As the world of automobiles continues to grow, shift, and change with the times, surprising new trends are emerging that could have far-reaching implications for the world of automotive engineering, according to The Ohio State University.
There are certainly quite a few potential areas of exploration for the future of automobiles, including automated driving, advanced propulsion systems, smarter and more fuel efficient cars, and alternative fuel sources.
But as far as changes in 2017 go, there are three major areas where automakers and automotive engineers are focusing their efforts.
Battery systems represent one of the biggest areas of innovation for automakers, especially given the rise in global sales of hybrids, and an increased interest in fully-electric cars.
Given these facts, it’s more important than ever that automakers focus on battery technologies that have long lifespans, meet performance standards, allow for smart monitoring, and fault recognition technology to catch potential defects or battery malfunctions.
More reliable, efficient batteries aren’t the only areas of exploration. Some researchers are looking for completely game-changing batteries and power storage technologies. Using advanced chemical substrates that could allow for a better battery, one which could easily hold up to temperature extremes, provide high performance at a lower weight than Lithium-ion technologies, and boast a longer lifespan.
Turbocharging – And Downsizing
Turbocharging and downsizing engines are becoming an attractive alternative to higher-performance naturally-aspirated engines with larger footprints.
This is for both mechanical and thermodynamic reasons. A smaller engine will allow for higher engine load and increased efficiency. Besides, the reduction in the number of cylinders used in a smaller engine decreases failure rates, and there are fewer moving parts. Smaller engines also weigh much less, which can lead to increases in fuel economy.
Turbocharging is an excellent way to boost the performance of these smaller engines, without sacrificing efficiency.
By recovering otherwise spent exhaust gasses, turbochargers increase the power-to-displacement ratio of an engine, which allows a turbocharged, smaller engine to meet, and sometimes exceed the performance of a larger, naturally-aspirated powerplant.
Advanced Combustion Modes
Engineers are always looking to increase the efficiency of internal combustion engines. Even the best engines have historically topped out at 20% thermal efficiency. However, some including most diesel engines can exceed this benchmark.
HCCI is one of these fields of interest. HCCI stands for homogeneous charge compression ignition, a process that is similar to the compression method used to ignite diesel fuel. By pre-charging, a cylinder with a very homogenized mix of fuel, air, and combustion products from the previous engine cycle, lower emissions, and higher efficiency can be achieved.
Another trend in research for advanced energy management involves the recovery of the energy released by exhaust gasses and coolant systems. Using advanced heat recovery devices, researchers are looking to capture this energy and convert it into mechanical or electrical energy minimizing waste and maximizing efficiency.
The future is certainly bright for the automotive industry. After a few tough years after the 2008 economic crisis, the auto industry enjoyed incredible growth in recent years. Technological innovation is sure to maintain this trend of growth by providing more efficient, inexpensive, and reliable cars.