Verifying a fuel efficiency breakthrough

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We expect the efficiencies to continue to climb as modifications are made and new simulations are conducted.” –Sal Scuderi, president of Scuderi Group, after fuel efficiency gains of 25% to 36% were identified via computer models developed by the Southwest Research Institute for his company’s new engine designs

I’ve written about the Scuderi Group’s revolutionary engine designs in this space before; designs that the company claims produces up to 80% fewer toxins than a typical internal combustion engine while posting big gains in fuel efficiency – all done without expensive aftertreatment systems.

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Originally conceived and designed by Carmelo Scuderi (seen here at right; the namesake of the company, engine, and thermodynamic equations powering it), the Scuderi “split-cycle” engine design divides the four strokes of a conventional combustion cycle over two paired cylinders: one intake/compression cylinder and one power/exhaust cylinder.

By firing after top-dead center, it produces highly efficient, cleaner combustion with one cylinder and compressed air in the other, according to the Scuderi folks. Also, unlike conventional engines that require two crankshaft revolutions to complete a single combustion cycle, the Scuderi engine requires just one; all while purportedly producing more torque than conventional gasoline and diesel engines, the firm said.

[Here’s a video overview of the Scuderi engine below, for it’s much easier to understand how such a design works by watching it instead of reading about it – at least in my humble non-engineer opinion!]

Back in 2009, I talked with Sal Scuderi (seen below), the company’s president, about how his father Carmelo (who passed away in 2002) came up with this new engine design.

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At the time, they were just starting to test a small “naturally aspirated” 1-liter gasoline-powered prototype – an engine then expected to attain fuel efficiency gains of 5% to 10% more than any conventional gasoline engine currently on the road.

Scuderi then contracted with a firm well known in trucking circles – the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) – to conduct extensive computer model tests and vehicle simulations using the 1-liter gasoline-fuel Scuderi prototype in a 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier.

SwRI’s results are interesting, to say the very least.

The naturally-aspirated Scuderi engine in the Cavalier consumed 25% less fuel than current platforms for that size of vehicle, while the company’s naturally-aspirated air-hybrid design should consume 30% to 36% less fuel under similar drive conditions, according to SwRI’s computer models.

[SwRI also does heavy-duty engine testing and “benchmarking” for OEMs in the trucking field, as the short video below explains.]

“These results are only going to get better,” said Sal Scuderi. “The naturally aspirated Scuderi split-cycle engine will continue to improve when further optimized, and the air-hybrid [model] performance will increase with higher air tank pressures. We expect the efficiencies to continue to climb as modifications are made and new simulations are conducted, including computer modeling of the 2011 Nissan Sentra running with a Scuderi engine.”

He added that a more detailed report outlining all of these findings should be available later this year.

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Now, by no means should one leap to the conclusion that Scuderi’s technology is a “silver bullet” in terms of obtaining significant fuel economy gains for a wide range of vehicles. Obviously, what’s achieved in the lab by no means translates easily to the rough-and-tumble everyday world of cars and trucks, let alone big rigs.

Yet by the same token these findings hold a lot of promise, too – especially as the U.S. remains wedded to path of tighter fuel efficiency mandates for vehicles of all shapes and sizes.

For starters, cars produced and sold in the U.S. automotive market by the 2016 model year are expected to average about 39 miles per gallon (mpg), while light trucks are expected to get an average of 30 mpg – nearly a 30% increase from current standards. And don’t forget big rigs face new fuel economy standards as well – standards that would start to kick in, if the proposed regulations are affirmed, by 2014.

It all means new technologies need to be found – and found quickly – to help vehicles meet new fuel economy rules. And that need definitely puts Carmelo Scuderi’s baby in play.

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