Where would we be without the internal combustion engine? After all, this form of propulsion has powered our exploits on land, in the sea, and even through the air. At the turn of last century, cars were powered by fuel, steam and electricity – not all at the same time mind you. There were no hybrids back in the day, but there certainly were EVs – and here you thought that electric cars were a new phenomenon! In fact, each of these vehicles were initially registered as horseless carriages. So I suppose, really, the internal combustion engine has carried on from where the horse left off.
Petroleum reserves were in great supply, whereas electricity was not – so the electric motor had to yield to the petrol engine. Steam engines didn’t have that problem, since water was in far greater supply – but try starting a steam engine on a cold morning (or any morning for that matter) and you’ll see why these steam boilers also acceded to the petrol engine.
Honestly, the internal combustion engine doesn’t quite get the credit it deserves. And since, for the most part, it continues to burn fossil fuels it actually gets quite a bad rap. The one criticism that you could legitimately make, however, is that fundamentally it hasn’t changed all that much since Nikolaus Otto invented the compressed charge internal combustion engine in the middle of the 19th century. Sure, we now have direct injection, variable valve timing, cylinder deactivation, turbocharging, etc., but the basic design has remained much the same for the past century-and-a-half. Until now!
You see, during the Paris Motor Show at the end of September, Infiniti – Nissan’s luxury division – will introduce the first car with what they’re calling a VC-T engine, or a Variable Compression engine. Now it’s much too complicated for me to decode in the space of a couple of sentences, but you can read more about it on the last page of this issue. So make sure you read the magazine from cover-to-cover – literally.
Nissan has been working on this technology for the past two decades. It’s taken them 20 years and 300 patents to bring it to market – talk about first-mover advantage! What this technology allows you to do is continuously and seamlessly vary the compression ratio of the engine from 8:1 to 14:1. Under hard acceleration, for instance, the engine will adopt a lower compression ratio – while, at other times, it’ll have a higher compression ratio for better efficiency.
Apparently it’ll be cheaper to build than a Euro-6 compliant diesel, while being equally fuel-efficient. The engine that Infiniti will unveil at Paris is an in-line four-cylinder motor that’s expected to produce 270 horsepower, while being 27% more efficient that the company’s 3.5-litre V6.
I can’t even begin to explain just what an incredible achievement this would be if the variable compression engine is everything they say it is. This could be just the silver bullet that’s needed to ensure that the internal combustion engine gets a new lease on life. After all, it still has a lot going for it – even when compared with the most cutting-edge electric motors and battery packs of today.