Opposed Piston Opposed Cylinder
February 10, 2011 7:56 PM   Subscribe

The OPOC engine reignites internal combustion. A new engine company from the Detroit area, Ecomotors, has developed a smaller, cooler, quieter, lighter, stronger, and more efficient power plant for the vehicle of your choice, military or civilian. Bill Gates has $23 million invested.

The OPOC may be a new design, but it's not a new concept for engines; the components are off the shelf, and the designers are seasoned pros. According to EcoMotors, their leadership team has more than 230 years of collective experience in the automotive and power generation industries, has been awarded over 150 patents, and has managed more than 30 powertrain programs and more than two dozen new vehicle launches. Between them the company’s leaders have won four engine of the year awards.
posted by Brian B. (59 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I first read this as 'OPEC'.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:06 PM on February 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Smaller, lighter is particularly excellent for hybrids. A main suckage point for the Chevy volt is dragging a heavy bulky conventional straight-4 around when you're only on battery power. This thing is so flat you could stack batteries on top of it if need be, and being high revving it's great for electrical generation.

I hope it doesn't get choked out of mainstream use by patent rights and licensing fees.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:15 PM on February 10, 2011


if gates is in for $23 million, i'm down for $50
posted by kitchenrat at 8:17 PM on February 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


i prefer the wankel myself
posted by genekelly'srollerskates at 8:17 PM on February 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like it. I remember reading about this several years back in the context of extended-range EVs -- their size and weight was the motivation here, but more than that, you can tune them to specific torques for a sharper efficiency curve (since you're not driving the wheels, you don't need a wide torque range).

My only issue is: (1) the turbocharging (defeating the weight benefit), and (2) hydrocarbon output tends to be worse for 2-stroke engines. Their issue is getting this past California's super-strict 2-stroke regulations.
posted by spiderskull at 8:18 PM on February 10, 2011


That's not an opposed piston engine, this is an opposed piston engine.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:20 PM on February 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


i prefer the wankel myself

Eh, not really practical. Look at the Mazdas that used them -- it's difficult to find one over 100K miles because that engine just consumes itself.
posted by spiderskull at 8:21 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone better make an awesome gif of it!
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:23 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone better make an awesome gif of it!

The Ecomotors link has an animated cutaway on the top space, about ten seconds to load after the titles.
posted by Brian B. at 8:32 PM on February 10, 2011


No, the wankel has unavoidable flaws.

Always good to hear about improvements to the IC engine. Though it'll soon be history as a mass-produced item for vehicles, at least we all hope so.
posted by wilful at 8:36 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh wow. Geeking out a little here, and I don't know anything about mechanical engineering!
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:36 PM on February 10, 2011


Wilful, I think we'll still have IC engines in small powerplants (say, for rural areas or exurbs) for a long time, and it's hard to run a semi-truck on batteries in the near future. And you can imagine this things huge cousin will power supertanker/cargo ships for a while.

Anyway, luckily there are generally sustainable options coming out for those things, too, although they might be further down the pipeline. For example, there are a lot of designs for small, very safe nuclear powerplants (one, about the size of a tree trunk, was suggested to a small Alaskan town that operates on two diesel generators). Or, if nuclear's not your thing, solar panels are getting cheaper every year. And maybe when electricity gets to be more scarce, your neighbors won't complain about wind turbines being set up 15 miles off the coast. IIRC, It's also been proposed that semitrucks could run on jet generators wired to a motor, making it technically a hybrid.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:45 PM on February 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


ya know, I like Bill Gates.
posted by clavdivs at 8:52 PM on February 10, 2011


I read OPOC, and immediately thought of this.
posted by pjern at 8:58 PM on February 10, 2011


Bill Gates: A different kid with autistic tendencies > ruthless pro-patent software mogul > common sense humanitarian who prizes results above fitting in to established narratives of how we should and should not help people.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:59 PM on February 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah, it is really amazing how Gates has turned from being some sort of "universally capitalistic evil" nerd into "saint."

(But I still will never forgive him for my many deaths in oldschool CounterStrike because of the Windows key.)
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:04 PM on February 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


All this is great, but the thermal efficiency is *the* number and I didn't see it in any of the text (videos tl; dw). It's a bit silly to compare a hangar queen to a Cummins diesel engine: that reminds me of "I knew Jack Kennedy. You're no Jack Kennedy."
posted by jet_silver at 9:15 PM on February 10, 2011


[T]heir leadership team has more than 230 years of collective experience in the automotive and power generation industries...

These kinds of lines always crack me up. I guess everybody is supposed to be impressed with such a big number. The sad reality is that it's not really that impressive once you start breaking the figure down.

If the management team is eight people (that's how many have profiles on the company web page) it works out to 28.75 years per person on average. Okay that means people have a few years under their belts and should be considered senior or at least experienced, but it's not extraordinary. If the company counts its leadership team as more than the people who warrant public profiles, it's considerably less impressive.

Heck, I've got one member of my family who alone has well over 50 years in the automotive industry. Now to me that's a number.
posted by sardonyx at 9:16 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


but the thermal efficiency is *the* number

They're claiming above 40% with diesel, but I can't remember where.
posted by Brian B. at 9:25 PM on February 10, 2011


but the thermal efficiency is *the* number

They're claiming above 40% with diesel, but I can't remember where.


It's about a third of the way into the first link. I've seen this technology come up before in hopeful aviation threads. That really does seem the obvious first and best use for it, and the real test for whether it can be made reliable, efficient and as "green" as they claim.

I'm hopeful too, but computer generated images and plastic models of the thing don't impress me anymore. An engine that has been built, field tested and continued to perform through the rigors of dust, load and vibration would do a lot more to get me to perk up.
posted by meinvt at 9:33 PM on February 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's pretty amazing. I love how excited the guy is talking about it.

Here's what I've always wondered about electric-drive hybrids like the volt: Why use a piston engine at all? What about a turbine engine? Wouldn't that be even lighter? Since acceleration is handled by the batteries and motors, you could just run the turbine at it's optimal speed. I can imagine a 100hp jet engine weighing just a few pounds.

The other thing is that you wouldn't need the same reliability as an aircraft jet engine because people won't die if the engine goes out. In fact with the batteries you'd still be able to drive 10-20 miles if it breaks down on you.
posted by delmoi at 10:18 PM on February 10, 2011


Engines like these can completely change the way cars look. Wouldn't it be nice not to have to worry about an engine compartment taking up all that space? Safety nuts will see it as a new way to include even larger crumple zones. Weight-saving nuts will see it as a way to make the car even lower and lighter than before. I can see classic VW beetles becoming popular once people figure out they can sandwich one of these motors into one.
posted by tmt at 10:26 PM on February 10, 2011


delmoi -- there's a few companies working on turbine-based recharging (Wrightspeed, for example). There's a few technical issues to work out, e.g. they're too loud and it's tricky getting the heat out efficiently.

tmt -- I'm not sure you could save that much space, with the oil pump(s), radiator, turbo, exhaust, power steering, A/C, etc.
posted by spiderskull at 10:30 PM on February 10, 2011


Hey Bill.. give me just a million dollars so I can start an educational ensemble of musicians that will tour the world performing concerts and inspiring children across the globe.
posted by ReeMonster at 10:49 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


i prefer the wankel myself

The source of many marital woes all too often.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:16 PM on February 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


A two-stroke diesel, cool.
They picked some interesting problems of traditional engine design to address. (Balance and moving masses inside the engine, specifically). Smart approach, as you can only get so much bang from the fuel, address the inefficiencies in the mechanical design. Has a bit of an, well damn, I should a thought of that.

I wonder if it'll work.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:07 AM on February 11, 2011


A two-stroke diesel

The source of many marital woes all too often.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:26 AM on February 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Based on the first link, I do not think this design suffers from the weaknesses of traditional two-stroke engines. Most importantly the exhaust port is always closed when there is uncombusted fuel in the system.
posted by Nothing at 3:47 AM on February 11, 2011


(Note - of course lubrication is still an issue, and one they admit they are still working on.)
posted by Nothing at 3:51 AM on February 11, 2011


the thermal efficiency is *the* number and I didn't see it in any of the text (videos tl; dw).

I don't think they're claiming that this engine will be any more efficient than a regular 4 stroke. What they're claiming is that it will have a much better power/weight ratio. If you reduce the weight of the engine, you won't require as much fuel to schlep it around, even if it is a little less efficient. For certain applications, that trade off will be worth it.

Being a 2 stroke, this design can't enjoy the benefits of variable-valve-timing, so I expect it to be a little less efficient than most gas 4 strokes. (The 40% efficient diesel target on their website is meaningless. The're just estimating the Carnot efficiency based on the combustion temperature. Call me again when they have a working prototype). It's still a cool piece of engineering that should find a market wherever weight is more important than straight efficiency (aerospace, range-extended vehicles, military)
posted by Popular Ethics at 3:59 AM on February 11, 2011


The source of many marital woes all too often.

I've got your marital woes RIGHT HERE.
posted by jake at 4:41 AM on February 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Great, great stuff here. There have been some significant improvements in the efficiency of the internal combustion engine in the past five years, in particular direct injection and variable timing. That said, both of these improvements have their own problems, notably increased complexity and a tendency to cake carbon on the valves (ask any BMW or Audi enthusiast with their newer DI engines).

The efficiency of autos today can be tied very closely to weight. Audi recently demonstrated a production-caliber S5 coupe (normally with a gas devouring V-8) running a tuned version of its very efficient 2.0T 4-cylinder at 210hp. The car used all sorts of weight reduction technologies to shave something like 800lbs from the car while retaining the same level of safety and creature comforts as the normal car. The result was a vehicle that turned in the same track performance as the V8 but also returned 30mpg highway compared to the ~18mpg of the V8.

This OPOC engine has the potential to significantly cut weight, complexity, friction, heat generation and allow for more compact designs, better balanced cars (lower center of gravity, less space) and should really help the hybrid/electric vehicles as well.

Great technology - but as always, the devil is in the details and there's a big difference between a technology demonstration and making something production worthy that will last 100,000+ miles and be relatively easy to manufacture.
posted by tgrundke at 5:09 AM on February 11, 2011




Ouch
Jason Alexander explains why Capitalism is degrading.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:20 AM on February 11, 2011


Note - of course lubrication is still an issue, and one they admit they are still working on

The source of many marital woes all too often.

Is this a meme yet?
posted by freecellwizard at 6:49 AM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


the components are off the shelf

I can't find anything to support that and I'd proffer the opinion that it is extremely unlikely to be true. The prototype behind the (stumbling, bless him) younger guy on the video looked all bespoke castings (low volume casting methods, too) and the internals with fabulously enthusiastic German guy also are certainly bespoke. You can't make a major departure in engine design with 'off the shelf' components. It's nigh on impossible.

Call me again when they have a working prototype).

I don't know why they don't have any footage - the guy mentioned the engine running smoothly on the dyno, so they clearly have a working prototype. Some of the levels of proof they had for the military project they did (Hans skims over them) relate - if memory serves - to real world proof, rather than showing a bunch of drawings and sim data. So this engine has been running, but if it was a military contract primarily to begin with, I imagine a lot of that may be restricted access. I got the impression they are moving into building a viable mainstream alternative to a working military concept from the video.

What about a turbine engine?

As mentioned, noise and heat rejection. It's less of a hurdle when you're up in the air, but just stand next to a comparable helicopter starting up - Piston versus Turbine, or go to the airport and look at comparable planes (size and power output) and the turbine ones are a crap load louder. There are enough videos of people putting tiny turbines onto skateboards and golf carts and crazy stuff to see that the smaller engine don't get a whole lot quieter either.

Being a 2 stroke, this design can't enjoy the benefits of variable-valve-timing, so I expect it to be a little less efficient than most gas 4 strokes.

This is an issue. Having worked for a relatively radical aircraft engine company employing a half two stroke cycle engine (2 stroke intake, cam and valve exhaust), it really isn't hard to show well against existing aviation piston engines. The massive momentum and resistance to development that certification causes means that aviation engines (small piston ones anyway - 350hp down) are a long way back from automotive development. So any newer engine kicks their arse - the engine we had burned 35% less fuel than the equivalent Lycoming at cruise, and it was almost 10% lighter.

Hopefully this engine company have done their homework, and aren't artificially buoyed by this relatively easy success. Interestingly, they seem to be aiming their sights firmly at the military angle (our engine got an extreme amount of interest from military projects from power plant/aux power unit/fast boat installations) which is a lot easier to be revolutionary in than the massive development world of passenger cars. Even commercial trucks is an easier market to crack in that regard.

If the model they show is 300bhp, I'd be interested to see how it scales down to a, say, 150hp module. I think that's a more realistic step size for a car, and the physical size of the one they have now would be hell on earth to package into a passenger car - it's just way too wide. Scaling your new engine design while retaining quite the same advantages in a slightly different market will be a challenge, but it'd be interesting to see how it goes.

Worth knowing is that, although their budget still remains less than Bill Gates investment over the 17 years they have been going, the engine company I worked for is still in partial production and mostly development. The engine destroys the competition for the slot it was aimed for, but changes in regulation has meant it doesn't appeal to the wider band that was created with Light Sport and so they have been forced into rethinks and reshuffles (Capacity versus weight versus power) to try and hit the magic number to get into production. Hopefully this company doesn't struggle the same way.

My only issue is: (1) the turbocharging (defeating the weight benefit)

I am struggling to think of any way that turbo charging would defeat a weight benefit. Quite the opposite, unless I am missing something in your statement. Adding a turbo charger is not that significant a weight gain and the power to overall weight improvement is significant.
posted by Brockles at 7:03 AM on February 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Popular Ethics: If you reduce the weight of the engine, you won't require as much fuel to schlep it around...

And also in a military vehicle engine weight can be exchanged for armor weight.
posted by XMLicious at 7:08 AM on February 11, 2011


I read something about these guys developing an efficient rotary engine a couple of years ago. I haven't heard anything recently so take that with a grain of salt.
posted by dabug at 7:10 AM on February 11, 2011


I'm not an engineer, but this looks very cool. As an owner of a turbocharged Subaru, I'm already sold on the benefits of and opposed-cylinder layout and turbocharging. I hope they can get this idea to work.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:25 AM on February 11, 2011


I got 140,000 miles on my Mazda before it bit the dust and the problem wasn't with the Wankel.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:26 AM on February 11, 2011


> Gates has turned from being some sort of "universally capitalistic evil" nerd into "saint."

Money and time will do that. Carnegie was a right wee shit.
posted by scruss at 11:11 AM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nothing writes "(Note - of course lubrication is still an issue, and one they admit they are still working on.)"

Can someone knowledgeable explain why 2 strokes are harder to lubricate than 4 strokes?

Brockles writes "As mentioned, noise and heat rejection. It's less of a hurdle when you're up in the air, but just stand next to a comparable helicopter starting up - Piston versus Turbine, or go to the airport and look at comparable planes (size and power output) and the turbine ones are a crap load louder. There are enough videos of people putting tiny turbines onto skateboards and golf carts and crazy stuff to see that the smaller engine don't get a whole lot quieter either."

Chrysler Turbines weren't all that noisy thanks to extensive engineering on noise abatement. At least not so noisy that it would have prevented them from being produced. It is a hard but solvable problem.

Brockles writes "I'd be interested to see how it scales down to a, say, 150hp module. I think that's a more realistic step size for a car, and the physical size of the one they have now would be hell on earth to package into a passenger car - it's just way too wide. Scaling your new engine design while retaining quite the same advantages in a slightly different market will be a challenge, but it'd be interesting to see how it goes."

I wonder if the engine couldn't be mounted length wise. You'd end up with a substantial tunnel but that can be acceptable or even hardly noticeable (in say pickups).
posted by Mitheral at 2:48 PM on February 11, 2011


Can someone knowledgeable explain why 2 strokes are harder to lubricate than 4 strokes?

The guy mentions the main issue in the video - thrust is always in one direction so there is no 'lee side' all around the bearing to get oil in to lubricate and cool the surface. In a four stroke you just pressurise the bearing with oil all the time and as the load direction changes through the cycle, oil gets everywhere. You just up the pressure and/or oil volume until enough gets in. Imagine your foot on a bicycle pedal - when there is no load on your foot, that is easy lubrication time between your foot and the pedal. It's as simple as that - if your piston is jammed down constantly, any oil between would be squeezed out and can't do its job.

In a two stroke, the 'push' of the piston never changes so you have to get oil directly underneath a surface that is under constant pressure anyway. You either need needle roller bearings (that have a gap between each roller to allow oil in, but conversely have less bearing surface available to support the load and so need to be larger) or some kind of fancy gallery system or.. whatever the company mentioned have come up with. I've seen internally drilled conrods that allow oil up from the crank and have the piston sitting on a ball of oil pressure at the top of the con rod before, but they too were difficult to keep cool and lubricated effectively. It's a challenge for the engine design, that's for sure.

I wonder if the engine couldn't be mounted length wise. You'd end up with a substantial tunnel but that can be acceptable or even hardly noticeable (in say pickups).

Other than the need to change the orientation of the drive by 90 degrees. Itself a significant packaging issue.
posted by Brockles at 3:10 PM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey this is just my speed! I'm a mechanical engineering PhD student who studies automotive combustion and emissions. I'm not an expert at evaluating new technology but things like this pop up on midterm exams to test your ability to apply familiar fundamentals to new situations. I have a few comments.

I like the idea but I foresee considerable emissions and longevity challenges due to sealing and lubrication difficulties. These emissions issues are common to "alternative engines" like Wankel rotary engines.

It may be tempting to equate burning less fuel with emitting less pollution. In fact fuel efficiency often comes at the cost of increased emissions. You may burn less fuel overall (better mpg or l/100km) but the overall/absolute rate of pollutant emissions may increase in g/mi or g/km. One great example is NOx emissions. Efficiency and NOx are essentially correlated to higher compression ratios/temperatures. NOx and smog are correlated too, so that efficiency has an emissions penalty. Another example is the catalytic converter that is essentially ubiquitous on gasoline engines now. Although it is more efficient to burn lean, it renders most catalytic converters completely ineffective so tailpipe emissions go up dramatically. Again you see an efficiency benefit at the cost of poor emissions (control) performance.

I am always skeptical of something "off-the-shelf" that has more CAD drawings than prototypes. It's easy to make a 3D model, but if it's truly commodity hardware it should be relatively easy to build too.

Success in military trials isn't a guarantee of success in the market. Often their goals are divergent from commercialization. For example, the military likes the idea of series-hybrid Hummers because each one is essentially a mobile gen. set. (i.e. portable electricity generation). However most road-going hybrids available now (that aren't "mild hybrids") are parallel or series-parallel because the inefficiency of going mechanical-electrical-electrical-mechanical is not tolerable for the automobile consuming public who have less use for portable electricity generation.

The quoted 40% in fuel consumption reduction doesn't mean that MPG would go up by 40%. Based on his quote of "decreased pumping losses" I think that means he is comparing to a conventional naturally aspirated (non turbo-, non supercharged) gasoline engine, for which parasitic pumping losses are the dominant loss mechanism at low/part loads. At higher loads I would be surprised if this engine could produce a 40% improvement compared with conventional technology. Basically I suspect he's comparing his number with the worst-case number for gasoline to make it sound better. To be fair, most engine development engineers are chasing single percentage points or fractions of percentage points, roughly 1-5% on the same scale he's using so 40% would "reignite" internal combustion.

However, if you include in the comparison the newer turbocharged gasoline engines, diesels or hybrids then part load losses are decreased and the marginal benefit of the OPOC layout decreases.

I totally believe their claim of increased power density. 2-stroke engines are great for power density. They're about 2-times better to start with because you get 2x as many power strokes per revolution. Also, the most efficient internal combustion engines in the world are 2-stroke marine diesels used on supertankers and the like. They achieve ~95-99% of maximum theoretical efficiency. They pollute like you wouldn't believe though because their emissions are largely unregulated and they consume essentially the dirtiest fuel imaginable.

/combustion-nerd
posted by KevCed at 3:45 PM on February 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I should qualify my statement regarding the most efficient engines to: reciprocating piston internal combustion engines in the world.

I don't know as much about gas turbine efficiency records.
posted by KevCed at 3:49 PM on February 11, 2011


The quoted 40% in fuel consumption reduction doesn't mean that MPG would go up by 40%

They didn't quote that, they quoted 40% efficiency (presumably energy efficiency). It was not a comparative number, but it's a high claim.
posted by Brockles at 4:12 PM on February 11, 2011


They didn't quote that, they quoted 40% efficiency (presumably energy efficiency). It was not a comparative number, but it's a high claim.

At 3:14 he claims ~40% efficiency (from 220 g/kWh), presumably that's thermal efficiency. However, at 3:31 he claims that the displacement-on-demand ability of such a modular system would permit a 40% reduction in fuel consumption. I believe that is an optimistic claim related to part-load performance. It's not impossible but I think it's a disingenuous comparison with currently available technology.

Brockles: I think I've seen you in a few other engine threads. Are you a U of T alum?
posted by KevCed at 6:38 AM on February 12, 2011


I don't think he's comparing to normally aspirated petrol engines, I think it's most likely referring to whatever power plant was in the package before, which if it is a crappy old HMV or otherwise outdated military vehicle (maybe even the helicopter installation) it's pretty easy to hit 40% better efficiency. After all, with a HMV that's probably going from something like 10 to 14mpg... It doesn't mean stellar numbers to make a sizeable difference against crappy competition.

Are you a U of T alum?

Nope. UK educated.
posted by Brockles at 10:01 AM on February 12, 2011


However, at 3:31 he claims that the displacement-on-demand ability of such a modular system would permit a 40% reduction in fuel consumption.

Also, I think he's referring to a 300hp modular engine that is running in off-load 150hp form - ie half the engine is running - compared to all of the competitor 300hp engine still running all of it at tiny load. Again, 40% is much more likely in that scenario.
posted by Brockles at 10:06 AM on February 12, 2011


Since the video is not clear about what the OPOC has a 40% advantage over, I have made an educated guess.

The increase in thermal efficiency from part load to full load is much more significant for gasoline engines than diesel engines. This is because diesel engines burn lean, are not knock-limited, and have significantly smaller pumping losses.

Deactivating part of the engine forces the operating part up to a higher load, and reduces parasitic losses but effectively reduces the power density of the engine. Claiming this as an advantage only makes sense if you are comparing to gasoline engines.

I agree that diesel is much more likely in a military application, but then the comparison he makes is less valid since he mentions passenger car applications repeatedly. There are easier and cheaper ways to increase heavy duty diesel fuel economy than a completely new platform such as this.

A 40% decrease in fuel consumption to a 40% thermal efficiency would suggest he's comparing to gasoline engines or to old diesel technology. Most current diesels can achieve thermal efficiencies around 40%. It seems analogous to bragging about a new top of the line quad-core processor by comparing it with a P3 or P4 chip of 5-7 year vintage. Maybe that's what it takes to generate buzz and investment capital. It does not represent a complete statement of its performance, since the reference for its advantage is not clearly stated.

Also, fuel consumption and thermal efficiency can't be directly equated. The former is an integration over a drive cycle for which load and speed change. Consequently thermal efficiency is variable, particularly so for gasoline engines.
posted by KevCed at 12:39 PM on February 12, 2011


Brockles nailed it (as much as I'd like to believe):

the components are off the shelf

I can't find anything to support that and I'd proffer the opinion that it is extremely unlikely to be true. The prototype behind the (stumbling, bless him) younger guy on the video looked all bespoke castings (low volume casting methods, too) and the internals with fabulously enthusiastic German guy also are certainly bespoke. You can't make a major departure in engine design with 'off the shelf' components. It's nigh on impossible.


OTS means OTS. Clearly, they are lying about it. ("NO!", he cried out in his most-shocked voice, "Why would they lie?!")


I don't know why they don't have any footage - the guy mentioned the engine running smoothly on the dyno, so they clearly have a working prototype.

When every freaking camera phone can record video, this is bunk.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:55 PM on February 13, 2011


When every freaking camera phone can record video, this is bunk.

Honestly, I don't know about that. The engine company I worked for had the MD so totally excitable about a CAD animation of the engine working that it was the only thing he wanted to show about in how it ran for 6-7 years after it ran on the dyno. I think our engine had run in about 4 configurations and for about 500 hours on the dyno before we thought to video it. Even then the issue than was that a development dyno is not at all the most attractive thing in the world and it was deemed bad PR to show it. Wires and sensors hanging everywhere. It looked (from a layman's perspective) like the engine needed massive amounts of electronic to keep it running, despite the fact that it was entirely mechanical and all of the wires were large amounts of data logging related to load cycle tracking and aviation test compliance. It just looked like crap.

Between that and the MD's obsession with the CAD sim, it just never seemed acceptable to show the engine running on the Dyno. Never underestimate the lack of logic from a group of engineers being in charge of their own marketing. It's not necessarily from some 'we don't have a running engine' smokescreen, even in this day and age.
posted by Brockles at 2:53 PM on February 13, 2011


OPOC engine running (video)
posted by Brian B. at 9:29 PM on February 13, 2011


...thereby totally proving my point about development dyno cells looking like shite.
posted by Brockles at 8:50 PM on February 14, 2011


It's kind of hilariously non-specific. "Oh, of course! Why, just look at this video of it on the dyno. You can tell, clearly, that... uh... it's making noise. Kinda looks like one of them Ural motorcycle engines, doesn't it? heh heh... Well. Now we've seen that."
posted by From Bklyn at 2:13 AM on February 15, 2011


My family and friends who have visited my lab seem more impressed than anything at the maze of wires, tubes and cables that crisscross my setup. I have been jokingly called out by research sponsors for having obviously tidied up my test cell before taking pictures for presentations.

I don't think having an untidy instrumented engine is a the whole reason they have held back on pictures or videos of working prototypes. The engineers who consult or work doing due diligence for VCs/investors will easily dismiss concerns about the apparent state of affairs of the development dyno, explaining as you aptly predicted that that is what all engine development looks like. My contention is that there's a paucity of footage and real data available for evaluation because the realized engine does not perform as well as the predictions or design estimates, particularly for emissions and longevity.

Maybe this new flavour of diesel will be just the ticket for diesel to lose its (unjustified) stigma in the North American market.
posted by KevCed at 6:50 AM on February 15, 2011


My family and friends who have visited my lab seem more impressed than anything at the maze of wires, tubes and cables that crisscross my setup.

We used to get the opposite reaction from customers and investors - but these were people that were building their own planes (rather than family members more likely impressed by how 'complicated looking' your project is rather than judging the engine itself) and they weren't necessarily able to understand and visualise the engine without the stuff on it. They couldn't tell which was install related and which was dyno monitoring. It's not an attractive set-up anywhere, and people that are impressed by a bunch of wires aren't really the same people that will give you lots of money, I think.

In addition, engines - especially and particularly diesel engines - sound like rattly old bags of shite in a closed room with no sound deadening. Once our engine had run in a plane we discouraged customers from listening to the engine in the dyno first of all as it sounded so horrific (especially on cold start) but was much, much nicer in the plane. It practically purred when warm (surprised me, that's for sure) but sounded like a cat running through empty paint tins on the dyno.

While I understand your perspective, I don't think it is as telling or as ominous (by any means) that little dyno running video is available. With a small company, one or two opinions matter most and if they both think it sounds/looks like crap, then that footage gets restricted. It might be as simple as that.
posted by Brockles at 8:14 AM on February 15, 2011


Here's another company with a similar idea, although with a different chamber & valve configuration:
http://www.tourengine.com/technology/cycle.html
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:31 AM on February 23, 2011


Never underestimate the lack of logic from a group of engineers being in charge of their own marketing. It's not necessarily from some 'we don't have a running engine' smokescreen, even in this day and age.

OK, point taken, Brockles. I am an engineer, and am constantly reminded that most of them think masses of numbers and words negate the need for presentation design.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:06 PM on March 1, 2011


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