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Transportation Technology

Looking Beyond Detroit For Engine Innovation 290

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-it's-such-a-nice-town dept.
waderoush writes "Opposed-piston engines (with two pistons in the same cylinder) have been around since the 1920s, but have been used mainly in submarines and airplanes. Now, several startups are working to make these high-efficiency engines practical for cars, trucks, and light vehicles — but they're under no illusions that Detroit will adopt the idea. Silicon Valley startup Pinnacle Engines, which is backed by the world's largest venture fund, is looking to a scooter manufacturer in India as its first partner. 'This ought to be music to Detroit's ears, but to them I'm just some whacko in California,' says Monty Cleeves, Pinnacle's founder and CTO. 'This is Silicon Valley, and what does Silicon Valley know about making engines? Folks in Asia have almost zero "not-invented-here" issues, whereas it's pretty prevalent all over the U.S.'"
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Looking Beyond Detroit For Engine Innovation

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  • OF course (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745)

    Detroit will be interested in it, if it works better.
    Hint: Detroit has worked on this idea before, and didn't get it to work.

    I'm not saying it can't work, only that it's been tried. Maybe this guy can actually scale up to a practice car with this that's reasonably more efficient.

    At that point, Detroit will be interested.

    However, the auto industry is full of things that worked on small scale, but turned out to be impracticable, or not marketable.

    In the US, a culture is built around items, and that culture bu

    • Reasonably well said. And a special place in hell for whatever jerk modded this a troll. It certainly seems on-topic, reasonable, and basically civil to me.
      • Re:OF course (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Eil (82413) on Friday October 07, 2011 @06:12PM (#37644252) Homepage Journal

        In the US, a culture is built around items, and that culture build upon itself.
        In Asia, they are happy to take anyones ideas, and sell them illegally.

        That's the troll part. You seem to have missed it.

        You could turn the tables and say that Americans are fat and lazy and don't want to innovate anymore while Asia (India and China in particular) is merely taking advantage of the western world's recent lack of blue-collar ambition.

        • by hedwards (940851)

          The main problem with it is lumping disparate cultures together. The Chinese definitely steal ideas and IP to the extent that I can't imagine why corporations would have them producing their products as there are no trade secrets over there, especially for foreign companies.

          As for your statement about what people could say about Americans, the difference there is that even now there isn't a track record that supports that notion. Around here we're just a few months away from the beginning of world's largest

          • Because the much cheaper production costs in China still outweigh the IP-related losses. Also because it wouldn't actually stop the knock-off factories. They don't *need* access to blueprints and schematics. It helps, yes - but they can still reverse-engineer or immitate.
          • The Chinese definitely steal ideas and IP to the extent that I can't imagine why corporations would have them producing their products as there are no trade secrets over there, especially for foreign companies

            Here here. I was on a plane flight from Seattle to Saint Louis a few years ago. I was sitting next to a guy who was president of a contract manufacturer and whose factories were located in China. I too am skeptical of North American (and likely European) companies that say that there is no way that their technology will be stolen. This guy claimed that they had controls to ensure that Chinese competition could in no way use their location (in China) to find a way to copy the technology produced there becaus

          • by vakuona (788200)

            The problem for the Chinese is that they sell back to the USA. So if they produce stuff with stolen IP, they can't sell it in the USA without paying off US companies, which reduces their competitive advantage. What they sell in China is another story though, but there are still the WTO rules to deal with that.

            The advantage that China gets is that they industrialise and become more efficient producers. One day, they will create their own IP, and they will be capable of producing much cheaper, and patents wil

        • by geekoid (135745)

          It's not a troll,it is a demonstrated fact. All the emerging countries in Asia do it. Even Japan did it at one time.

          And our blue-collar ambition is doing well. It's the upper crust that sell us short.

    • Re:OF course (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rei (128717) on Friday October 07, 2011 @06:15PM (#37644280) Homepage

      Have you ever worked with Detroit? I own an auto industry startup who's dealt with top-level Detroit execs on a number of occasions. The auto industry is an extremely conservative industry with a very backwards business model and an exceedingly slow cycle time, hamstrung by regulations, supply agreements and partnerships that perpetuate the status quo. And they know all of this stuff, and it drives them crazy, because every exec has about a dozen big ideas for what they want to do but can't for some reason or another. At the same time, they have a formula that works, keeping them competing in an industry that tends to eat new know-it-all manufacturers for breakfast.

      I wish the new startup well, and I wish I could say it's just a case of "may the best tech win". But it's not really. First off, Detroit is an "Old Boys Club", so a lot of their success will have to do with how well their team can infiltrate the culture, winning over power-brokers and former power-brokers who still have lots of buddies in the company, one rung of the ladder at the time. Secondly, you have to play by their rules. That means meeting over obscenely expensive dinners and drinks (and, from what I've been told, although I've thankfully been spared this for obvious reasons, strip clubs). And third, even when you do things right, it's slllllllllooooooooowwww. Assuming you do things right, have a good product, and properly cover your arse legally, and nobody scopes you to the field first, whether with independent development or ripping you off.

      That said, startups *can* and *do* regularly make it in the industry, at least as suppliers. Although going from nothing to being a whole engine supplier is a pretty huge step, and they really should start out smaller. Honestly, given their situation, I'd strongly advise trying to work their way into some of the Tier 1 suppliers. It should be a lot easier than approaching the Big 3 directly (I really wouldn't expect them to give this startup the time of day).

      • by Fnord666 (889225)

        At the same time, they have a formula that works, keeping them competing in an industry that tends to eat new know-it-all manufacturers for breakfast.

        If it works so well, why did the government have to step in and bail them out?

      • Honestly, given their situation, I'd strongly advise trying to work their way into some of the Tier 1 suppliers. It should be a lot easier than approaching the Big 3 directly (I really wouldn't expect them to give this startup the time of day).

        I absolutely guarantee they won't give them the time of day. Really though that is just fine. You DON"T want to be a Tier 1 supplier. When the Big 3 want to cut costs the first thing they do is cut payments to the Tier 1 suppliers. Unfortunately the Tier 1 suppliers frequently cannot pass on the cost reductions to the smaller Tier 2 and below suppliers without killing them. My company is a Tier 4 on a GM product and we certainly could not afford a significant price cut. Tier 1s are basically the big au

        • by Rei (128717)

          It works both ways, though. When the Big 3 buy a system from a Tier 1, it's essentially a black box to them. Whenever they want anything changed with it, they're beholden to just one company: the Tier 1. And their vehicle gets engineered and certified around it, so they can't just swap it out for a different system (well, for some parts easier than others, but for many, it's a *very* non-trivial task).

          Plus, when you look at the sort of stuff some of the Tier 1s pull (*cough* SEC *cough* ripping off some

    • by ISoldat53 (977164)
      Tesla seems to have done it.
      • Tesla is still making low-volume high-powered toys to sell to rich people. There is a world of difference between making a few of a car sold to rich people, and making hundreds of thousands of cars sold to John Q Public.

        Tesla knows this, which is precisely why no automaker has snatched them up to scale up their designs and Tesla hasn't done this themselves.. If they were adaptable to a mass-production vehicle, there are any number of auto companies that would have bought them already. GM, Ford, Toyota, M

        • Well, Daimler has at least bought a 10% share in Tesla. I am working pretty closely with some of the Daimler developers, and believe me, they are watching closely what is going on at Tesla.
      • Don't get me wrong--I love Tesla. I wish I had $100,000 burning a hole in my pocket so I could buy a Tesla roadster (I love roadsters and have no interest in the Model S).

        That said, Tesla has produced 1840 cars since 2008 and they plan to end the Tesla roadster production run with around 2500. Ford, on the other hand, probably produces over 4 million cars a year. Quite a difference.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Look at what GM and Ford have managed to do overseas and you'll wonder why they haven't put those obvious proven successes into the US market. They don't even trust new ideas from themselves.
  • Opposed-piston engines (with two pistons in the same cylinder)

    Are those the same as so called boxer engines? which are found in Porsches and BMW motorcycles? What's the difference if any?

    • by cobrausn (1915176) on Friday October 07, 2011 @05:28PM (#37643836)
      No, boxer engines are opposed pistons, but they use separate cylinders. Boxer engines are a form of a 'Flat' engine.
    • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999 @ g m a i l.com> on Friday October 07, 2011 @05:35PM (#37643908)

      An opposed piston engine has two (well, at least two) crankshafts at opposite ends of a cylinder, with a piston on each. The pistons then "meet" in the middle.

      The advantage is that you don't need a cylinder head, so the engine can be lighter, and often smaller and go to higher pressures, which makes it ideal for aircraft and submarines and areas where you want to maximise power to weight.

      A boxer engine is simply a V engine flattened all the way down, with two banks of cylinders facing away from each other with the crank in the middle.

      One of the "classic" opposed piston engines is the Deltic, fitted to the locomotives that were named for it. A hugely complex beast with three crankshafts (one contrarotating), which was very powerful for its size, but very highly strung. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napier_Deltic [wikipedia.org]

      • by blair1q (305137)

        I fail to see how having to make two crankshafts become one drivetrain is going to make it lighter.

        What it will do is allow you to use counter-rotation to prevent torque from making your otherwise free vehicle spin around its axis continuously.

        • by jo_ham (604554)

          You don't need a big, heavy cylinder head since the opposing piston acts as the head for the other. This way you can push up the pressure in the cylinder without having to beef up the block/head much and get much more power for limited size and weight.

      • by danomac (1032160)

        I would also imagine that is shares a compression stroke to drive both pistons, leveraging more efficiency.

        The problem is current transmissions is they have a single input. A lot of dual crankshaft engine are "mended" together with gearing to drive a single input shaft, but I wonder what the mechanical losses would be through that setup.

        It'd be interesting if they could design a transmission that can take two inputs and use them with more mechanical efficiency than using a gearing system. Either that, or al

        • by jo_ham (604554)

          Well, you need to keep the pistons in phase, so you need to physically connect the two (or more) cranks to each other - at that point it's trivial to simply drive one output shaft.

      • by rickb928 (945187)

        "An opposed piston engine has two (well, at least two) crankshafts at opposite ends of a cylinder, with a piston on each. The pistons then "meet" in the middle.

        The advantage is that you don't need a cylinder head, so the engine can be lighter, and often smaller and go to higher pressures, which makes it ideal for aircraft and submarines and areas where you want to maximise power to weight."

        IANAE, but...

        Losing the cylinder head saves weight.
        Two crankshafts gain weight.
        Two crankshafts = more rotating mass
        Two

        • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999 @ g m a i l.com> on Friday October 07, 2011 @06:14PM (#37644268)

          The two crankshafts have to be connected together - the pistons need to stay in phase, so you only need one output since what one crank does, the other must match it.

          Like the Deltic engine I linked above, you can get awesome power to weight ratio and power to size ratio out of them (although the Deltic was an opposed 2 stroke diesel), but they are somewhat temperamental - something that would likely be less of an issue in the modern era with finer machining tolerances etc.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Bork (115412)

        This design allow the engine to have a power stroke for every revolution, it is called 2-cycle but its not like what people think as 2-cycle. The engine has a compression stroke as the piston come together, a power stoke and then a "vent" at the end of the power stroke. One of the pistons that is called the power piston will open up ports along the cylinder wall to let out the exhaust, a few degrees of rotation later the other piston called the slave will open ports in the cylinder wall to allow forces ai

      • What is different between a sub or an aircraft that does not permit the technology developed for these applications directly portable to automobiles?
        • by jo_ham (604554)

          Nothing really, but the engineering challenges that face aircraft and sub engines (low weight/small size above all), is not really as pressing in a car, so the advantages can be more "cheaply" obtained by building bigger engines since the weight penalty is not so severe.

        • It's an engine type that, relatively speaking, scales up well. Sort of like how almost all large engines are diesel and almost all small ones are gasoline.

          Bulldozer engine? Diesel. Weed-eater? Gasoline. The meeting point is approximately at 'pickup truck' with a good deal of overlap.

          Because it's mechanically more complex, it tends to be more expensive, and smaller parts tend to be more fragile. With newer technology it's time might of come - we can more easily and cheaply produce tiny complex parts to

      • I was looking at the link and that might actually work if you thing about a hybrid and not direct powered crankshafts.

        In the picture you showed, a timing chain run around an electric generator would be a good mix. Use battery power to augument starting and a nice slow, lean engine to keep the battery charged. The engine shape would component battery shape. And it would seem to have fewer parts too.

        I'd think this could be used in something like hydraulic power... Diggers and earthmovers. Again, direct drive

      • As others have pointed out, having a second crankshaft is at least as big a disadvantage as having a cylinder head.

        A second problem is the use of slide valves in an internal combustion engine. I'm not a mechanical engineer, but I know that IC engine valves take a lot of abuse and my guess is that slide valves aren't up to the job.

        In addition, the claim that this engine is going to use 25% to 50% less fuel than a conventional IC engine is just plain bogus.

    • Turn a boxer inside out. Instead of having one crankshaft in the middle, have two crankshafts at the ends, instead of piston heads pointing out, they point in. Then for two piston heads that come at each other, put them in the same cylinder tube so the ignition happens between them.

  • by Relayman (1068986) on Friday October 07, 2011 @05:27PM (#37643826)
    If you think Detroit is going to commit a production run to an engine that has maybe 10 prototype copies, you've got to be kidding. Think of the cost of recalls. Get a few thousand built, demonstrate the efficiency, get some patents to protect the IP and Detroit as well as Japan, Korea, Germany, etc. will have a look.
    • If you think Detroit is going to commit a production run to an engine that has maybe 10 prototype copies, you've got to be kidding. Think of the cost of recalls. Get a few thousand built, demonstrate the efficiency, get some patents to protect the IP and Detroit as well as Japan, Korea, Germany, etc. will have a look.

      The man claims that the scooters he wants to build for India will consume 25 to 50 percent less fuel while being cheaper, lighter, and adaptable to every fuel from diesel to ethanol with a trivial change in the piston spacing. Presumably he believes he can do all of that with cars.

      If they're offered that kind of improvement anyone will deal with prototypes. Any car maker on Earth will open an entire division just to produce a few hundred a year, even if largely by hand, and sell them to green-guilted cel

      • by hedwards (940851) on Friday October 07, 2011 @06:34PM (#37644470)

        25 to 50 percent less gas in a scooter isn't really that impressive. Most decent scooters are at the point of diminishing returns, the increased cost of maintenance is almost certainly going to be more than the savings on fuel. It's relatively trivial to get a scooter to get 60-70mpg, an extra 25% to 50% isn't that significant, unless that extra mileage comes maintenance free.

      • The man claims that the scooters he wants to build for India will consume 25 to 50 percent less fuel while being cheaper, lighter, and adaptable to every fuel from diesel to ethanol with a trivial change in the piston spacing.

        Let's assume for a moment that his engineers can achieve all that. (HUGE if but...) He still has to prove that they can be produced cheaply, are sufficiently reliable, have no design showstoppers, are safe, can mass produced, and can scale in size/horsepower without screwing up any of the previous items.

        Of course an electric motor does the same thing and can use solar, nuclear, wind and coal in addition to liquid fuels.

        If the man can't get people to listen to him it's because he's not telling the whole story and he doesn't have all the problems even nearly worked out. I just can't imagine a more likely alternative.

        The guy has a model engine and is trying to raise money in Silicon Valley. What isn't

    • by blair1q (305137)

      GM committed a couple of billion dollars to hydrogen-powered cars and the Volt.

      It's not about commitment. It's about ownership.

      Asia has much less of a problem stealing your technology from you, so they're open to things they didn't patent themselves.

  • by MonsterTrimble (1205334) <monstertrimble@hot m a il.com> on Friday October 07, 2011 @05:28PM (#37643828)

    Now, several startups are working to make these high-efficiency engines practical for cars, trucks, and light vehicles — but they're under no illusions that Detroit will adopt the idea...'This is Silicon Valley, and what does Silicon Valley know about making engines? Folks in Asia have almost zero "not-invented-here" issues, whereas it's pretty prevalent all over the U.S.'

    'Detroit' as he refers to are now multi-nationals with divisons on every continent on the planet. NIH doesn't really apply since common models are sold across the globe with only minor variations (due to local laws). The reason 'Detroit' haven't done anything with the startups is because they have their own R&D factories. Why partner when they can do it themselves better and cheaper?

    • Re:Full of it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dtmos (447842) * on Friday October 07, 2011 @06:11PM (#37644240)

      The reason 'Detroit' haven't done anything with the startups is because they have their own R&D factories. Why partner when they can do it themselves better and cheaper?

      Because when technology is purchased, it is considered an asset, and appears so on the balance sheet. Internal research and development organizations, however, are viewed as liabilities, since they have payroll and other continuing expenses. It's an accounting advantage when outside technology, either in the form of entire companies or just their IP, is purchased.

      Said another way, the external technology has a value that is explicitly recorded on the balance sheet. The value of technology created by the internal R & D organization, OTOH, is not explicitly realized. One reason for this is that its valuation is quite difficult to determine (unless it's sold outside the company, of course, when it becomes worth what someone is willing to pay for it). Case in point: Your company's R & D organization develops a new opposed-piston engine technology. How much is it worth, in a dollar figure justifiable to an external auditor? Could someone make an equally reasonable argument for a figure one-tenth that of yours?

      • Because when technology is purchased, it is considered an asset, and appears so on the balance sheet.

        True but it also costs something so you have less of another asset, usually cash which is more fungible. You are typically trading a current asset for a (hopefully) future asset.

        Internal research and development organizations, however, are viewed as liabilities, since they have payroll and other continuing expenses.

        Actually R&D is expensed, not a liability though perhaps that is what you meant. Calculating it is often complicated.

        It's an accounting advantage when outside technology, either in the form of entire companies or just their IP, is purchased.

        Not necessarily since you have to carry goodwill on the balance sheet which can be subject to writedowns if the value of the property acquired turns out to not be as expected. This is fairly common with R&D

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Not only that, but US and Japanese companies (like Mazda & Ford, GM & Toyota) have made joint ventures to share technology - not only engines, but many parts of some of their high volume cars.

      Besides, that CTO is full of crap anyway, Asia has *plenty* of NIH issues. Just look at Samsung, Mitsubishi/Panasonic, Sony (less so now, though) - the amount of vertical integration (esp. Samsung, Mistubishi) or use of in house technologies over standards (Sony - Memory Stick, Minidisk/ATRAC, UMD, etc) is hug

    • by SIR_Taco (467460)

      'Detroit' as he refers to are now multi-nationals

      OMG no way!

      they have their own R&D factories

      OMG no way!

      In all seriousness, though:
      Yes what you said is obviously true, but the idea that because they have their own R&D and have researched this before doesn't mean this company hasn't figured out a better way to do it.
      I'm not saying that they have figured out a better way, but to dismiss something as 'oh, well that's been tried before' isn't a good basis

  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Friday October 07, 2011 @05:28PM (#37643840) Homepage
    Opposed-piston_engine [wikipedia.org] for ignorant feckers like myself who have never seen or heard of this engine design before?
  • Two points (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mvar (1386987) on Friday October 07, 2011 @05:29PM (#37643850)
    First:

    “There are 50 opposed piston engine companies out there, and they all haven’t gotten to the point where they’ve figured out what their Achilles’ heel is,” says Byron Shaw, general manager at GM’s Advanced Technology division in Palo Alto. “It’s unlikely that [the engine startups] have discovered something that isn’t known,” he continues. “Let’s say they really improve the ability to run air flow ratios super lean, but then they haven’t solved the NOx problem [nitrogen oxides, a by-product of combustion and the source of smog and acid rain]. There is always a ‘but,’ and most of these companies haven’t gotten to the ‘but’ yet. In India and China they don’t have any idea what the ‘but’ is. They are a pure growth trajectory. But as those markets mature, so will their expectations.

    and the best part:

    As if to illustrate Cleeves’ point, Shaw tells a story from his days as a young, just-out-of-college engineer at GM in 1988. “I came up with this change to an internal part of the air conditioning compressor,” he says. It was part of a project to switch over to a new, environmentally safer coolant. “It passed every test. I was rocking and rolling. I was going to change the world. My boss said, ‘Okay, why don’t you get on the plane and go down to the plant and tell them all about it.’ So I go down there and I start to give my spiel. And the plant manager says, ‘Let me give you a tour of the factory.’ “He shows me where the blank aluminum comes in and where it’s machined and processed. And then he takes me down this line of machines. There are 320 steps and each machine does one step and it’s really fast and precise. And at the end of the line this part rolls off. And he says ‘The part you want to change is machined on step number two. And on every machine after step number two, that’s where they grab the part and hold it to do all the subsequent machine steps. So we’d have to retool 320 machines. Is your change that good? How much more are people willing to pay for their cars based on the improved performance from your little part change, versus what it’s going to cost the company?’ That was a really interesting lesson for me.”

    • Re:Two points (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AceJohnny (253840) <jlargentayeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday October 07, 2011 @05:46PM (#37643998) Journal

      So we’d have to retool 320 machines. Is your change that good?

      Perfect illustration of why we're resistant to change. And then some new company comes up with that change embedded in their process, and trounce the old one. Then the cycle repeats.

      • by blair1q (305137)

        Perfect illustration of why we're resistant to change.

        Imperfectly applied to this situation.

        You don't retrofit opposed pistons into an existing engine block.

        You design a whole new car and manufacturing process around it. You're retooling the factory from the concrete up, so it's no more or less skin to do it for one or another type of engine design.

        • You design a whole new car and manufacturing process around it. You're retooling the factory from the concrete up, so it's no more or less skin to do it for one or another type of engine design.

          That you're building a whole new factory to build the engine, that you might need to redesign cars a bit to fit it, etc...

          They'll get to building the improved part/engine, but they'll likely do it as part of a major upgrade cycle, NOT as a 'hotfix'.

    • Perhaps they should invest in tooling that does not require a massive investment to make a simple change?

      • Perhaps they should invest in tooling that does not require a massive investment to make a simple change?

        Go ahead and do it. Fame and fortune await you. Clearly it must be very simple for someone so bright as you to create tooling flexible enough to accommodate any conceivable design change without increasing cost. That must be very easy to do. [/sarcasm]

    • This part too...

      Cleeves says his engine can also be scaled up for larger vehicles, and can easily be modified to run on diesel, ethanol, or even compressed natural gas, which means it could also turn up in light commercial vehicles or even cars

      Mr Cleeves seems awfully confident about what can be accomplished with an engine that he only has one prototype of, and exactly zero experience with actually scaling up, or modifying for different uses. But such things are always easy on paper.

      Also le

      • by compro01 (777531)

        Opposing piston engines are hardly new and they scale up just fine. The Balao, Tang, and Barbel class submarines used such engines.

        • Submarines have a slightly better maintenance team than the average car. Not only that, their TCO is much less important - the military needs availability.
  • This the same Detroit that cried like babies over federal fuel efficiency requirements? Didn't they say that 30mpg was impossible and would put them out of business, despite foreign car makers doing it for years?
    • by sjbe (173966) on Friday October 07, 2011 @06:40PM (#37644524)

      Didn't they say that 30mpg was impossible and would put them out of business, despite foreign car makers doing it for years?

      No they didn't say that. Nor have the foreign car makers been "doing it for years". If you make a big heavy vehicle it is going to get crappy fuel efficiency. US consumers, for better or worse, love big heavy cars. All automakers know how to make more fuel efficient cars but those are not the ones most people buy. Designing more fuel efficient cars without regressing on other features customers demonstrably want is seriously difficult and possibly without much prospect of payback for the engineering cost. Relatively few people buy a car with fuel efficiency as their primary concern. That might change if gasoline were suddenly $7/gallon but that simply is not going to happen.

      The reason the automakers fought against increasing CAFE standards was simply cost. The government is imposing an engineering cost on their business without any certainty of additional revenue from their customers to offset the cost. Furthermore when your most profitable vehicles are the least fuel efficient (true for every auto manufacturer) and best selling, that is a major problem.

      Toyota and other foreign car manufacturers were just as against raising CAFE standards as the US auto makers. The Toyota Tundra simply cannot achieve 30mpg without some combination of horsepower reduction, weight reduction, better aerodynamics and possibly hybridization. That's physics and has nothing to do with being a foreign or domestic car maker. The engineering challenges are just as difficult for Toyota as they are for GM. I've worked with both companies directly and I promise you Toyota does not have better engineers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JabrTheHut (640719)

        Nor have the foreign car makers been "doing it for years".

        30mpg? yes, years. Maybe decades.

        If you make a big heavy vehicle it is going to get crappy fuel efficiency. US consumers, for better or worse, love big heavy cars. All automakers know how to make more fuel efficient cars but those are not the ones most people buy.

        There's a disconnect here. If people are buying big heavy cars which aren't fuel efficient, why did the US auto makers need a bailout? Because consumers were still buying cars, they just weren't buying the cars the big three were making.

        Furthermore when your most profitable vehicles are the least fuel efficient (true for every auto manufacturer) and best selling, that is a major problem.

        This appears to be the source of the disconnect. If the car manufacturer is being outsold in the small and medium car markets, then their bestsellers being the largest and most profitable cars is irrelevant. It appears that for every la

        • There's a disconnect here. If people are buying big heavy cars which aren't fuel efficient, why did the US auto makers need a bailout?

          There is no disconnect here. In 2006 almost 17 million cars were sold in the US. In 2009 10.4 million cars were sold. They needed a bailout because they have huge fixed costs which were draining their cash reserves and nearly half their revenue was wiped out. The only way for any large manufacturer to deal with that sort of business environment is to have large cash reserves, cut costs as much as you can and then wait for a recovery. Everyone lost money, foreign AND domestic alike. The only difference

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Here's a little test:

      1) Find an SUV that gets 30mpg or better.
      2) Find a Ute that has a 1.5t towing capacity that gets 30mpg or better (unloaded).
      3) Find a large luxury saloon that gets 30mpg or better. Bonus if it is a petrol engine.

      For the record my car gets close to 40mpg. But I'll leave it up to you to change the bigger=better American mindset and convince people to buy my small 3door hatch with 1.5L engine.

  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Friday October 07, 2011 @05:35PM (#37643902) Homepage

    As the cost of hybrid batteries plummets, engines will increasingly run at set power levels for long periods of time. The right engine for this role is debatable, but it's almost certainly a turbine, or less possibly a stirling. They run on any fuel, have excellent economy, and have problems primarily with throttling - which isn't a problem on a hybrid. Investing in new conventional piston technology is a waste.

  • its after 2 PST, and STILL no Ada Lovelace story.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      If ignoring it is good enough for the Google Doodle, it's good enough for /.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        I submitted a story, so I know they have at least one. It's hard to encourage my daughter to continue her love for science when even the most influential women are ignored so blatantly.

  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Friday October 07, 2011 @05:46PM (#37644000) Homepage

    It has nothing to do with NIH.

    Most Americans, as opposed to California, has a "fix it if it's broken" mentality. It's not a closed box. Opposed piston designs, like boxer engines, are not well suited for this. Neither are EVs. They have parts that wear out and are either too cost prohibitive to replace, or too difficult (in terms of accessing them to take them out).

    Meanwhile, something like a Detroit engine, as we're calling it now, can have the engine pulled and replaced with relatively little effort still, in many vehicles. Plug, wire, etc. maintenance is still easy (except in designs that crowd the engine bay). It's a design that's known to work fairly reliably, and when it doesn't, it can be fixed. Try replacing the engine in something like a Subaru sometime... or even getting at the plugs.

    On the other hand, I'd love to see more inline engines. They have a lot of the same benefits.

    • by sribe (304414)

      Try replacing the engine in something like a Subaru sometime... or even getting at the plugs.

      Why? 130,000 miles, and engine placement has not been an issue so far ;-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      BS. The car engine of today frequently outlasts the car. Usually the transmission or something else goes before the engine does.

      Are you seriously bringing up Subaru, when the US out made engines like Cadillac's North Start and similar engines, where you had to pull half the engine out to replace the freaking starter? Or my Jeep, where you have to unhook the exhaust headers? Getting at the plugs? Seriously--I've got 2 domestic vehicles, and the Jeep you've got to unhook the freaking washer fluid reservo

    • Plug, wire, etc. maintenance is still easy (except in designs that crowd the engine bay). It's a design that's known to work fairly reliably, and when it doesn't, it can be fixed. Try replacing the engine in something like a Subaru sometime... or even getting at the plugs.

      On the other hand, I'd love to see more inline engines. They have a lot of the same benefits.

      Interesting you say that. The last time I did an engine swap on my Subaru Legacy, it did take *quite* a while, but that's because it's a 4WD, and the only reason it was more difficult than when I pulled the engine out of my Jeep is because the Subaru engine takes up a lot more of the engine compartment than that inline six in the Jeep. The engine was also much easier to deal with because it was so much lighter than the Jeep engine/transmission/transfer case. It was also much easier than pulling the engin

  • Detroit OPOC (Score:4, Informative)

    by plsenjy (2104800) on Friday October 07, 2011 @05:50PM (#37644058)

    More prominent than Pinnacle is the first company mentioned in TFA, Ecomotors. In the past 6 months they have begun test builds on on-highway trucks for one of America's largest truck manufacturers, Navistar. (https://www.ccjdigital.com/navistar-announces-opoc-engine-technology-agreement/) Considering America's position as #1 fuel consumer, hacking into the amount of fuel used by the most fuel-intensive industry is much more significant than increasing efficiency on mopeds in India.

    From TFA:

    "“I don’t know what it’s going to take to get somebody in the U.S. excited” about fundamental improvements to the venerable internal combustion engine, Cleeves [CEO of Pinnacle] says"

    Are you kidding me??!

    Trucks here are doing everything they can to improve fuel efficiency, from installing flaps underneath their trailers to controlling and monitoring the speed of trucks. If the OPOC engine does prove to be a large increase in efficiency on these large, constantly running trucks, while at the same time eliminating components, you better believe the trucking industry will hop on board with a second.

    Come on, practice a little vetting for once, or maybe try googling for more than one source on an article here!

  • In fact I can not think of a single successful aircraft engine that used that design except for one German diesle engine that saw limited service on a few low production number aircraft in WWII . Maybe they where used on airships.
    The real popular use for them was submarines and trains.

  • TFA displays some page contents on my FF, then immediately refreshes to http://m.xconomy.com/ [xconomy.com] which formats a bunch of category links on IBM green and white printer paper, but contains no useful text.

    I'm able to read a copy obtained by wget with no problems.

    • I noticed that too; once I had the page loaded proper I just smacked ESC a few times and it interrupted whatever was doing the forwarding.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      This isn't the first time.

      Slashdot doesn't need to fucking post xconomy Slashvertisements.

  • The russians are already using opposed piston diesel engines in some of their tanks: http://www.morozov.com.ua/eng/body/addmotor.php [morozov.com.ua]. That's a very good power to weight ratio compared to diesel engines in western tanks. Ok, I admit that it is a bit overkill for the average commuter...

  • Now, several startups are working to make these high-efficiency engines practical for cars, trucks, and light vehicles — but they're under no illusions that Detroit will adopt the idea.

    That's because the primary technology for future auto transport is almost certainly based around electric motors with internal combustion engines moving to a supporting role. There may very well be a market for this sort of internal combustion engine but it is unlikely to become more than a niche product. Internal combustion engines will likely always be around but they really aren't going to get a whole lot more efficient than they already are. I very much doubt that this particular permutation on engin

  • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Friday October 07, 2011 @06:20PM (#37644322)
    Sometimes a radical idea takes a lot of time to percolate in the minds of those who hear it, or even hear of it, before it starts to make sense to them. It's fine to go seeking more open minds to get the concept ironed out and start making money, but maybe he should also drop the scorned prophet act while he does it. Come back with his billion dollars and his 3 million Indian customers as the best damn proof of concept he could possibly have and negotiate with Detroit from a position of strength rather than badmouth the very people he wishes would do business with him.

    Also, take a look at Mr. Cleeves Linkedin profile. His industry appears to be Semiconductors and his summary says "Leadership roles in technology development".

    Nothing about engineering or materials or chemistry or any other field I'd imagine central to massively repurposing a large engine. But hey, a semiconductors guy with specialty in "Process management" should have doors flying open for him in Detroit.

    I can't imagine a guy with that skill set could have an easy time convincing a heavy industry to listen to him, no matter what his idea. It doesn't mean the industry is a closed-minded bunch of trolls, as he seems to think; it just means that he's got no reputation and no credentials, just like the other thousand outsiders who try to send them ideas or schedule pitch meetings every year.
  • is the obvious foot-dragging old-guard mentality of Detroit.

    theres no real incentive to change or innovate anything since they can lobby government bodies to simply inject cash when theyre punished by the market. these companies are headed by people who charter private jets to washington for their dole, and when faced with the disgusting irony of it simply cherry-pick a "hybid" or "green" car to return to washington with. the car or truck they drive doesnt matter, it wont be produced for consumption or
  • WTF? Is it a Slashdot affiliate?

  • Ever since hybrids became more prevalent, I've been waiting for somebody to produce a car modeled after the tower PC case design.

    Imagine a car with standard busses for power and data. Imagine plugging a USB cable into the dash for diagnostic readout. Finally (the hardest part) imagine standard bays for generators and batteries. No, you're not going to swap out an engine too often, and some of the connections like exhaust and fluid cooling are tricky.

    OTOH, the idea of getting the "efficient new engine" th

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