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Summary:

The internal combustion is officially still alive, and delivering efficiency innovation.

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While electric cars get a lot of media attention, the reality is that the internal combustion engine is far from dead, particularly for the future car owners in the developing world. A startup called LiquidPiston — which has been around for years and which got its start as a father-son team in a business plan competition at MIT — is in the process of developing a diesel engine which is far more efficient, smaller and quieter than a standard diesel engine.

The engine, called the X2, will be available as a beta prototype for outside testing by the first quarter of 2013. The engine is able to achieve more than 50 percent efficiency under typical operating modes, while typical diesel engines usually achieve less than 20 percent efficiency.

The X2 is a new type of engine architecture, based on a rotary engine. LiquidPiston CEO and President Alexander Shklonik told met in an interview that this new version of the rotary engine is more flexible and can thus be more efficient when optimized in the right way. The engine is smaller, lighter, and cheaper, with ten times fewer parts, than current diesel engines on the market, says Shklonik.

Shklonik told me in a phone interview that the first applications for the engine won’t be the mainstream automotive industry, but will be industries like defense, long haul trucks, plug-in vehicle range extenders, and other more niche markets. LiquidPiston has raised $12.3 million so far, and tells me that it’s looking to raise another $20 million later this year. The company has around 12 employees.

Other startups that have developed more fuel efficient engines include EcoMotors, Pinnacle Engines, and IRIS Engines. More efficient engines will be used in both the next-generation of cars sold in developing countries, and also countries like the U.S. that have new fuel efficiency standards. The Obama administration passed the CAFE standards, which require a fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

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  1. Cool! :) I’m curious about how many HP this “baby” can produce!

    1. UPD:
      It seems, this “baby” has baby power of 20 HP.
      And they say it is multi-fuel: both gasoline and diesel. :)

      http://www.liquidpiston.com/technologycycle/tid/5.html

      1. Better question is how much torque…..

  2. so how is it different to wankel engines?

    1. The idea is similar to a Wankel engine, but turned on its head. Check out this article from Popular Mechanics for more: http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/news/auto-blog/liquidpistons-hyper-efficient-engine-turning-the-rotary-inside-out-13817971?click=pm_latest

  3. Combustion chambers have huge surface area just like a Wankel, a major cause of heat loss and inefficiency in that engine. I’d like to see the independent tests.

  4. I know a wankle engine when I see one! Great idea.Small and less moving parts.

  5. They compare their tiny engine to that huge diesel engine based on horsepower, but never mentioned if it can touch it regarding torque. That is one metric I’d like to hear about.

  6. Torque is directly related to displacement and is equal at same mean effective pressures at same displacement. Of course the tiny one will have much less torque but makes its HP by high enigne speed. Not a true comparison.

    I agree with ‘Sceptic’ on the large surface area and hence large heat losses that would not allow the claimed efficiencies.

    Sealing will be another big problem mainly at both sides of the rotor and at the junction with the stationary apex seals. How will this be done? This design was around before and was abondoned.

  7. I think the comment of typical diesels being less that 20% efficient is way off base.

  8. Crooked Administration Thursday, October 18, 2012

    It will be interested if the government lets it into the market…

    We make engines in this country that our government wont let us use because they think it will diminish tax revenues (as if somehow people are not going to spend the ‘extra’ discretionary income that they would have on gas). This is Obummer screwing us, not just the big Oil a-holes.
    vw TDI
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBnlXGvA1Wk

    1. If you bother to read the description of that YouTube video, it clearly states that this is due to gov’t regulations that have been around for decades and has been supported during that time by both parties.
      So you haven’t been lubing up for just the Obama bogeyman you fear so much.

  9. Ok I work offshore and a smaller Diesel engine would be great for out jet pumps. but does it have the torque?

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