Mark Gostick, COO of Camcon Automotive, on the future of the IC engine

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Whether it’s from the government or the mainstream press, attacks on the internal combustion engine are coming thick and fast. Believe the noise and you could be forgiven for thinking we’ll all be driving electric cars by 2020, with fossil fuel power consigned to history

But to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the ICE’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

As a company that has spent the last six years developing a new camless valvetrain system, you won’t be surprised to hear us say that. At Camcon we’re certainly not luddites, though. And as a reader of this magazine, neither are you.

Truth is, we’re realists. Diesel’s future is unclear and Bloomberg’s latest Electric Vehicle Outlook report predicts that less than one in four vehicles sold globally will be fully electric by 2030. There are also issues around charging infrastructure and even if mass take-up outstrips forecasts, you can bet government would be quick to replace lost revenue at the pumps with higher BEV fiscal penalties.

So, what’s the future for the majority of vehicles? Optimized, electrified gasoline powertrains. And that’s where our Intelligent Valve Actuation (IVA) system has so much potential.

IVA replaces the camshaft with a set of actuators, giving unprecedented control of the combustion process. So far, we’ve completed over 1,000 hours of testing on an Ingenium gasoline engine – thanks must go to Jaguar Land Rover who has been a crucial R&D partner throughout the program – and have recently installed this IVA-equipped unit in a demonstrator vehicle.

We’ve barely scratched the surface, but with the system operating on inlet only we have shown the potential to cut CO₂ by 12-15% at a vehicle level and in the next few months we’ll have IVA on exhaust too, which will result in up to a 20% CO₂ reduction.

That’s diesel economy without the associated emissions issues – and all without an electric motor. Add IVA to a hybrid application and the fun really begins.

For a start, eliminating the timing drive means we can slash engine length – improving packaging, allowing the same powertrain to go into a smaller vehicle, or fitting a larger electrical machine in the same vehicle.

Thanks to IVA’s flexibility, the engine’s motoring torque is reduced, so switching it off and on is not just faster but uses less energy, allowing more frequent restarts, further improving efficiency.

IVA even allows us to play with engine braking, modifying it according to the battery’s state of charge, giving improved regeneration when the charge level is low and high engine braking when it’s high. What’s more we can engage and disengage Miller cycle valve timing at a moment’s notice, benefiting from the CO₂ advantage of Miller cycle during hybrid running or from the drivability improvement brought by more conventional timings when the gasoline engine is doing most of the work. We can play all sorts of tricks.

And because IVA is infinitely adaptable, it’s possible to ‘geo-tune’, optimizing for low NOx in an urban environment or especially low CO₂ in a rural cruise. There are huge NVH benefits too: IVA is much quieter, with very low noise levels when switching the engine on and off, improving the hybrid vehicle refinement.

Misunderstanding around internal combustion is widespread right now but with global vehicle volumes predicted to rise to 115 million cars by the middle of the next decade – up from 94 million last year – and the vast majority of those being hybrids with some kind of internal combustion, we have to make the most of our resources.

The gasoline engine has come a long way since its inception. And it’s still got a long way to go.

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