Delphi, a major parts supplier to automakers, is developing an engine technology that could improve the fuel economy of gas-powered cars by 50 percent, potentially rivaling the performance of hybrid vehicles while costing less. A test engine based on the technology is similar in some ways to a highly efficient diesel engine, but runs on gasoline.
The company has demonstrated the technology in a single-piston test engine under a wide range of operating conditions. It is beginning tests on a multicylinder engine that will more closely approximate a production engine. Its fuel economy estimates suggest that engines based on the technology could be far more efficient than even diesel engines. Those estimates are based on simulations of how a midsized vehicle would perform with a multicylinder version of the new engine.
The Delphi technology is the latest attempt by researchers to combine the best qualities of diesel and gasoline engines. Diesel engines are 40 to 45 percent efficient in using the energy in fuel to propel a vehicle, compared to roughly 30 percent efficiency for gasoline engines. But diesel engines are dirty and require expensive exhaust-treatment technology to meet emissions regulations.