Downsizing Breakthrough: Company Testing Engine That Can Run With Only Two Or Three Cylinders
|   Thursday, July 24, 2014
Schaeffler, a German company specializing in providing dedicated technology for internal combustion engines, announced that it is working on a system that allows disabling a cylinder on an engine with three cylinders.

This unit is still on the company's test benches, but the prototype versions will be put to the test vehicle within six to 12 months.
The Germans say that this motorization might work in some cases with only two of the three cylinders available, and this would significantly reduce fuel consumption.
The current estimates are announcing a saving of at least 3 percent.

Those at Schaeffler are working on a system that allows disabling one or more cylinders for different types of engines. As mentioned, the smallest unit is a three-cylinder engine that can run on only two cylinders, but the Germans do not exclude the application of this technology to larger engines with four, six or eight cylinders.

Unfortunately for the end consumer, the technology requires certain changes in motorization as well as vehicle level, so the three-cylinder engines and cylinder deactivation system could make cars that equip them more expensive.

The good news is that an engine with three in line cylinders is more easily disabled than an engine with four or more cylinders, regardless of the arrangement, because it has less intake and exhaust ports, and that means fewer movable components required to close those ports. It will also need a system to determine the appropriate time for a cylinder deactivation, which will assess driver behavior to determine when such an action is taking place.

The Germans at Schaeffler already have cylinder deactivation technology, which involves the closure of the intake and exhaust valves of the corresponding cylinder. However, the new engine requires a system to counteract any vibrations and unpleasant sounds that could generate a motor that works with two of the three active cylinders.

Auto manufacturers which could benefit from this technology first are those who already have such systems in their ranges, but the Germans from Schaeffler have a contractual prohibition to disclose who they are. 


Right now, Schaeffler provides the MultiAir system for Fiat and Chrysler, and say that the benefit of future cylinder deactivation systems for engines with three cylinders are more substantial than a hybrid system, due to the weight difference brought by that addition and the effective cost of the system.

The CAFE standard (Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standard) has forced automakers to consider options that seemed unthinkable not long ago. Bob Zito, director of engineering motor components at Schaeffler, says turbocharged direct injection 3-cylinder engines will soon be capable of making 180 hp. Already, the 1.0L EcoBoost Ford engine, the 2014 Ward's 10 Best Engines winner, produces 123 hp.

The cost is everything for auto makers, but the purse strings are loosening. As CAFE deadlines approach (2017 and 2025), manufacturers are willing to pay for the technology needed to achieve compliance.

"As time has gone on, that low-hanging fruit where you are willing to pay $25 per percent, those elements are pretty much gone. They're already in production. We've already done all those things." says Bob Zito.
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