We are all familiar with the internal combustion engines that we have in our cars. They are remarkably reliable but not very efficient, turning only 15% to 20% of the gasoline they burn into motion. The rest of the energy in the gasoline is lost as waste heat.
Many people have tried many things to improve the efficiency - some with more credibility than others:
Now there is a new engine design getting a lot of press this week because the U.S. government has decided to fund it:
ARPA-E is providing $2.5 million in funding to develop the engine designed by Dr. Norbert Mueller of Michigan State University and the claim is this:
Michigan State University is developing a novel generator for use in hybrid automobile engines. Nearly 85 percent of automobile fuel is wasted. Only 15 percent of fuel is actually used for propulsion. The new generator will make better use of automobile fuel. It is projected that the generator will use 60 percent of fuel for propulsion, thus significantly reducing the percentage of fuel that is wasted. The generator is compact in size (about the size of a cooking pot), yet it will replace nearly 1,000 lbs. of engine, transmission, cooling system, emissions, and fluids. As a result, automobile companies will be able to produce lighter, more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles. If successful, this project will significantly increase fuel consumption efficiency, reduce automobile emissions by up to 90 percent, substantially decrease U.S. imports of fossil fuels from foreign sources, and create new jobs.
Elsewhere the ARPA-E site claims that the wave disc engine will result in "a 'hyper efficient' serial hybrid vehicle that provides a 3.5 times improvement in fuel consumption efficiency."
Hear Dr. Mueller describe the engine here:
Why does this sound too good to be true? Because there are limits to how efficient a real-world gas turbine engine can be, and the claims here ("the generator will use 60 percent of fuel for propulsion") are beyond those limits. In addition, when looking at the image on this page...
I would love to be proven wrong on this - the world could really benefit from a 60% efficient engine. However, these three problems lead me to believe that this engine will not be 60% efficient in the real world. We can revisit in a year and see if I am right or wrong.
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