This morning I read on Jalopnik.com that Koenigsegg is deep into researching engines without a cam for their next supercar. If you find yourself reading this and have little technical interest in cars, hang with me, this is the future of the internal combustion engine as we know it. Previously reserved solely for the playtime of F1 engineers, Cam free engines are undoubtedly in our future.
Tech side note: The cam shaft in an engine is a big metal rod with different sized lumps on it (cam shaped) that spins with the engine. As is spins, the protruding cams move the intake and exhaust valves in a fixed pattern decided by the shape and position of the lobes. It’s a hunk of metal - it's not exactly fancy.
If the valves could be moved by another method, it could offer up infinite tuning of the intake and exhaust characteristics of the engine, allowing massively better fuel economy and indeed power.
Think of the variability like a dimmer switch in your house. Without it, you have on or off and will use a fixed amount of electricity. Add a dimmer and all of a sudden you have infinite control over your light and energy usage. Not the greatest analogy, but hey, it’s what I’ve got right now.
This current research revolves around hydraulically actuated lifters moving the valves, but I think we should assume valve train efficiency is a heavy research topic in general. As a mechanical Engineer, this truly mechanical solution to achieve greater economy and performance is really exciting. Everyone like to talk electric and how it’s the future, but the internal combustion engine has a LONG way to go. Clean diesel is relatively easy and successful, a couple of years ago BMW did direct injection en-masse and Chevrolet has followed. As turbo charging and smaller displacement engines become all the rage, the stage is set for someone to successfully address the dinosaur cam.
Who’s first to mass production? My bet is that BMW nail it first, but how fun would it be if someone like Hyundai came out of left field and shocked the industry?
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