Tag Archive | "Vauxhall Ampera"

A New Era of Engines


Motorists are beginning to despair for their future motoring. The rising cost of fuel, for which the government must take a large portion of the blame, has really started to bite. Many people rely on their cars, whether it is for work or because they live in rural areas, for example. Public transport is often cited as an alternative but bus companies won’t service unprofitable routes and the cost of train tickets for regular travel is for many people greater than that of running a small vehicle. Fortunately, car manufacturers are not sitting idly by and, now that the government in its wisdom has decided to tax electric cars from 2015, are working hard on ever more fuel efficient engines.

In addition to hybrid technology and the fuel-sipping motors already on offer, there are other systems undergoing viability testing. Mazda, for example, are confidently trumpeting their ‘SkyActiv’ diesel technology. Briefly, the idea is that instead of raising a diesel engine’s compression, they lower it which allows the fuel to ignite earlier in the combustion cycle. Although this produces a smaller ‘bang’ the effect lasts longer promoting torque and refinement. Because the compression ratio is lower the engine does not have to be so hefty, resulting in a lighter unit which has better torque and achieves a 20% fuel saving.

Another interesting new concept is flywheel technology http://panniekazino.com/ which has already appeared on some experimental vehicles. Flywheels can store the energy on hybrid vehicles that would be otherwise lost under braking, for use again under acceleration. They are much cleaner and cheaper to make and, now that the science has moved forward, smaller and lighter as well. The downside is that they can’t store power for long and are dependant on brake use.

As has been seen on the new Bentley V8, cylinder deactivation is already a viable fuel saving solution. This is of course terrific if you have the necessary £140k but thankfully, Volkswagen is preparing small four cylinder units, using pretty much the same method as the Bentley, that will have what is described as ‘variable displacement’ technology allowing the car to run on just two cylinders at appropriate times. Meanwhile over at Mercedes Benz their engineers are working on the Diesotto engine which aims to give petrol engine performance with the fuel efficiency of the very best diesel.

On the new and highly regarded EV, the Vauxhall Ampera, when the juice runs out a small 1.4L petrol engine steps in to act as a generator. Manufacturers are looking at ways to improve on this basic idea. Jaguar demonstrated gas turbines on its concept supercar the C-X75 – although it is thought that these won’t make production. Audi meanwhile are currently working on a small Wankel rotary engine of only 250cc for its A1 e-tron range extender concept. Add to all these experimentation ideas the cyclone external combustion engines – too complicated to detail here – and fuel saving electrically operated engine valves and you can get an idea of how car makers are pushing the envelope to keep motoring alive.

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London’s new hybrid bus is leading by example


With Mayor of London, Boris Johnson eventually stripping the bendy busses from the city streets of the capital, a new public urban mobility solution (don’t you just love today’s buzz words) needed to be devised.

Cue the New Bus for London, a replacement for the famous Routemaster that was recently revealed, drawing inspiration in its styling and engineering from the legendary London bus.

The famous rear step-off deck will make a return on the New Bus for London, as will a conductor, even though the bus can be operated without one. Two pairs of doors with Oyster card points and two staircases, front and back, will also feature.

More interestingly though, is that the new public transport vehicle has a hybrid power train.

The New Bus for London features a 4.5-litre Cummins turbo diesel engine acting as a generator to provide power to an air compressor for the bus’ brakes and steering, as well as delivering power to charge a 75KWh battery.

The battery provides power to a Siemens electric motor that delivers a twisting force of 1844lb ft – with it being an electric motor the torque is available from zero RPM too.

It’s the electric motor that does all the propulsion, with the diesel unit tuned to sit at optimum RPM for efficiency – just like the Vauxhall Ampera/Chevrolet Volt range extending vehicle – improving the bus’ ‘green credentials’.

But all this talk (or should that be torque) of the new ultra-efficient bus for the capital has left us wondering something.

With the government showing us the way to go and leading by example, why haven’t hybrids and electric vehicles experienced a bigger take up in urban environments, especially with a £5,000 government subsidy applied to such modes of transport?

Answer: they just aren’t good enough.

The crop of all-electric vehicles such as Nissan’s LEAF, Peugeot’s iOn and Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV just don’t have the range to make them functional. Nor are they able to be recharged quickly enough to make them practical.

Plug-in hybrids are getting there but still require a heavy internal combustion engine to be carried around all the time, effectively acting as fuel-economy sapping dead weight when not in use, as well as the hydrocarbon fuel they’re also carrying.

The Vauxhall Ampera/Chevrolet Volt – employing similar technology as the New Bus for London, with an on board engine acting as a generator for a battery/electric motor combination – appears to be the way forward though.

So then, maybe the real answer to the question of hybrid and electric vehicle take-up is they just aren’t good enough – yet.

 

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