When one of the big car manufacturers comes out with a new technology, you don’t really bat an eye; it happens all the time, and with much accompanying media hype. But Koenigsegg, a small and wonderful Swedish supercar maker, has envisioned something truly revolutionary; and this from a company that builds only a handful of cars each year.
You have to love Koenigsegg. The owner, Christian von Koenigsegg first started his venture at the ridiculous age of 22, and now builds some of the most manic and fastest cars every made. Now, though, he is taking the next step to make his mark on the automotive world forever.
Since the combustion engine was first created, the cam shaft has been an essential aspect of it. In a very small nutshell, it is the part of the engine that opens and closes the valves. Because the valves open and close via the cam shaft it has to do so in a very particular order and variations of this are limited. There are many variable valve timing technologies out there that affect the timing and order of the valves to increase efficiency, power and lower emissions, but they can only alter it so far.
Enter Cargine Engineering
Teaming up with Koenigsegg, it has done away with cam shafts completely, replacing them with what they call the Cargine Free Valve system. It uses pneumatic valve actuators to open valves, which are then closed by air pressure or springs. In this way, the valves of the engines can be controlled completely individually, significantly increasing power, reducing fuel economy and also reducing CO2 emissions. It does away with the traditional mechanical valve-train components, allowing the engine’s speeds to be increased dramatically without worrying about durability issues.
I can’t say I entirely understand how all of this works, but what I understand very well are the benefits: power is said to increase by 30%, while fuel economy is estimated to increase by 30% and emissions should fall by 50. Also, without the cam shaft and other valve-train components, the resulting engine will be smaller, lighter and — depending on the size of the engine — will be able to rev to about 20 000 rpm without incident. To put that into perspective, Formula 1 engines will rev to 19 000 rpm at their peak, and those are the most highly strung combustion engines out there.
If that isn’t enough, Koenigsegg’s owner also briefly mentioned some other technology that might find its way onto Koenigseggs in the future. Very similar to what Peugeot Citroen have been experimenting with, it is a system that uses compressed air to drive the car. The petrol engine could be used as a sort of air pump that captures energy from engine braking, storing it as compressed air in a tank. This compressed air can be later used to run the engine on its own, completely emissions free, or as a sort of turbo for the petrol engine, but without the wasted energy that a typical turbocharger would normally have.
Why, then, you would ask, have other manufacturers not looked into compressed air as a source of sustainable energy to power motor vehicles? It takes quite a lot to figure out how to utilise compressed air as a source of energy. Sure, it can used as a boost of sorts, but as a main source of power? It’s going to be quite a while before any proper progress will be made in this regard. Nonetheless, it is wonderful to see car makers exploring the potentialities of new energy sources outside electricity and fossil fuels.