Aug 3, 2023

Technology Fuels a New Future for Internal Combustion Engine

Internal combustion engines have been around for over a century, powering everything from cars to heavy machinery. Imagine a world with less carbon footprint with more renewable energy sources being used?

However, as concerns about climate change and air pollution have grown, the future of the internal combustion engine has been called into question. This concerns fuel consumption and the general fuel economy.

Many have predicted that electric vehicles and electric truck vehicles would soon replace traditional gas-powered cars or even those using renewable diesel, synthetic fuels, and other liquid fuels.

However, recent advancements in technology may offer a new future for the internal combustion engine with great power density.

From new engine designs to alternative fuels, these advancements are making the engine more efficient and eco-friendly than ever before. Engine efficiency in the making.

In this blog post, we will explore the latest technological breakthroughs that are revolutionizing the internal combustion engine and shaping its future.

We will discuss how advancements in materials science and data analytics are enabling engineers to design engines that are lighter, more durable, and more fuel-efficient for better renewable road transportation.

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What Do Fleet Owners Say About the Internal Combustion Engine

As per the insights shared by fleet executives and maintenance managers, there is a possibility that the demise of the internal combustion engine, which has been a topic of excitement with the advent of electric powertrains, may be overstated.

Industry pioneers have been making diligent efforts to augment the longevity of the fundamental piston engine.

The key to prolonging the lifespan of internal combustion engines (ICEs) lies in the adoption of sustainable fuel sources. Attention fossil fuels and fossil fuel energy experts out there.

By leveraging eco-friendly renewable fuels, fleet operators can enjoy reduced fuel and maintenance costs, while also mitigating the harmful effects of greenhouse gases.

Furthermore, these cleaner engines are better equipped to meet increasingly stringent emission standards for primary pollutants such as NOx, particulates, and unburned hydrocarbons. Industry experts posit that the ultimate outcome of this fuel technology revolution will be a more sustainable future that retains the familiar trappings of the present.

As Per ClearFlame Engine Technologies

According to BJ Johnson, the co-founder and CEO of ClearFlame Engine Technologies, the issues with diesel engines primarily stem from the fuel they use rather than the engines themselves.

In order to address the issue at hand, the development of novel engines that rely on low-carbon fuel sources is in progress. To achieve this, a significant portion of these fuel sources will be extracted from non-mineral origins that are capable of harnessing solar energy directly. This approach will effectively reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Lesser harmful emissions and tailpipe emissions by as suggested by the leaders in engine technology.

Furthermore, there is a plan to implement the use of renewable natural gas to harvest low-carbon methane from various sources including agricultural activities and landfills. The captured methane can subsequently be utilized as fuel for engines.

Whilst it is true that carbon dioxide is emitted from two-stroke engines, the levels of emissions are considerably lower in comparison to those produced by diesel fuel, leading to a net reduction in carbon output, commonly known as a "carbon-negative" outcome. There will be further future development on this.

Cummins is gearing up for a major product launch in 2024. The X15N, a cutting-edge natural gas engine, is set to make its debut as the first of its kind developed on the company's recently introduced fuel-agnostic platform. This innovative technology is poised to revolutionize the industry and position Cummins as a leader in sustainable power solutions. With its advanced design and forward-thinking features, the X15N promises to deliver unparalleled performance and reliability for years to come. Stay tuned for more updates on this game-changing development from Cummins.

This new technology employs common parts below the cylinder head, with a unique cylinder head and spark ignition system to facilitate cooling.

David King, the North American on-highway product manager for natural and renewable gas engines at Cummins, has noted that the X15N's 15-liter engine is a true game-changer, boasting exceptional "get up and go" capabilities that are set to transform the industry. With 1,850 pound-feet of torque available at 1,100 rpms and 1,800 pound-feet at the X15 diesel's torque peak of 1,000 rpms, the X15N is anticipated to generate less noise than a diesel engine while idling or generating power.

As Per Westport Fuel Systems

The pioneering introduction of a natural gas engine that strictly adheres to Rudolf Diesel's classic theory has been attributed to none other than David Johnson, the esteemed CEO of Westport Fuel Systems.

The utilization of an advanced high-pressure direct injection system, developed by Westport, is a prominent feature of the engine. This innovative system has been designed to operate on natural gas as the primary fuel source, with a minute quantity of diesel utilized solely for ignition purposes.

The HPDI injector, which is patented, utilizes a dual concentric needle design to supply both fuels under intense pressure. The engine maintains diesel-like efficiency, power grid, and torque, but necessitates the use of liquefied natural gas to generate the high-injection pressure required by its onboard fuel pump.

Additionally, a selective catalytic reduction system for NOx and a simple diesel particulate filter will be needed. In an effort to reduce CO2 emissions, especially when renewable natural gas is used as fuel, Westport and the Volvo Group have recently signed a letter of intent to employ the system. Indeed a smooth transition in terms of efficiency.

Hyliion has recently unveiled a state-of-the-art hybrid variant, known as the ERX Powertrain, which effectively harnesses renewable natural gas to propel operations.This innovative solution integrates a sizable battery pack located at the back of the cab with a 12-liter engine that runs on RNG. The ERX is capable of charging off the grid, delivering an impressive 75 miles of all-electric operation. The vehicle's 12-liter natural gas engine solely drives a generator, which serves to charge the battery and supply drive via tandem electric axles. In addition, the axles are designed to regenerate during braking, resulting in an impressive total range of approximately 1,000 miles. The ERX Powertrain boasts a peak horsepower of up to 672, and its batteries power all hotel loads during rest periods.

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As per Sandia National Laboratories

At the Sandia National Laboratories, Charles Mueller, a prominent scientist, spearheaded a research project aimed at designing a superior fuel injection system for diesel engines.

The outcome of their endeavors was the ducted fuel injection technology that employs a small duct placed in close proximity to each spray produced by the injector.

This technology offers superior fuel/air mixing and reduces particulate emission, enabling the use of Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) to eliminate NOx in the cylinder, rendering the SCR system unnecessary.

Remarkably, when paired with oxygen-containing biofuels, the system can effortlessly conform to NOx standards without requiring exhaust gas recirculation.

Furthermore, it can reduce carbon emissions by a staggering 70%. Mueller is currently collaborating with engine OEMs and low-net-carbon fuel suppliers to retrofit a commercial-grade heavy-duty engine with DFI technology and demonstrate its viability using an available low-net-carbon fuel. The objective is to expedite the implementation of the technology for commercial applications.

Johnson expounded upon ClearFlame's innovative system that leverages the existing heat generated in a diesel engine to facilitate the combustion of eco-friendly fuels. Through ClearFlame's technology, diesel engines are retrofitted to operate on low-cetane fuels such as ethanol, which would otherwise fail to ignite in conventional diesel engines. This is achieved by preserving the heat extracted by the charge air and the EGR coolers, which consequently elevates the temperature in the cylinder, thereby enabling the ignition of green fuels without producing soot, thereby eliminating the need for DPF. Additionally, the engine's efficient exhaust management ensures that it maintains optimal temperatures, which facilitates the use of a simple SCR system, thereby fulfilling upcoming NOx regulations.

Alternative Fuels in the United States

During the summer symposium held at the Engine Research Center of the University of Wisconsin, the esteemed Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the W.E. Lay Automotive Laboratory, Andre Boehman, delivered a discourse on fuel and engine technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Of particular interest was the diesel fuel dimethyl ether, which was brought to the fore by the professor through an in-depth analysis of its potential as a low-net greenhouse gas fuel.


The speaker expounded upon the advantages of DME as a diesel fuel, noting its favorable cetane rating slightly surpassing that of current diesel products, and its propensity to combust sans smoke, due to its oxygen content. Moreover, DME can be readily synthesized from renewable sources, such as ethanol and various agricultural byproducts, and its smokeless qualities provide for enhanced tolerance of EGR, which is critical in mitigating NOx emissions. Although DME necessitates a pressurized container, the pressure exerted is significantly lower than even that of propane, resulting in far lower pressures than required by natural gas.

The utilization of DME as a fuel source necessitates the implementation of a distinct injection and combustion system, as its rapid evaporation and lack of inherent lubricity render standard diesel systems unsuitable. However, there is potential for adaptation to engines that utilize familiar injection and combustion systems.

Notably, prominent OEMs such as Volvo have conducted on-road tests with DME, while several countries, including Sweden, have undergone extensive large-scale testing involving 10 heavy-duty commercial trucks which covered more than 1.5 million kilometers powered by DME. The introduction of exotic lubricity agents may be required to address the primary challenge of engineering sufficient durability into DME injection systems.


Hydrogen, a noteworthy alternative fuel, boasts a fully sustainable and environmentally friendly composition, easily crafted from renewable sources of electricity. Westport's Johnson has emphasized the superior performance of fuel cells at lower loads, compared to piston engines which exhibit greater efficiency with increasing loads.

Consequently, internal combustion engines may offer an ideal solution for commercial hauling utilizing hydrogen, as opposed to passenger cars that typically cruise at lower loads. Westport's HPDI natural gas fuel system can be easily adapted for retrofit to any internal combustion engine, including those designed to run on hydrogen. Johnson asserts that his company's extensive history in supplying engines with gaseous fuels will provide a significant advantage in the developing market for hydrogen-based internal combustion engines.

Cummins, a leading manufacturer of engines and power generation systems, has announced the development of a cutting-edge spark-ignited hydrogen engine. According to Jim Nebergall, the esteemed General Manager of Cummins' Hydrogen Engine Business, the new engine will be a hybrid of the company's renowned natural gas and diesel engines, designed to run on multiple fuels. Nebergall further revealed that the hydrogen engine will feature direct injection technology alongside spark ignition, thereby enhancing its performance capabilities. This latest innovation is expected to revolutionize the transportation industry by offering eco-friendly solutions for heavy-duty vehicles.

The gentleman expounded upon the scientific phenomenon of hydrogen's ability to facilitate swift flame propagation. He elucidated that the provision of pre-mixed fuel and air to the cylinders via the intake manifold can result in the flame traveling in a retrograde fashion back into the manifold. Therefore, a low-pressure fuel system similar to diesel injection is employed to furnish the combustible mixture to the combustion chamber. The operational characteristics of the engine are similar to that of a diesel, running on a lean mixture with an augmented air intake that yields up to 20% more power.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, the internal combustion engine has come a long way since its inception in the 19th century, and technology has played a crucial role in its evolution. With advancements in materials, manufacturing techniques, and new technologies such as hybrid powertrains and electric-hydraulic systems, the internal combustion engine is poised to remain a significant part of the automotive industry for years to come.

While there is growing interest in alternative power sources, the internal combustion engine will continue to play a critical role in powering our transportation needs, and technology will undoubtedly continue to drive its development.

If you want to stay updated with the current trends in the trucking, freight, and logistics industry, stay connected to us.

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