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Scuderi preparing second prototype for air hybrid engine

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  January 30, 2013 11:45 AM

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Quietly, at its small offices in West Springfield and research labs in San Antonio, Scuderi is building a completely new internal combustion engine it hopes will power everything from cars to portable generators.

The Globe ran a detailed overview on the company in September 2011. Scuderi has been testing a new engine design for more than a decade that it claims will lower emissions and fuel consumption while adding more power in a smaller package. Company engineers even went so far to design an air hybrid system, whereby a compressed air tank could be directly attached to the engine's intake. The promise: Superior fuel economy from a lighter, cheaper hybrid system that eschews heavy, expensive batteries.

This might seem a bit far-fetched, if not impossible for mainstream automakers to accept, had not Peugeot-Citroen introduced its own air hybrid system that will arrive in 2016. Automakers, clamped by emissions laws that tighten every year and faced with a market wary of expensive electric cars, need to advance the traditional engine.

That's where Scuderi could come rushing in.

Right now, the company is beginning to develop its second-generation prototype engine -- known as the Split-Cycle -- since its first in 2009. The idea is to separate the compression and ignition cycles into two chambers rather than one, resulting in a pair of cylinders that are asymmetrical in size.

But Scuderi isn't limiting itself to two-cylinder engines. The ultimate plan is to scale the concept to four, six or even eight cylinders, and pair them with an air hybrid system that can save fuel at any step of the way.

"We are looking into the potential to be able to reduce the number of compression cylinders that will allow us to put more work on the crankshaft and more work in creating the combustion," said Bill Wrinn, the company's marketing director.

Wrinn said Scuderi has several interested parties, from automakers to engine manufacturers that run combined heat and power units (the kind that power and heat hospitals and other large buildings). Even natural gas-powered electrical generators aren't out of the question. Peugeot-Citroen has signed a non-disclosure agreement with Scuderi, although the two technologies are not related, Wrinn said. The company has not revealed a production timeline or any potential manufacturers willing to use its technology under license.

"We're still at the beginning of a new thermodynamic cycle. There's a lot more discovery to take place in working with this type of system," he said. "As this starts to proliferate the market and the industry, you're going to see the engineering community really discover new things with the exciting configuration of the Split-Cycle."

Even if Scuderi's concept never powers your next car, there's at least one certainty: Don't bet against gas-powered engines dominating the next several decades.

Scuderi-engine-air-hybrid.jpg

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
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AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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