I see efforts to improve combustion engines as trying to 'build a better buggy whip' in an era of 'diminishing returns' on mechanical heat engine innovations.
The problem is not their efficiencies, rather it is the manufacturing costs and complexities of building mechanical engine vehicles.
The world economy would be better off to move beyond combustion conversion towards more efficient, non-mechanical, and modular electrochemical conversion devices like fuel cells. (This doesn't require pure hydrogen, since you can still use hydrocarbon fuels.)
But I admit that diesel engines are not going away anytime soon, so efforts to improve efficiency for industrial applications could move us further down the road.
Now scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have created the first three-dimensional simulation that fully resolves flame features, such as chemical composition, temperature profile and flow characteristics in diesel engines. Their efforts could lead to new lower temperature engine designs that are more efficent.
3D Models / 120 Terabytes of Data Reveals Combustion Process Unfolding
Do you want to be the Toyota or GM of the 21st century?
Don't worry about how you 'fuel' the car, rethink how you build cars.
Forget about trying to build an electric propulsion SUV. Start small. Build electric battery scooters and tiny (crappy) cars. Then move up the performance ladder with larger cars that integrate fuel cells and capacitors.
Don't try to make money selling new cars. Focus on software enhanced driving experiences, and mobility services as your real revenue stream.
'Manufacturing Footprint' is Everything
For months, we have argued that the real revolution is 'how you build the car, not how you fuel it'. We have made a strong case that the driving force of change towards electric vehicles (powered by a combination of batteries, fuel cells and capacitors) is the desire for a lower manufacturing platform.
While Detroit and Japan struggle to manage their manufacturing footprint of combustion engine factories, Indian and Chinese companies sense an opportunity to leap frog into a lower cost growth platform of modular components around wheel based electric motors, drive by wire, and next generation energy storage.
India's Auto Industry: Low End Path to the Future
India-based electric vehicle maker Reva might be plotting a classic 'low end disruptive' path to growth by expanding its production quantities of its tiny electric platform. BusinessGreen.com is reporting that Reva plans to invest in a new plant with a capacity of 30,000 G-Wiz electric car units a year.
Yes this is a tiny number compared to total global vehicle production, but how do you put a value on the competitive advantage of building non-combustion engine vehicles. Remember when US manufacturers ridiculed Asia-produced consumer electronics? Who's your E-Daddy today?
Related posts on The Future of the Auto Industry