Sunday, April 6, 2008

Nonelectric Hybrids - ...Huh?

British mechanical engineers have been toying with a combustion engine that is essentially a combination of a 4-stroke and a 2-stroke engine in one box. It’s like a six cylinder engine that can electronically switch between the two modes. Currently, we don’t use 2 stroke engineers to propel cars because they lack power and emit terribly. Their use has been restricted to lawnmowers, blowers, and trimmers. From my experience, 4 cylinders have trouble making it up steep hills without dying. A combination of the two seems…well, like a bad idea.

In either mode, it’s still an internal combustion engine, so there's no decrease in emissions. The only thing I could see being sold as an advantage is increased fuel economy. If that economy comes at the expense of performance, however, you can bet on Americans completely rejecting the possibility. The last paragraph of the article says that the “hybrid” gets an average fuel savings of 27% with emissions reductions by a “similar amount.” The builder of the first prototype claims that when he used a 2.1 L V-6 converted into this “hybrid” configuration, the engine performed comparably to 3-4 L engine. There are no real numbers to back any of these statements up, and that makes me suspicious...

Don't let the name fool you. The technology seems way too complicated, not economical, and not even a “hybrid” technology. Our top priority for future cars should be getting away from our dependence on oil, and this engine doesn’t do that. Although this research could lead to lawnmower engines with better environmental impacts, it seems like a step down the road we're already on and we're in need of a detour.

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