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Honda progressing with high-efficiency low-emission Homogeneous Lean Charge Spark Ignition (HLSI) combustion work

Honda’s engine technology roadmap and the key role of HLSI, as presented at the 2013 Aachen Colloquium by Toshihiro Mibe, Managing Officer, Honda R&D Co., Ltd. Automobile R&D Center. Click to enlarge.

Honda is developing a Homogeneous Lean Charge Spark Ignition (HLSI) combustion engine as one of the key elements in its technology roadmap for a higher thermal efficiency gasoline engine. Honda reported on its basic approach in a 2013 SAE paper; Takashi Kondo of Honda R&D then presented results to date at the recent SAE 2014 High Efficiency IC Engine Symposium.

Lean burn engines using a stratified air-fuel configuration with a comparatively rich mixture in the vicinity of the spark plugs can deliver stable combustion of an overall lean mixture. Lean burn engines can deliver a higher theoretical thermal efficiency, and their higher air/fuel (A/F) ration leads to low pumping losses. However, because a comparatively rich mixture is burned during the first half of combustion, engine-out NOx emissions are not reduced sufficiently, and the emissions reduction provided by the three-way catalyst (TWC) is insufficient, Kondo noted.

Honda is striving to develop a form of lean burn with homogeneous premixture that would be able to balance low NOx emissions with stable, controllable combustion. The Honda HLSI approach seeks to take the best of conventional lean-burn (controllability and low combustion noise) and homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) (ultra-Low NOx and high thermal efficiency) while avoiding the downsides of each: NOx emissions for the former and operating range, controllability and combustion noise for the latter.

Honda envisions HLSI as delivering high thermal efficiency with less than 50 ppm engine-out NOx and low combustion noise. Click to enlarge.

A great deal of research has been conducted on lean burn as an effective means of increasing the efficiency of gasoline engines. In a lean burn engine, three-way catalysts show virtually no NOx purification effect. In order to achieve a sufficient reduction in engine-out NOx emissions, it is therefore necessary to increase the combustion limit air-fuel ratio (termed the “lean limit” below).

In conventional stratified-charge lean combustion engines, because a rich air-fuel mixture is generated in the vicinity of the spark plugs, NOx is emitted in the first half of the combustion. In stoichiometric combustion, close to 100% of the NOx is purified by the three-way catalyst, but in lean burn the three-way catalyst is almost completely incapable of NOx reduction. Thus, for the emission control value to be satisfied, the NOx must be trapped and reduced using a lean NOx catalyst (LNC). When the NOx in the LNC reaches the permissible amount, lean burn is stopped, and rich combustion is performed to reduce the NOx. As a result, the cycle for this rich combustion reduces the fuel efficiency. As emission control values have become stricter year after year, NOx reduction cycles using rich combustion have also increased, and there are now almost no automobiles with lean burn engines being sold.

Considerable research has been conducted on HCCI combustion, in order to resolve this problem, but due to factors including the narrowness of the potential operating range and the challenge represented by controllability in response to fluctuations in the environment this method has not yet entered mass production.

To improve fuel-efficiency and cost, this study aims to contribute to the construction of lean burn technology that does not require an LNC. The research discussed in this paper therefore focused on a form of lean burn involving the stable spark ignition of a homogeneous premixture that would be able to balance low NOx emissions with combustion controllability. To that end, the primary goal of the study is to identify the mechanism by which the limit of homogeneous lean burn, which can contribute to reduced NOx emissions, is reached. Building on this knowledge, the research aims to achieve a high-efficiency, low-NOx homogeneous lean burn engine.

—Hanabusa et al.

Homogeneous lean premixed gas is known to have poor flame propagation characteristics. To determine the dominant cause of this, the Honda study investigated the combustion properties of a single-cylinder engine while changing the compression ratio and intake temperature.

In its initial set of experiments, Honda modified a single-cylinder experimental engine so that fuel was injected from a from an upstream PI (port-injector) approximately 1 m above the engine intake valve such that it mixed homogeneously with air. The fuel-air mixture was heated by the heater and supplied to the engine. Honda experimented with different compression ratio and intake air temperature combinations to investigate what factors determined the lean limit.

The researchers found that abnormal cycles—the primary cause of combustion fluctuation—had low TDC temperatures compared to those of other cycles. Cycles with an unburned gas temperature in TDC below 950 K (677 ˚C) had particularly poor heat production during the expansion stroke.

They also found that laminar burning velocity increased rapidly when the temperature of the unburned mixture exceeded approximately 1,000 K (727 ˚C). Their investigation showed that when the temperature of the unburned mixture reached 1,000 K or more, the decomposition of H2O2 produced OH radicals, which promoted combustion.

To evaluate the applicability of the combustion concept to mass-production engines, Honda then used a single-cylinder engine derived from a mass-produced 4- cylinder engine for which the temperature at TDC would exceed 1,000 K . Although Honda maintained the engine’s port injection system, the researchers switched to an atomization nozzle to make the mixture as homogeneous as possible.

To increase the heat production of the lean mixture before TDC when the laminar burning velocity is slow, this engine featured a different compression ratio, intake system, piston shape, and ignition system.

“Heat loss (other)” refers to heat loss other than that caused by cooling water. Click to enlarge.

Modifications made to the engine resulted in an increase in the lean limit to A/F 31. Further, the highest efficiency combustion was achieved at A/F 30; they also achieved less than 50ppm NOx emission. The engine was operated at an engine speed of 1500 rpm and an NMEP of 500 kPa.

HLSI combustion increased thermal efficiency by 6.2 points over stoichiometric combustion, from 33.7% to 39.9% at A/F 30. Honda attributed reductions in cooling loss (resulting from low in-cylinder gas temperature of HLSI) and pumping loss (due to significant air dilution) as the main causes of the increased efficiency. Exhaust loss and unburned fuel loss became the main obstacles to efficiency.

Based on work to date, Honda has broadly concluded that:

  • Providing an SI engine with a homogeneous premixed gas and adjusting the compression ratio and intake temperature so that the in-cylinder temperature increases results in a higher lean limit and also results in extremely low NOx emissions.

  • The compression ratio and intake air temperature combination have a significant impact on the lean limit, and combinations that lead to higher in-cylinder temperatures result in higher lean limits. Also, the engine-out NOx is lower for combinations that lead to higher in-cylinder temperatures.

  • When TDC in-cylinder temperature reaches approximately 1,000 K (727 ˚C), H2O2 decomposition reactions occur, and as a result, the laminar burning velocity increases and combustion fluctuation is stabilized.

  • The analysis of the fractions of fuel energy in homogeneous lean mixture combustion has clarified the mechanism by which thermal efficiency increases.

  • The combustion concept holds good in a mass-production engine and confirmed that both high thermal efficiency and low NOx emissions can be achieved in flame propagation.

While the engine-out NOx levels are low, they are still insufficient to reach the coming standards in Japan and the US, Kondo noted. Thus, some aftertreatment would be required.


  • Hanabusa, H., Kondo, T., Hashimoto, K., Sono, H. et al. (2013) “Study on Homogeneous Lean Charge Spark Ignition Combustion,” SAE Technical Paper 2013-01-2562 doi: 10.4271/2013-01-2562



Ahhh, again some theoritical improvement in mpg for gasoline engines. It's been from the seventies that Honda brag about this with their gone cvcc technology. This won't help at all except for the marketing hype and gimmick. I will keep my neon and won't buy that as there will be more problems im sure like knocking, carbon build-up, more cost, vibration, hiccups, bad shifting, oil consumption, etc.

I prefer a natural gas engine at 1.50 $ /gallon equivalent but they have to construct the cars and the infrastructure. We are badly serve by these manufacturers and this stupid government leaded by big oil money.


If they can REALLY do 30:1 and manage knock and NOx, this will be interesting.

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