Throughout the history of the internal combustion engine there have been a multitude of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs shouting claims about revolutionary new engine designs promising greater efficiency, more power, fewer emissions and lower production and running costs.
However, to this day we are yet to see anything come up to replace the existing four-stroke engine design currently found in most cars (not including the newer generation of hybrids and all-electrics). Most of these ‘alternative’ designs usually vanish as quickly as they appear but one company, America’s own Pinnacle Engines, has managed to raise a significant $13.5 million in funding and announced plans to commercialize what it calls a “breakthrough ultra-efficient engine” by 2013.
Pinnacle’s new engine design revolves around the concept of the opposed cylinder, something we’ve seen before, but where Pinnacle’s design is unique is that it’s based on a more refined four-stroke design rather than a two-stroke one. The company boasts that its design can boost fuel economy by 30-50 percent when compared to a conventional four-stroke engine.
The core of Pinnacle’s technology resides in its unique engine architecture and its use of the ‘Cleeves’ cycle (named after company founder Monty Cleeves), a cycle that can operate on either the Otto cycle (constant volume combustion) or Diesel cycle (constant pressure combustion). The major benefit is that Pinnacle’s engine could potentially run on multiple fuels such as gasoline, diesel or biofuels.
Looking at the image above, you can see that Pinnacle’s new engine design resembles an inverted 'boxer' engine, where each piston compresses a shared air and fuel mixture per cylinder, firing with the power of two pistons.
The best part is that conventional engine technologies can be employed for further efficiency gains. These could include variable valve timing, direct injection and turbocharging.
Pinnacle claims that it is now in the process of commercializing its technology through a joint development and licensing agreement with an Asian vehicle manufacturer. Production is slated to commence in early 2013.