed and quickness. And, because it utilizes compression ignition technology, it gets better fuel economy than the competition. In Le Mans style racing, the fuel economy is almost as important as the car itself because it is such a long race that generally needs lots of time-consuming pit stops. With Audi needing even fewer pit stops, it will once again give them an edge over the competition. GO AUDI!!! I'll be watching next year for sure!!

Here's some eye candy of some amazing compression ignition engines that are on the high tech edge.

Here's the Audi R10 engine:

Here's the R10 itself:

And lastly, here's the International motors 3.0L powerstroke engine. It was designed completely in Brazil and features a high performance turbo-charger and it was one of the earlier engines to utilize common rail technology:

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