The best engine innovations of 2016

28 December 2016 - 12:47 By AFP Relaxnews

From an engine that says goodbye to cams to a diesel that does away with turbolag, 2016 has produced more than its fair share of engineering innovation and ingenuity; here are three of the most impressive feats.

The Koenigsegg ValveFree engine
The Koenigsegg ValveFree engine
Image: ©Koenigsegg Automotive

Easy cam, easy go
The cam and the camshaft have been mainstays of the internal combustion engine since it moved beyond a single cylinder. It's the rod that sits above the cylinder head whose arms (or cams) rotate around opening and closing the valves to let in fuel and air or let out exhaust gases.

However, no matter how much it's enhanced, it's still a rod with cams along it at set intervals. Enter Koenigsegg, or more precisely FreeValve AB, a sister company that takes the Swedish hypercar maker's innovations and runs with them. Its FreeValve engine, which debuted in a Qoros concept car at the Beijing Motor Show in April, ditches cams altogether.

Instead, actuators individually and independently open and close any valve on any cylinder at any time. The resulting boost in efficiency and power is amazing. The difference between this engine and a traditional motor with cams is like the difference between playing table football and "FIFA 17" on the PS4. Instead of spinning a rod back and forward so that one of three fixed players hits a ball, a digital control pad enables you to take full control of the player with or closest to the ball, anywhere on the field at any point during a game.

"We believe that one day in the very near future [it] will represent as big a transition, or bigger, than the move from carburetors to direct injection," said Christian von Koenigsegg.

Audi in a spin
Audi launched the world's first production V8 diesel engine with a third, independent electrically powered turbocharger. The third compressor eliminates any turbo lag, upping responsiveness, acceleration and performance while also boosting efficiency. And all because the engine doesn't have to be already revving in order for the turbos to start turning and forcing extra air into the cylinders. "[It] is a world first in the competitive environment," said Audi board member Dr. Stefan Knirsch. "[The] engine achieves the consumption figures of a six-cylinder." In the Audi SQ7 TDI SUV it offers 31.8mpg on the combined cycle, yet a 0-100km/h of just 4.7 seconds.

 

The Audi SQ7 TDI ©Audi AG

BMW makes a splash
BMW's new M4 GTS grabbed everyone's attention when it went on sale this year and not just because of its aggressive styling or performance statistics. It got noticed because some of the car's 493bhp (from a 3-liter turbocharged straight-six) came from an all-new water injection system. Water vapor is sprayed into the combustion chamber before fuel to lower the temperature so that when the fuel does arrive, it ignites with a bigger, more powerful bang. The system, developed with Bosch, can be ‘tuned' to organically boost horsepower or efficiency or a little of both and could soon be showing up on cars from other companies. Bosch intends to license the technology.

The BMW M4 GTS ©BMW Group

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