Al Kornhauser, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, who specializes in internal combustion engines, fuel cells, and other energy-conversion systems, is working with RIDE. Mechanical engineering students under Kornhauser’s guidance will design, build, and test a hydraulic pump/motor for use in a hydraulic hybrid vehicle.
Current hydraulic hybrid vehicle designs use hydraulic pump/motor technology that has been developed for general industrial applications. These pump/motors are not ideal for vehicle applications. An alternate pump-motor concept has been devised, with a geometry similar to that of the World War I - era ‘Gnome’ aircraft engine. The students will build a pump/motor based on this concept to serve as a prototype and demonstrator.—Al Kornhauser
Phil Vera, president of RIDE, estimates that the partners will have some solid data and a prototype within 6 months.
The RIDE (Rotational Inertial Dampening Engine) modifies the design of the Gnome rotary aircraft engine design of the WW I era to enable the rotating engine block to function as a freely-spinning flywheel, thereby offering an integrated flywheel-based hybrid power capability.
The Gnome featured a crankshaft mounted on the airplane, with the rotary engine block and cylinder heads—to which the propeller was attached—rotating around the crankshaft. RIDE inventor Gary Greenwell (who attended Virginia Tech) made a number of significant changes to the Gnome rotary design, including inverting the relationship between the cylinder heads and the pistons. Rather than have the cylinder heads rotate as part of the radial engine block, Greenwell has the pistons affixed to the exterior ring, with the cylinder heads attached to the crankshaft.
RIDE makes the crankshaft a separate part from the engine support bearings. This change is critical to the revised radial design, as it allows the crankshaft to move to be positioned exactly as the rotational axis of the moving engine block—which, in turn, changes the running engine to a freely-spinning flywheel.
The pistons go from relative reciprocation to stationery in their cylinders when the engine is in flywheel mode. The switching mechanism—Powerswitch—is one of the key inventions for which Greenwell filed a patent in 2004.