With the proliferation of electric cars, many are touting the end of the combustion engine, which in a few years will be replaced by more environmentally friendly electric motors. However, one company could reverse that trend.
LiquidPiston is about to introduce a new model called the X-Engine, whose design is based on a patent that makes the thermodynamic cycle more effective by using a rotary combustion system instead of pistons as a traditional engine does. The system allows the design of a smaller and lighter engine.
In fact, the LiquidPiston engine is 10 times smaller and 30% more efficient than traditional piston engines, with only two parts moving to generate combustion, as opposed to each piston in traditional engines.
In recent years the debate around combustion engines has focused on their environmental footprint, favoring the less polluting, electric motors. Naturally, the electric motor is not completely clean, as the electricity it is powered by needs to be generated, and in many places the generation sources are thermal plants that use fossil fuels such as coal or diesel to generate this energy.
Although battery (electric) engines may be on the surface more environmentally friendly than regular fuel engines, it must be remembered that the energy density of fossil fuel engines is 40 to 50 times greater than the energy density of commercially available batteries, which means that electric motor batteries must be large and heavy and therefore take a reasonable time to recharge.
Batteries also have a high energy cost during their manufacturing stage and eventually their recycling or disposal. Therefore, until the electric grid is able to supply a greater amount of electricity to the batteries in a shorter time and the batteries can store it without requiring more space, hybrid engines will make more economic sense for propulsion of land, sea and air vehicles.
What’s the secret of the new combustion engine?
That’s where LiquidPiston’s X-engine comes in, compact and with high power density that allows hybrid power generation and propulsion systems in series or in parallel; features that make it more efficient than its predecessors, the piston or small turbines. The engine also has the advantage of being lighter and smaller.
The technology on which the LiquidPiston X-engine is based is known as the High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle, which optimizes the thermodynamic cycle, which converts fuel into energy more efficiently.
Put differently, the use of a LiquidPiston X-motor in a hybrid vehicle (based on electric power and another fuel) can reduce the weight and size of the required batteries by up to 80%. The engine makes combustion so efficient that much more energy is generated per gallon of fuel, which in turn allows the electric batteries to be recharged while the vehicle is being driven.
These features are important in the implementation of the x-engine in future hybrid vehicles. While many tout that the combustion engine’s days are numbered, LiquidPiston’s more efficient design shows that the combustion engine not only has a long time ahead of it, but will be a fabulous complement to electric batteries as they develop greater capacity for electric power.