Don't give up on the internal combustion engine just yet

(March 2010) In a time when hybrids and electric vehicles (EVs) grab the lion's share of automotive tech headlines, at last one organization still believes there's a good deal more fuel efficiency to be extracted from today's modern internal combustion engines — something in the neighborhood of 50-75 percent more.

Transonic Corporation, a small tech group in Camarillo, Calif., has created a new fuel-injection package — known as TSCi Fuel Injection — that employs an advanced type of injector plus next-generation electronic controls, a high-efficiency fuel pump and a pressure accumulator to achieve the these results. While the TSCi technology is optimized to work with "modern high-compression diesel architecture" engines, Transonic says it's also possible to fit it to engines that burn everything from conventional diesel and gasoline or E85 to pure biodiesel, heptane, ethanol, and even vegetable oil.

Currently covered by three patents and with 14 more pending, the TSCi system's proprietary but cost-effective design is centered on using heat and pressure to elevate the fuel being used to a supercritical state. "Supercritical" refers to a kind of a nether region between gas and liquid where unique -- and in this case, extremely favorable -- things can happen. Notably, fuel injected in this supercritical mode burns far more quickly and completely, greatly increasing operating efficiency while reducing emissions.

Transonic says its TSCi Fuel Injection system is effective over the full range of engine operating conditions — from normal 14.7:1 stoichiometric air-to-fuel ratios at full throttle to a lean 80:1 ratio at cruise — and produces just 50 percent of the oxides of nitrogen (NOx) of comparable standard engines. Equally critical, the company claims its real-time programmable control of combustion heat release dramatically increases efficiency and that the TSCi technology is fully compatible with various kinds of advanced thermal management and exhaust gas recovery systems, electronic valves, and advanced combustion-chamber geometries.

The caveat is that using the TSCi fuel-injection system on anything but a dedicated diesel engine will require the architecture to be capable of withstanding the rigors of elevated compression ratios.

Early results of Transonic's TSCi system look promising to say the least. A working automotive application on a car the size of a Prius reportedly recorded 64 mpg in highway evaluation and lab trials currently being performed on another have netted 98 mpg at a steady 50 mph. Transonic Corporation is currently in talks with several automakers about using its TSCi Fuel Injection system, which it foresees as being fully production ready in 24-36 months.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Kelly Blue Book