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Looking To Better Engines Instead of Electric Vehicles

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the electrons-are-overrated dept.

Power 570

hlovy writes "Don Runkle thinks it's engines, not batteries, that will make automobiles cleaner and more efficient. 'We unabashedly say that we have the best solution,' says Runkle, the CEO of Allen Park, MI-based engine developer EcoMotors International. The startup, which brought in $23 million in Series B financing this summer from Menlo Park, CA-based Khosla Ventures and Seattle billionaire Bill Gates, has designed an opposing piston, opposing cylinder engine that uses fewer parts than traditional motors do and generates more power from each stroke of the engine, CEO Runkle says. He says the 'opoc' engine is smaller, lighter, and less expensive than the motors already out there, and a more viable option than switching automobile fleets over to electrical power."

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why not both? (-1, Troll)

josepha48 (13953) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091780)

why not better engines with hybrid technology as well? I'll tell you why, so big oil can keep their death grip on all those who drive cars and so that bicycle advocates and environmentalist can have a reason to continue to hate cars and think they are evil.

Re:why not both? (5, Informative)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091812)

If you bothered to RTFA instead of trolling, they explicitly talk about how you can add an electric motor to this engine to really put the mpg off the charts. Basically he's saying that, short term, this will boost the mpg of cars until all electric cars are cheaper / the infrastructure for them is built.

Re:why not both? (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092012)

>>>all electric cars

I don't really see a future for pure electrics. It makes more sense to power cars from ethanol, biodiesel, and/or hydrogen, all of which are solar-powered fuels. They provide long range 400-1000 miles, fast recharge (less than 10 minutes at the station), and use the existing infrastructure with very little modification needed.

Re:why not both? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092236)

Exactly, I see algae reactors as probably the only long term sustainable future for our transportation energy needs. Nothing else is going to be convenient and cheap enough to supplant fossil fuels. The only thing that might change my mind would be if supercapacitors got small enough and cheap enough to make charge times and range for pure electrics similar to biodiesel and then energy losses might be enough lower than transporting fuel that electrics win out. However, that's a big if at this point considering that the best supercapacitors have about 1/3rd the energy density of biodiesel, are large, and are stupid expensive (with little chance of bringing down costs even with mass manufacturing).

Re:why not both? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34091844)

The article even mentions hybrid options. Hybrids still benefit from efficient engine technologies.

Re:why not both? (0)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091898)

hybrid is too expensive now for most uses unless you have a lead foot or you live in your car and drive 50,000 miles a year. my new 2010 CR-V has a real time miles per gallon calculator on the dashboard and i can easily go above 30mpg at 65mph and at 30mph. speed is not that big a deal in mpg ratings. the only time it drops a lot is when i accelerate which is a lot since i'm in NYC and we have a lot of traffic lights.

a lot of the SUV's have hybrid versions because most SUV's are modern versions of muscle cars. they are close to 300hp but with luxury and people buy them for the power of hitting the gas and taking off. the hybrid part helps if city driving with constant stop and go since you can get good acceleration with the engine turned off

Re:why not both? (4, Interesting)

Idaho (12907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092222)

my new 2010 CR-V has a real time miles per gallon calculator on the dashboard and i can easily go above 30mpg at 65mph

Yeah, hybrids easily get 50-60 mpg at similar speeds though. So do small diesels (those can do even better, in fact).

the only time it drops a lot is when i accelerate which is a lot since i'm in NYC and we have a lot of traffic lights.

You do realize these are exactly the circumstances where a hybrid drivetrain actually helps a lot, even compared to small diesel engines?

energy density (4, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091788)

When you can store energy as densely as liquid hydrocarbon, you'll have a successful electric car.

Re:energy density (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091848)

Is there any method of building hydrocarbons with base compounds and electricity? Maybe we just need synthetic gasoline powered by electricity. Solves nobody's problems, but it's an interesting idea to me.

Re:energy density (1)

gatzke (2977) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091902)

You can make H2 from water and electricity, but the conversion efficiency is bad.

You can make H2 from high temp (nuke or solar) cycles for better efficiency.

You need to compress/cool H2 to store it liquid form and that loses efficiency.

You can grow biomass and convert it to liquid hydrocarbons.

There are some methods for converting CO2 to hydrocarbons, but they are usually inefficient.

We are stuck with coal and oil for a few centuries, methinks...

Re:energy density (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091940)

Fischer-Tropsch [wikipedia.org] . But it's not very efficient.

Re:energy density (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34092132)

But if you don't want to rely on fossil fuels or add more CO2 to the air, you could use a Fisher-Tropsch process that makes use of seawater to supply both the hydrogen and CO2

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fischer%E2%80%93Tropsch_process#Carbon_dioxide_reuse

Re:energy density (3, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091964)

Yes, we can

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fischer [wikipedia.org] –Tropsch_process

When the USAF tried to get Congress to let them build a plant in Montana it has been blocked by Congress because it doesn't reduce CO2 emissions, however some processes can be near carbon neutral, Henry Waxman won't allow it unless it's carbon negative

http://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/aviation/us-air-force-syntheticfuel-program-in-limbo [ieee.org]

With the House going Republican, I bet the USAF project comes back to life in '11-13

Re:energy density (4, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091860)

It isn't a flat limit, for sufficiently cheap power you can compromise on density.

Better engines and hybrids make sense as long as gas remains a viable fuel. At some point in this century it likely will not be a viable fuel unless we perfect synthetic gas cheaply without compromising our farmland.

Re:energy density (0)

gatzke (2977) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091954)

We have hundreds of years of coal.

You can make methanol cheaply from coal. Probably cheaper than gas.

No farmland needed.

Re:energy density (1)

CyprusBlue113 (1294000) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092078)

We won't have hundreds of years of coal if we use it as a primary transportation fuel.

Re:energy density (3, Insightful)

gatzke (2977) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092240)

Actually, we may, even using it as primary transportation fuel.

We have 250 years at current rates, including about 50% of our electric generation.
    http://www.clean-energy.us/facts/coal.htm [clean-energy.us]

Our coal usage for electric is almost exactly that of our transportation needs.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:USEnFlow02-quads.gif [wikipedia.org]

So we could switch to nuclear for electric, some plug-in hybrids, coal for liquid fuels and be good to go for hundreds of years. Not even counting our Natural gas reserves.

Re:energy density (1)

Sprouticus (1503545) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091916)

You are assuming that the driving paradigm doesn't change. I used to think the same thing until I realized that the vast manjority of people could do just fine with either a volt style hybrid with ICE backup or simply by using a 100 mile range electric and renting a car for long trips. I drive 70 miles to work 3 days a week and I could still do electric if they get the range up too 150 miles (with overnight charges).

I literally cannot remember the last time I needed to drive father than 150 miles in a single day. And a rental would have been fine for that type of scenario.

Re:energy density (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34091984)

College students. My brother and sister routinely drive 300mi trips every other weekend or once a month during college months.

Re:energy density (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34092182)

There are students that don't need to see mommy and daddy every other week because they live too far away, and they quickly get over this.

That said, my old dorm mate purposely left Fridays and Monday mornings so that he could do the exact same thing...every Thursday, he'd get his dirty clothing piled up in his car so mommy could wash it and drive 4 hours. He didn't get the clue that there was a full service laundromat a few blocks away that would have done this far cheaper...fluff and fold and all that. I did it for $20 a week, he spent at LEAST $50 in gas...this was when prices were like $4+ a gallon.

Insane.

But the fact remains, college students don't NEED to drive 300 miles...they choose to because they have a lot of extra money and a lot of time to waste...I did the same...just not dealing with mommy and daddy issues (which I'm assuming 90% of the college kids did).

Re:energy density (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34091986)

Actually, if you could do that it would be much better than a gas engine. You have to consider it's not out of the question to use 95% efficient electric motors, good luck getting that kind of efficiently out of any air/fuel engine.

The problem as always is the efficient storage and/or generation of electricity. Electric motors are better than internal combustion engines though, and they have been for a long time.

Re:energy density (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092114)

Not to mention that an electric motor doesn't weight as much as a air/fuel engine, which means a lighter vehicle.

Re:energy density (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34092044)

Sodium borohydride fuel cells, perhaps?

Re:energy density (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092110)

When you can store energy as densely as liquid hydrocarbon, you'll have a successful electric car.

Correction: when the energy density times usage efficiency for electricity is comparable to that of a liquid hydrocarbon fuelled car THEN you'll have a successful electric car. Petrol engines are far less efficient at converting the stored energy into mechanical motion, and recapturing that mechanical energy when breaking, than electric motors which is the only reason that electric cars are even thinkable with current technology.

Re:energy density (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34092206)

testtest

So (4, Insightful)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091804)

An engine-developer and seller tells us that the future is in the engines that he happens to be able to sell you. Didn't see that one coming.

Re:So (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092148)

If he can sell a car at the same price or lower than other conventional cars on the market, that will substantially lower how much people pay at the pump and to drive around, he's already got people lined out for buying.

Re:So (2, Insightful)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092226)

Yeah but he is claiming this to be the future and it isn't. It's still burning up precious sources that we need to protect for future-use. We have used up all the worlds oil-reserve that took millions of years to make in 150 year. That is insane. Who knows what we can use oil for with future inventions. The future of cars really is in the renewable energy. You only have to look at the Dutch University of Twente. Where they have engines that take you 1000km to a liter fuel. Why? Well the damn thing just runs on solarpower when possible. That is the future. This is just an engine that isn't the most efficient by a long shot. He should have made this engine 40 years ago, when the small savings of oil would have made a difference. In this day and time we have technology that is just years ahead of this engine.

Re:So (2, Insightful)

Balthisar (649688) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092190)

It either works as said or doesn't, and he'll either sell engines or not. That's how markets work.

opposing piston, opposing cylinder engine (3, Insightful)

ciaohound (118419) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091808)

Now if someone would just rear-mount that in a cute little chassis, maybe one that looked kind of like a bug or something...

Re:opposing piston, opposing cylinder engine (5, Funny)

CasualFriday (1804992) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091874)

You mean someone like...HITLER?! [wikipedia.org]

Re:opposing piston, opposing cylinder engine (1)

ciaohound (118419) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091910)

Thanks, my first Godwin on slashdot!

Re:opposing piston, opposing cylinder engine (2, Funny)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092074)

Cheers!

I don't think it's part of the official achievements [slashdot.org] but feel free to mark it off on your score card. Good luck getting the coveted +5 Insightful post containing a goatse link though. That one's almost impossible.

Re:opposing piston, opposing cylinder engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34092068)

Funny story.

My then wife wanted to sell her VW Passat. I tried to convince her not to sell. We were having lunch at a cafe we frequent. The owner of the cafe is Czech, and she drives a VW Golf.

My selling point: "You see, the founder of the company invaded her country, yet she still saw fit to buy a VW. That says something for the cars, doesn't it?"

Dubble win! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34092196)

So you got rid of the Passat and the wife? Bravo on both!

Re:opposing piston, opposing cylinder engine (5, Informative)

swillden (191260) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092244)

The VW Beetle used a horizontally-opposed engine, which is not the same thing as an opposed-piston engine. In an opposed-piston engine, each cylinder is double-ended, with a piston at each end and no head. A horizontally-opposed engine uses ordinary single-ended cylinders with a head and one piston.

No, I don't know anything about this stuff. I just know how to use Google and Wikipedia.

Well (0, Flamebait)

hjf (703092) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091820)

No. Even if we make more efficient engines, we still have the oil dependency. Maybe when we're really low on oil, we can have fusion power (not Mr. Fusion...) and be done with fossile fuels and "eco-friendly" energies like bird-killing windmills.

This may be just a short-term solution, but not the real answer.

Re:Well (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091926)

obviously the solution is to develop plants that convert sunlight into hydrocarbons. Where's a start up that wants funding for that research? Queue up a slashdot advertisement in 3 - 2 - 1

Re:Well (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092232)

Where exactly do you think all our oil and coal came from in the first place [discoveringfossils.co.uk] ?

Re:Well (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092016)

When we are really low on oil we can move to liquid from coal, natural gas diesel, and or biofuels.

Commercial fusion is till a pipedream.

Re:Well (1)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092140)

And you think Mr. Fusion isn't going to have its own environmental issues? Solar installations mess up desert habitats, windmills kill birds, hydro dams screw with flood plains and fish migration, nuclear fission leaks radioactivity into the water table and/or atmosphere, coal mining turns mountains into slag heaps, oil periodically decimates ocean wildlife and keeps entire countries locked in hot or cold civil war, and wood used as a fuel results in rapid desertification. There is no "real answer", but you can choose where on that continuum you want to be.

If you RTFA, they mention configuring this super-efficient engine to run off any hydrocarbon or even hydrogen gas, which opens the way for a diverse energy economy including renewable hydrogen generation, home-drilled natural gas, ethanol, etc. If the goal is specifically to reduce oil dependence without shrinking the economy, that seems like a good way to do it. If the goal is to waste as much energy as we want without feeling guilty about it, then you'll need to take your logically-inconsistent pipe dreams elsewhere.

Re:Well (1)

hjf (703092) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092210)

I live in Argentina. We've had cars running on natural gas for over a decade. Paraguay and Brazil have Ethanol since even longer.

Fusion power is the only real answer to the world's energy needs. Period. It's going to take about 50 more years, but it's doable. Logically-inconsistent pipe dreams like flying with a machine heavier than air, or going to the moon were made true by people really wanting it to happen - not by people NOT wanting it to happen (oil companies).

opposing cylinders? (0)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091840)

Like a VW, Subaru, or BMW bike? This is new?
Ok, they may be taking this to a new level, but this design has been around for quite a while.

Re:opposing cylinders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34091878)

It does look vaguely like a BMW flathead twin.

Re:opposing cylinders? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091906)

go back a bit further, radial engines used on most pre ww2 aircraft.

Re:opposing cylinders? (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092170)

go back a bit further, radial engines used on most pre ww2 aircraft.

This is similar to radial engines but it's quite different in having two pistons per cylinder. See video [ecomotors.com] .

Re:opposing cylinders? (2, Informative)

barzok (26681) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091988)

Subaru? A gentleman by the name of Ferdinand Porsche (perhaps you've heard of him) sold/licensed the original Boxer engine design to Subaru.

Re:opposing cylinders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34092136)

He never claimed Subaru invented it, only that they use boxer engines, and that's very true. Regardless of who licensed what to who, the point is that this engine design has been around a long time and is in common use.

Re:opposing cylinders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34092032)

It's not your typical opposed engine, it has multiple pistons per cylinder:

http://www.autoinsane.com/2009/03/09/news/tech/video-revolutionary-opposed-cylinder-opposed-piston-engine/

Re:opposing cylinders? (5, Informative)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092150)

Like a VW, Subaru, or BMW bike? This is new?
Ok, they may be taking this to a new level, but this design has been around for quite a while.

No. I thought the same and wondered why it was different from a flat 4 layout. This has two pistons per cylinder, each pushing away from each other. It's also an advanced two-stroke. (I remember in the late 80s and early 90s when all the talk was about how two-strokes were going to be the next big thing.)

You need to watch the linked video [ecomotors.com] to see how it works. It's actually kinda cool. Each pair of opposing cylinders can act as an independent unit, so you can shut one unit down when you need less power. The guy claims significant fuel consumption savings.

Re:opposing cylinders? (1)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092204)

Mod parent up - the illustration movie explains everything within a few seconds and it does seem quite unique, unlike the cited historical examples of different engine structures.

Re:opposing cylinders? (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092202)

No, that's a flat/boxer engine.

Basically, remove the heads from a flat, join the opposing pair of cylinders into one and synchronize the pistons and you get this. When the cylinder fires, both pistons go outwards simultaneously.

Room for improvement. (4, Informative)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091854)

There is still room for improvement of the internal combustion engine, one is variable compression.

However - a very limiting factor is that consumers aren't willing to pay for the technology, especially in the US where gasoline is dead cheap compared to many other places in the world.

Just look at technologies that have been created earlier - the Alvar Engine (variable compression with a small piston that rotates phase-adjusted to the camshaft, and is actually a assymetrical counter-piston engine), Smokey Yunick's Hot Vapor engine (heating the fuel beyond boiling point before injection) etc.

Diesel engines are also one of the more fuel efficient engines around at the moment. Efficiency up to 55%.

But what really consumes fuel in many cases is the stop&go traffic in cities. Even a short term accumulation of energy in a capacitor bank would help to keep that down. And vehicle weight is also an important factor. Aerodynamic drag is of course important, but only at highway speeds. In a city you can do fine with a shoe box.

So the future for cars is probably a combination of solutions.

Re:Room for improvement. (2, Interesting)

fotoguzzi (230256) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092060)

Do turbines or rotaries have a place anymore? Once the seals were fixed on the rotary, there was a concern over emissions. Is this an inherent problem or can emissions be reduced if anyone cared to throw some money at the problem?

Re:Room for improvement. (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092220)

What about low-cost hybrids, with electric motors that recharge a supercapacitor when breaking and slowing down? I don't know the prices, but I'm guessing a supercapacitor would cost a lot less than batteries, wouldn't need replacing (or at least not nearly as much as batteries) and would give that urban stop-n-go boost required because of driving in traffic.

Titanium horseshoes (3, Informative)

FrameRotBlues (1082971) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091858)

Opposed piston motors have been around since the 40s in terms of innovative designs. As far as unique engine variants go, early imagination was not quashed. Books older than you have been written about the pros and cons of I-head, F-head, T-head... 2-cycle diesels, 4-cycle diesels, etc. Check out the Knight sliding sleeve engine. It's all been thought of and conceived, but whether it be incredibly high manufacturing costs or less-than-reliable operation, some force has prevented their use from becoming mainstream.

History repeats itself. What's old is new again.

And why are we beating the dead horse that is ICE engines when we could be advancing other technologies? I wrote in a previous comment how it's very similar to new titanium horseshoes... great, but why?

Re:Titanium horseshoes (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092022)

I seem to recall opposed pistons a little bit earlier than the 1940's...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radial_engine

Re:Titanium horseshoes (1)

FrameRotBlues (1082971) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092168)

That's not an opposed piston configuration.

Radial engines have much more in common with typical overhead valve engines, except that instead of the cylinder layout in an inline or V configuration, they are placed at a radius from the centerline of the crank.

Opposed pistons share common cylinder walls and spark plugs, but due to clearances, valving is difficult. Each piston becomes the other's combustion chamber. What ends up happening is that you need two crankshafts, and then gearing of some sort to link them together. The big benefit is that it can be a pancake motor - very low profile, similar to other flat fours/sixes/eights, but turned inside out.

Re:Titanium horseshoes (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092228)

No, not quite the same thing. Radials have one piston per cylinder. This basically merges each opposing pair of cylinders into one, each with 2 opposing pistons. When the cylinder fires, both pistons move outwards.

Damnit slashdot (0, Troll)

moogied (1175879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091864)

Stop posting these advertisements! Also please stop spreading the idea that gasoline engines and electric engines are somehow different in there pollution factors. THEY'RE NOT. They both utilize incredibly wasteful systems to produce power and both are horrifically inefficient. You think that the EV's are being powered by unicorn tears? No. It is coal. Shifting the problem to larger plants may seem to make it more efficient, but then you remember we have to build these EV cars and no one knows exactly how bad they are for the environment in the long run. I highly doubt refining thousands of 'rare earth minerals' and then dumping them back into the planet is a good idea.

Re:Damnit slashdot (4, Insightful)

Nos. (179609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091938)

Just because some of the world's power is generated by coal, doesn't mean it all is. There are plenty of places where renewable sources make up a significant if not a majority of the power on the grid.

Re:Damnit slashdot (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092246)

Moreover, electric vehicles allow easy switching between primary sources. An EV doesn't care whether its electricity comes from coal, nuclear or unicorn tear plants, but a gasoline engine is stuck on that particular fuel forever (or as long as supplies last).

Re:Damnit slashdot (0, Troll)

polar red (215081) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092020)

can you back that up with a few links to studies ?

Re:Damnit slashdot (4, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092094)

You think that the EV's are being powered by unicorn tears? No. It is coal.

Depends on where you live. Still, ironically environmentalism has pretty much killed all non-coal economic sources of electricity - as nice as it is, solar and wind are still far more expensive than then their baseload counterparts.

I'd be building nuclear plants, but you can get EVs that are 'powered' by solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, etc...

EVs are one of the reasons I think that 'conservation' isn't going to save us from having to build nuclear power plants. EVs get around 3 miles to the kwh. People tend to drive 12-15k miles a year. That's 4-5k kwh/year. Take a 'standard' 2 car household, that's 8-10k kwh, 667-833kwh a month. Or around 2/3rds the standard electric bill. We could save 1/3rd the electricity we currently use by using energy efficient appliances and turning off the lights and such, only to turn around and double our usage by plugging our cars in.

EVs aren't, can't be the 'only' solution for replacing oil based fuels. But they have their spot, I can say that.

Re:Damnit slashdot (1)

catbutt (469582) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092122)

They both utilize incredibly wasteful systems to produce power and both are horrifically inefficient.

Compared to what? Got something better for us?

Re:Damnit slashdot (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092214)

You think that the EV's are being powered by unicorn tears? No. It is coal. Shifting the problem to larger plants may seem to make it more efficient, but then you remember we have to build these EV cars and no one knows exactly how bad they are for the environment in the long run. I highly doubt refining thousands of 'rare earth minerals' and then dumping them back into the planet is a good idea.

One smokestack is easier to regulate than a squillion exhaust pipes. There's also the matter of making cities more livable. I love sitting outside cafes in San Francisco while those trolley buses purr along silently. If it were a diesel engined bus you wouldn't be able to hear yourself think, especially when straining to get up those hills.

Re:Damnit slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34092238)

Stop posting these advertisements! Also please stop spreading the idea that gasoline engines and electric engines are somehow different in there pollution factors. THEY'RE NOT. They both utilize incredibly wasteful systems to produce power and both are horrifically inefficient. You think that the EV's are being powered by unicorn tears? No. It is coal. Shifting the problem to larger plants may seem to make it more efficient, but then you remember we have to build these EV cars and no one knows exactly how bad they are for the environment in the long run. I highly doubt refining thousands of 'rare earth minerals' and then dumping them back into the planet is a good idea.

First off fact check a bit. The problem is gasoline engines is they are very inefficient they get by on the energy density of gasoline. Even with dirty fuels like coal electrics do pollute less. And yes I know some one will point to a study that shows the opposite but one day we have to stop arguing studies and address the fundamental problems, fossil fuels will run out and they pollute. We don't have enough farmland to grow enough fuel so odds are a large percentage of cars in the next century will be electric. FYI hydrogen crowd, hydrogen cars ARE electric they simply use hydrogen rather than batteries. The high efficiency systems use rare earth minerals but I'm not sure what you are condoning everyone ride bicycles or go back to horses? Saying nothing works is simply trolling and not contributing. Lead acid batteries work and are a 100% recyclable but most people want the option of driving 200+ miles when the mood strikes them. The real problem is there's simply too many people for the resources. The latest study says by 2030 we'll need two planet Earths to meet our needs. Translated half the people will have to leave the planet in some fashion, death most likely, just to sustain the 2030 lifestyle. It may be far worse because some resources are being destroyed like farmland and water resources. Either way there will be billions fewer living on the Earth in 2100 and nothing known will stop that process.

Re:Damnit slashdot (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092256)

Electricity is not made with coal everywhere in the world. In a lot of places it's nuclear, solar, wind or hydro-electricity.

so what do you do when the oil runs? (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091868)

I'll glad I'm not typing "what happens when the hydrogen runs out?".

Re:so what do you do when the oil runs? (1)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091978)

Switch to bio-diesel - or maybe by then battery technology will finally have advanced enough that electric cars are both cheap and can go 300+ miles on a charge (with charges taking a reasonable time too, not 8-12 hours). I'd love to see all electric cars be affordable and have a practical range so that we can tell the middle east to go fuck themselves instead of kissing their ass for oil, but unfortunately we've still got a ways to go before we get there.

Nothing revolutinary? (1, Insightful)

mvdwege (243851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091884)

I see a lot of buzzwords, but the few words with some real content in it makes it seem like this is just a two-stroke boxer engine.

More efficient? No shit Sherlock, that's always been the province of the two-stroke. The problem was how to keep the lubricants out of the combustion chamber so that it wouldn't be so damn polluting.

Mart

Re:Nothing revolutinary? (3, Informative)

b0bby (201198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092108)

the few words with some real content in it makes it seem like this is just a two-stroke boxer engine.

You should watch the video linked in the article, it really is not just a 2 stroke. It's an opposed piston/opposed cylinder design - think a regular flat twin, but imagine a second pair of pistons moving where the valve head usually is. You can't easily see it in the picture in the article, but it is a neat idea. If it works, it could be cool. If it works.

Re:Nothing revolutinary? (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092224)

I see a lot of buzzwords, but the few words with some real content in it makes it seem like this is just a two-stroke boxer engine.

It isn't. Go back and read it again and watch the linked video.

Diesel (1)

areusche (1297613) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091888)

The answer is more diesel powered vehicles. Diesel has a higher energy content and with modern CDI engines can be as fast and greener than a typical gas engine. Although while the cost per gallon of diesel is higher, a small to mid sized diesel passenger car can get 45-55 mpg. Throw in better aerodynamics and we can have more fuel efficient vehicles.

Re:Diesel (2, Informative)

Combatso (1793216) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092024)

the article sais this engine design can be modofied to run diesel.. the solution to any energy crisis is always attack it form multiple fronts.... rathan than picking one idea and shouting it the loudest

Re:Diesel (1)

SuperQ (431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092124)

There is good and bad with this comment.

#1: You can't just take a barrel of oil and get a barrel of diesel. When oil is processed you get some % as gas and some other % as diesel (and a whole bunch of other things).
#2: Gas vs Diesel prices are not just based on the supply of oil. There is additional price variance coming from the demands. A lot of the diesel pricing comes from shipping needs (trucks, trains, etc).

However, Diesel is a good idea because we can more easily convert, transport, and store bio-diesel from plant oils than H2 for fuel cells at this time.

Old Tech (1, Informative)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091896)

FTFA:

"EcoMotors’ opoc engine is built with opposing pistons, opposing cylinders, and a single crank in the middle. Together, the components work to create a combustion power event with every revolution, unlike existing 4-stroke engines that combust every other turn, Runkle says.

So basically you made a two-stroke [wikipedia.org] flat-four. [wikipedia.org] Color me unimpressed. You're not even using Stirling [wikipedia.org] cycle. Tell me, how the heck did you get Bill Gates to give you money anyway?

Re:Old Tech (3, Informative)

MBCook (132727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092138)

That was my first though too. "It's just a boxer."

If you watch the little video linked to from the article (and I emphasize little, what is that, 160x120?), they show you it's like a boxer but the cylinder heads (I guess) move in opposition to the pistons. It's a little like having two pistons that would hit each other on the head in the shaft, both tied to the crankshaft.

I'm a little unclear, I don't have sound on my computer so I could only watch the little animation.

Re:Old Tech (2, Informative)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092254)

So basically you made a two-stroke [wikipedia.org] flat-four. [wikipedia.org]

He didn't. Go back and watch the video. It's not a regular flat 4. It has two pistons per cylinder, each pair of cylinders acts as a unit that can be shut down when energy needs are smaller.

VW is already doing this (1)

denzo (113290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091912)

Diesel keeps getting overlooked by the hype for hybrid vehicles, but a VW Passat BlueMotion recently broke the record for mileage [insideline.com] , getting 74.8 MPG.

Part of the Problem with Switching to New Tech (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091934)

One of the problems with converting to new technology is that people are still improving the old one. This always happens. That makes the adoption costs of the new way higher, relatively speaking.

Although, I'm pretty sure the cars I buy now are a lot less fuel efficient than the cars I was getting when I first started driving. My guess is either safety regulations are making cars heavier or people just prefer bigger cars. And I'm talking about cars in the same relative class.

Slashvertisement (5, Interesting)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091946)

Maker of supposedly cleaner engines thinks that cleaner engines is a better idea than electric vehicles. In other news, maker of windmills thinks wind energy is better than solar. Manufacturer of solar cells disagrees. BP thinks they're all full of shit.

Worse, take a look at the submitter's profile - very few posts (though going back a ways) and a whole lot of story submissions pimping some company or other. I'm catching a whiff of an ad campaign here.

I agree. (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091952)

The EV1 and Rav4 EV were rated as no cleaner than a Prius or Civic HX by greenercars.org, and about 8 percentage points lower than my Honda Insight or Civic CNG.

The reason is because while the electric motor is simple and efficient, the electric to battery to electric conversion process is extremely inefficient. Back in 2000 the US government performed a GREET study, and found the two cleanest and most efficient technologies were a Diesel Engine (#2) and a Diesel-electric hybrid (#1). The pure electric car was a distant 6th place behind Gasoline and Natural Gas combustion engines.

Sure, why not (1)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091960)

It's perfectly possibly that the future of cheap, clean and geostrategically independent energy passes trough new and improved engines, maybe together with things like biofuels.

Then again it's perfectly possible that electric cars are the way of the future.

Who knows?

No reason to limited ourselves to only one or the other approach though.

That said, this specific gentleman would much rather that more money is invested in "his way" since he stands to make a lot of money if lots of people throw money at it, even if it doesn't work out all that well in the end.

Doesn't solve the biggest problem (5, Insightful)

Little Brother (122447) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091966)

I don't know the limit of efficiency that this new engine design will deliver, but at any sane value this does not solve our biggest problem here in the United States (and probably other nations as well.)

Everything we do is regulated by oil. Our food distribution runs on diesel, our manufacturing runs on diesel. Our military runs on diesel. Our workforce requires gas to get to work. Every facet of American life is dependent on oil based fuels without which our economy, our military, our industry, our agriculture and our commerce will fail. Even with extreme improvement in our ability to harness these fuels, it is extraordinarily unlikely that we can produce enough fuel to be self-sufficient. In short our national security and our very survival are in the hands of foreign powers.

In the best of circumstances this would be worrying, depending on close allies for your ability to survive is harrowing, but sustainable. We are not in the best of circumstances, The nations that produce the majority of oil are not staunch allies, but nations with populaces that are predominantly anti-US. At any time the structure in these countries could break down and we could find ourselves at war with them. This would be a war that even if we win could destroy us as a nation. If we conserve all our fuel resources for the War effort, which we would have to do if we want to win with conventional weapons, we would find ourselves bereft of fuel and the fuel production infrastructure itself most likely in shambles due to the war. Our way of life would be over just as surely as if we had been conquered by a foreign power.

We need to switch to electric not because it is more efficient (although it is) not because it will create jobs (though it will) not because it can be more environmentally sound (although it could be); we need to switch to electrical power because it keeps our vital infrastructure requirements in our own hands. It is a matter of national security, no nation can prosper if it id dependent on unfriendly nations for its very survival.

MOD PARENT UP (0, Redundant)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092188)

Parent really calls attention to the elephant in the room when it comes to oil and our dependence on it.

So what? (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#34091990)

So, they get power out of every stroke using two cylinders, instead of every other stroke using one cylinder.

Is this one of those "don't look behind the curtain" advances?

Nice video interview with developer (5, Informative)

Lord Crc (151920) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092004)

Tried to figure out how this thing worked and I found this video here: http://www.engineeringtv.com/video/Opposed-Piston-Opposed-Cylinder [engineeringtv.com]

Some good technical questions and answers, as well as a working illustrative model of the engine.

How bout both? (1)

Twillerror (536681) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092010)

Why does this become some conservative v liberal thing. Us v them.

For short trips I don't see why I can't leverage the natural gas, nuclear, coal, wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric grid that we have.

For long trips I can use gas(natural or synthetic), natural gas, hydrogen, or whatever makes sense for my region.

I think the battery is largely for energy recapture (braking,idling,etc) and for a quick charge.

As for gas as a fuel source it seems silly to me to keep going to exotic places(mile under water, middle of the wilderness) to get it when we could be placing that human capital into more sustainable fuels\power sources made in our back yard. Decentralized sources also seem more scalable as population and energy consumption increase.

Also, engines are incredibly complicated analog things. We have gotten very good at their manufacture, but batteries can be turned out a much higher rate. Each engines block is usually crafted with robots, but it can takes hours if not days to assemble a fully functional engine. An electric motor is far simpler, easier to replace\upgrade, and ultimately less prone to failure. Think of all the parts it takes to make a simple 4 stroke engine let alone when you start putting turbos and other things to increase their efficiency. Our mechanics are going to need Doctorates.

It's just a Bourke engine rebranded (1)

jockeys (753885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092036)

it's just one of these, basically:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bourke_engine [wikipedia.org]
plus the option of having a hybrid system. The Bourke is the cold fusion of the automotive world. We've been hearing how magical and amazingly efficient it is since it was invented in the 1920s and yet no one has managed to build one that is actually more than slightly better than a normal 4 cycle.

Re:It's just a Bourke engine rebranded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34092230)

Yes, the Bourke Engine. That was the first thing I thought before even looking at the article or pictures.

Burning Coal is the problem, not the machine (3, Insightful)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092048)

"On a grander scale, Runkle says the EcoMotors technology is ultimately cleaner than plug-in electric automobiles, because it produces more efficient power without having to tap grid electricity—much of which comes from burning coal."

Again, burning fuel is always going to be the less than ideal solution, no matter what the power is used for.
Clean, renewable energy is the way of the future.

What exactly is new ? (1)

sameer0s (1923970) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092050)

Cylinder deactivation to improve fuel efficiency is already a production technology. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_displacement [wikipedia.org] The report should have included more details on the engine.

Please explain (1)

drxenos (573895) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092086)

I not a car guy. So, will someone explain to me how this differs from a boxer engine?

another component of (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092092)

fuel efficiency and sustainable transportation technology is teaching the average lard-bellied coffee swilling cell phone barking commuter the difference between responsible safe driving and break neck dale earnhart rally racing. for example:
not every green light means floor the accelerator
if its 80 degrees outside, you likely do not need the AC blasting
the posted highway speed limit of 65 is not to be interpreted as 85.
dont "race" up to the red light as fast as you can, only to pound the brakes 60 feet from the intersection
married with kids is not a justification for the latest SUV, domestic or foreign
consider foregoing the automobile if your destination is within one mile.

Summary (4, Informative)

sshore (50665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092116)

The article is light on details, but there's details elsewhere.

The OPOC engine is a horizontally opposed two cylinder two-stroke engine. As a cylinder in a two-stroke engine has a power stroke on every revolution instead of every second revolution, this engine has very high power density compared to a four-stroke engine of the same size.

Traditionally, two-stroke engines have had very poor emissions. Since the exhaust and intake strokes are not separate, the intake mixes with the exhaust to some degree. This means that some of the intake fuel goes out the exhaust unburned, and some of the exhaust remains in the cylinder with the intake charge, reducing peak temperature. This engine, however, uses assisted HCCI [wikipedia.org] with a diesel injection system, meaning the fuel is introduced during compression instead of intake, so unburned intake fuel does not cross over to the exhaust. (I'm not clear what the "assisted" part is in the assisted HCCI. Perhaps there's a spark plug that's only used during low-power, lean burn conditions?)

The cylinder pairs are intended to be balanced and stackable, so that multiples can be connected together for higher output. TFA suggests that it might even be stacked with an electric motor for low-speed operation.

I imagine these would be very useful for a hybrid, despite the summary title. Unassisted HCCI engines have a small power range, but this would be perfectly fine for a series hybrid generator motor running at a fixed RPM for charging.

Big Oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34092128)

100 mpg carburetors have been around about for awhile now .. Weather they actually work or there just BS .. hard to tell but with so many people saying its possible an what not you can't help but wonder why we haven't seen it yet I think because big oil has something to do with that..

Opposing cylinders? (1)

chocapix (1595613) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092156)

Yeah, I got that in my Porsche.

It's not very fuel efficient :-(

Prices (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 3 years ago | (#34092174)

As far as I know, electric vehicles are on the order of not one, but 2 orders of magnitude cheaper to run than a gasoline car. Very few people would want to pay up to 100x as much cash for petrol when they can have cheap electricity.

Battery tech is improving all the time, so we may as well bite the bullet and all switch to at least hybrids (just like using a 60 GB SSD as an OS/boot drive; sorry can't resist saying how amazing SSDs are).
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