If GM can pull off this new bit of technology, I’ll officially recommend the company as the new definition of awesome.
It seems the General is experimenting with ways to combine the fuel efficiency of a diesel engine with the cleaner burning traits of a gas engine. It’s being called an HCCI engine, which stands for homogeneous combustion compression ignition.
A traditional gas engine uses a spark from spark plugs to ignite the fuel. A diesel engine uses compression to accomplish that goal, essentially squeezing the diesel and air mixture until it ignites.
Until now no one has been able to create a gasoline engine that works on compression, which is more efficient because it burns the available fuel all at once rather than from a source point (the spark). To save all the other technical details, it translates into about a 15 percent jump in fuel economy.
GM is developing the engine to run on combustion from idle to about 3,000 rpm, above which it would switch over to traditional ignition for power at highway speeds. While the HCCI engine will run like a diesel, it won’t provide the massive torque of diesel and will power only small cars. GM hopes to have the technology available within the next decade, but I wonder if by then it’ll be too little too late.
It’s been a long time since a company has changed the way fuel is burned in an engine. While I commend GM on their innovative thinking, HCCI is the kind of technology we desperately need right now.
Come on GM, get this thing to market in two or three years! Do that and we’ll all think you’re awesome.
How much extra would you pay for a vehicle equipped with a four-cylinder HCCI engine?