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DOE Co-Funds 12 Projects to Increase Engine Efficiency

The US DOE announced $87.5 million in co-funding to support 12 projects developing advanced combustion engine and waste heat recovery technologies.

The projects, with a total value of $175 million (50%, or $87.5 million, of which is contributed by industry) focus on increasing engine efficiency while maintaining low emissions.

The Administration has set of goal of improving engine efficiency from 30% (the 2004 baseline) to 45% by 2012 for passenger vehicles and from 40% (2002 baseline) to 55% by 2013 for commercial vehicles. Such increases in thermal efficiency would result in a projected concomitant reduction in engine fuel consumption of 10%–15%.


The efficiency of an internal combustion engine refers to the percentage of the energy resulting from the combustion that actually is applied to moving the car or running the accessories.

The diagram at the right (Click to enlarge) depicts the energy split in a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. Of the 100% energy available from combustion, only about 25% actually gets applied to moving the car or running the accessories (+5% for the parasitic and friction losses—hence the 30% figure above). Diesel engines and lean combustion gasoline engines fare somewhat better: 35% of the energy flows to mobility and accessories.)

What the research described below is trying to do is alter the ratios so that the effective power for propulsion increases.

Seven of the twelve projects focus on advanced combustion technology with a heavy focus on HCCI (Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition—earlier post). There is also an diesel-compressed-air hybrid truck powertrain under development. The remaining projects deal with technologies to convert waste heat from engines to electrical or mechanical energy (related post).

A summary of the projects follows, along with DOE/Industry costs.


Caterpillar and its research team will work with HCCI using a combination of enhanced engine sensors, intelligent engine control, variable compression ratios, and fuel composition. Its target is a low-temperature, high-efficiency engine for truck or non-road machine use.  Team members include ExxonMobil, Sandia National Laboratory and IAV Automotive. (DOE: $10.4 million / Industry: $10.4 million)

Cummins and its team are developing variable valve timing and premixed charge compression ignition (PCCI) technologies. The project includes the demonstration of engines for both passenger and commercial vehicles and the compatibility of the technology with renewable fuels. Team members include International, DaimlerChrysler, British Petroleum, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (DOE: $15 million / Industry: $15 million)

Detroit Diesel is working to combine several processes that enhance engine combustion individually into one system that enables high-efficiency clean combustion.  The team will also investigate fuel matrix effects, including renewable fuels. This project is to develop engine system hardware and controls to improve thermal efficiency of commercial engines while meeting emissions levels of 2010 and beyond. Team members include Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratory, Freightliner, Schneider, Shell and DaimlerChrysler. (DOE: $19.5 million / Industry: $21.9 million)

GM Powertrain is working with variable valve timing technologies to support HCCI operation on both spark ignition (gasoline) and diesel engines. Team members include Sturman Industries. (DOE: $6.2 million / Industry: $6.2 million)

International Truck and Engine is researching the development and application of HCCI combustion over as large an operating range as possible by integrating commercial or near-commercial fuel, air, and engine technologies (variable valve timing, variable compression ratio, variable nozzle turbocharging, and fuel injection equipment) with advanced controls.  Demonstration will be in a commercial diesel engine. Team members include Ricardo, Borg-Warner Turbo, Jacobs Vehicle Systems, Siemens, Mahle, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, UC Berkeley, Argonne National Laboratory and Conoco-Phillips. (DOE: $6.4 million / Industry: $8.1 million)

John Deere  will develop a stoichiometric compression-ignition engine with low-pressure loop cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and a diesel particulate filter followed by a three-way catalyst.  Combustion will be similar to conventional diesel combustion with lower peak temperatures.  A commercial diesel engine will be modified with a high injection pressure fuel system, variable valve timing and advanced electronic controls along with aftertreatment and low pressure loop EGR system.  Team members include Sturman Industries, Ricardo Technologies and Purdue University. (DOE: $2.7 million / Industry: $2.7 million)

Mack Trucks will develop and demonstrate an diesel-compressed-air hybrid with a projected improvement in fuel efficiency of 15%. During braking, the air-power-assist (APA) engine would utilize braking energy to work as a compressor, pumping compressed air into an on-board tank. (Similar to the Hydraulic Launch Assist approach taken by Eaton and Peterbilt—earlier post). During acceleration the engine is powered by the compressed air with or without burning diesel fuel until the compressed air is depleted.  The key technology development required for the APA engine is a fully-flexible engine valve actuation system.  The technology will be tested on a commercial diesel engine. Team members include UCLA, Sturman Industries and Advanced Energy Systems. (DOE: $1.8 million / Industry: $1.8 million)


Caterpillar will develop a new air management and exhaust energy recovery system for commercial diesel engines. Electric turbocompounding and high efficiency air system technology will be key technology building blocks developed. (DOE: $3.9 million / Industry: $3.9 million)

Cummins will develop a waste heat recovery system to support clean and efficient combustion and reduce heat rejection. This will include limited design and development of components, subsystems and associated electronic controls with integration into a commercial vehicle. Team members include International, Indiana University-Purdue University, University of Illinois-Urbana Champagne, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST). (DOE: $5.5 million / Industry: $5.5 million)

Detroit Diesel will evaluate and cull a variety of engine-based technologies to partially recover and convert exhaust energy into useful mechanical and electrical work.   Team members include Freightliner, Schneider and Holset Turbochargers. (DOE: $7.6 million / Industry: $7.6 million)

John Deere will develop turbo compounding in heavy-duty applications including both agricultural tractors and on-highway trucks. Team members include Eaton, EMP and Ricardo Technologies. (DOE: $4.8 million / Industry: $4.8 million)

Mack Trucks will integrate a turbocharger and compounded turbine into an overall system that would include a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to optimize performance.  The complete engine/CVT will be demonstrated in commercial diesel vehicles.  Team members include Volvo and Silvatech Industries. (DOE: $1.7 million / Industry: $1.7 million)


bhavith kamath

i am a 3rd year B E student , for my project in the final year i have kept compressed air engine i.e a normal ic engine running on compressed air instead of fuel and air mixture as an option so can u give you some ideas on how to proceed..


Sir, I am BE(final year) student of mechanical engg. I have make a project this year & I am also take part in the compitition which is held in IITB to generate min. 3W power using alternative sources. On this I have think that to generate power by "BIOGAS-DRIVEN STIRLING ENGINE MICROPOWER GENERATION". So I need know how much power will produce from this power plant prototype. Please send me all information, photos, videos & souces which you having. Also suggest me projects

Anoop  p

I am a final year student of automobile engg. We have to do a project related to automobile. Please suggest some good project topics. Hope you will help us.


sir,i want to do a project(any type).so please give some idea .


sir i am doing my final year in mechanical engg...this year i have to do the project..i am in intrested in automobile can u suggest some projects related to that

Account Deleted

Dear sir,
i am a final year student in search of an innovative project in mechanical engineering please suggest some topics.An early reply is earnestly required.I will be highly obliged to you if you could do so.

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