The spark plugs driving combustion in your car may soon be getting an optical upgrade, thanks to a team of Japanese researchers. Laser ignition systems, which are exactly what they sound like, could replace spark plugs as the primary means to ignite the fuel-air mix in engines, boosting fuel efficiency and cutting down on carbon emissions.
Michigan researchers have built a prototype of a new auto motor that does away with pistons, crankshafts and valves, replacing the old internal combustion engine with a disc-shaped shock wave generator. It could slash the weight of hybrid cars and reduce auto emissions by 90 percent.
By Gregory Mone
Posted 09.05.2007 at 11:19 am 3 Comments
Imagine driving 500 miles nonstop in an electric car, then quickly re-charging if you want to extend your trip. Sound impossible? It might be. Either that or a Texas company called EEStor has come up with a battery replacement called an ultra-capacitor that could make the internal combustion engine obsolete.
The company's claims have spurred the occasional debate on the Web for the last year. EEStor has said that it plans to "replace the electrochemical battery" in everything from vehicles to laptops. But experts are wary, and have been left to an advanced sort of guessing game, as EEStor hasn't been leaking out too many details about how its amazing technology works. The general impression, though, is that what they're claiming is probably impossible, or at least not as wonderful as it sounds. That said, a whole bunch of drivers would love to see the critics proven wrong.—Gregory Mone
Though A-Team reruns would have you believe otherwise, vehicles that crash in real life aren’t immediately and inexorably consumed by giant explosions. Any movie geek knows this. Gasoline doesn’t explode—it burns, just like wood—except in the uncommon environment of an internal combustion engine. Yet our unlucky racer’s motorcycle blows up with such vigor, you’d think Michael Bay placed the explosive charges there himself. So what gives?
The answer lies in the way the bike tumbles across the racetrack. Take a close look at how it flips before conflagration. The first time the bike bounces off the ground, the force seems to knock the cap off the gas tank. As the bike flips again, you can see racing fuel spray out of the top of the tank in great arcs, billowing through the air along with the dirt and gravel kicked up by the skid. This, as they say, is a bad sign.
Gasoline, like every other fuel, needs oxygen to burn. Ordinarily, if you were to set a match to a pool of gasoline, only its surface would burn, because only its surface would be in contact with the oxygen in air. But as it’s injected into your engine, the gasoline is atomized (imagine a tiny gasoline spritzer set on “mist”) in order to thoroughly mix the fuel with air before your spark plug ignites the combination. Since every bit of nearby fuel is now surrounded by oxygen, this flame spreads almost instantaneously through the combustion chamber until everything is alight.
But in the case of the motorcycle explosion, the bike’s acrobatics did the work of atomizing the gasoline. Once a spark ignited the little droplets, the whole thing went up in a bang. So a word to the wise: If you’re going to have a catastrophic accident in a motorcycle race, try to keep your gas cap on. —Michael Moyer
A new hydrogen generator may help trucks save gas and emit fewer pollutants
By Billy Baker
Posted 11.21.2005 at 3:00 am 1 Comment
If you aren't yet ready to give up your SUV but feel a pang of guilt every time you pass a Prius, then a new technology under development in Canada could soon soothe your conscience by
providing a bridge between the internal combustion engine of today and the clean-energy world of tomorrow. The H2N-Gen, from Innovative Hydrogen Solutions, Inc.,
in Winnipeg, Manitoba, will be an after-market add-on the size of a cable box. Its inventor, Joe Williams, Sr., claims that it can cut fuel consumption by up to 40 percent and reduce emissions by at least 50 percent.
You shouldn't need a degree in computer science to understand what's going on under the hood of your next car. Here's your no-nonsense guide to the latest automotive features, and the coolest cars that showcase them
By Eric Adams | Joe Brown | Preston Lerner | Michael Moyer | Matthew Phenix | Stephan Wilkinson
Posted 07.03.2005 at 4:00 am 2 Comments
American visionaries, cranks and con men have long sought the simple key to boosting the efficiency of the gasoline engine. Now a barefoot tinkerer in India believes he has unlocked the door. Is he for real?
By Charles Graeber
Posted 09.23.2004 at 6:00 pm 4 Comments
India is booming. The expanding population has overwhelmed the Bangalore-Mysore road the way a river floods its banks, and the flow of two-way traffic is choked with a living history of human transportation. There are belching herds of diesel trucks, diesel buses and iron-framed diesel tractors. There are wooden-wheeled carts pulled by brightly painted Brahma bulls, and two-stroke-motor rickshaws fueled by kerosene or cooking oil or whatever else is flammable and cheap. There are mopeds and bipeds and bicycles and motorcycles, and every conceivable type of petrol-powered, internally combusting automobile, from doddering Ambassador cabs to gleaming 16-valve Mercedes miracles. But there's only one car like the one Somender Singh and I are riding in right now.
Gas misers they're not. Monsters and marvels they are. We dissect powerplants from the United States, Germany, England, and Italy to find four spins on the tech of big torque.
By John Matras
Posted 06.24.2002 at 5:26 pm 0 Comments
Gentlemen, show us your engines.
This inquiry concerns the means by which engineers from four nations put massive horsepower under the right feet of a small number of lucky drivers, where it waits, begs to be used; the means, in short, by which enough torque is produced to pin heads against headrests when a car's in fifth gear.
By Harald Franzen
Posted 04.11.2002 at 4:56 pm 0 Comments
Steam locomotives, aircraft carriers, and weed whackers have one thing in common: They are powered by engines that convert heat into motion.
Unfortunately, such engines are not terribly efficient. But physicist Marlan Scully of Texas A&M University in College Station has a radical idea that could substantially improve them. By adding a laser and a maser (a microwave laser) to an engine, he hopes to squeeze extra energy out of the hot engine exhaust-a "quantum afterburner," as he calls it.
This is the engine, fuel tank, and transmission of a revolutionary new kind of car. In this feature, we offer a first peek at the cool designs it makes possible.
By Michelle Krebs
Posted 04.07.2002 at 7:26 pm 2 Comments
The automobile has been on the verge of being reinvented practically since it was invented. Cars that would float and fly, cars that would walk, cars that would cruise like bubble-shaped VIP lounges: Surely a brand-new car was right around the corner, or at least a couple of years away. Problem was, the irreducible requirements of engine, transmission, suspension, and fuel tank, and all the mechanical linkages involved (pedal to throttle, driveshaft to wheels), dictated much about not only how a car would function, but how it would look.
Forget what you know about gas-electric vehicles: The next generation is built for performance.
By Dan Carney
Posted 03.28.2002 at 5:25 pm 0 Comments
The most promising feature of the Honda Dualnote prototype, shown here, is the least apparent: Under its cool-kitsch skin, which looks like a computer-generated CAD drawing come to life, is a hybrid powertrain. In other words, a big electric motor helps this car's internal combustion engine.
The incredible innovations, like drone swarms and perpetual flight, bringing aviation into the world of tomorrow. Plus: today's greatest sci-fi writers predict the future, the science behind the summer's biggest blockbusters, a Doctor Who-themed DIY 'bot, the organs you can do without, and much more.