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Is Diesel Good Enough Yet?

Less Waste, More Work

Text By Jason Thompson, Photography by Jason Thompson

It’s very hard for me to finish vehicles I’ve owned. Usually, when I sell the vehicle, it comes with a few boxes of extra parts and major pieces missing. My vehicles are never static. Instead, they are constantly changing. Even when they are parked and I’m trying to go to sleep at night, I have to do a mental run through the parts I want to install or modify. This strategy of reaching for perfection no matter how much time it takes is the opposite compared to The Principle of Good Enough.

The Principle of Good Enough (POGE)
POGE is a rule for software and systems design. This approach is how the Internet works. Instead of perfecting a website, programmers roughly carve it out and then let end users’ needs polish it up later on. The print magazine Diesel Power does not work like this, because we have to make sure everything is perfect. DieselPowerMag.com, on the other hand, uses the POGE approach since we’re immediately able to throw up topics and later build on them or go off reader interests instantly. Since we use both approaches, we’ve got the deck stacked.

Diesel Perfection
Rudolf Diesel was obsessed with reaching perfection but had to deal with the immediate pressures of turning out a product. His engine theory was the answer to the question, “How much work can you get from a certain amount of fuel?” Thanks to waste heat recovery and better air control strategies, today’s engine designers predict the internal combustion engine will improve its thermal efficiency by 20 to 50 percent in the next few years. The image on this page shows where the extra power is getting wasted today—gasoline and light-duty diesel engines have even more waste than shown. Drivetrains will also improve immensely thanks to stop-start functions, freewheeling, and brake energy recovery systems. In the future, Band-Aid emissions devices and their problems will be a thing of the past.

Increasing Pressures
Bosch recently said its heavy-duty diesel injection systems use 36,259 psi of fuel pressure in order to meet emissions laws. The company plans on using systems with even higher pressures in the near future. Over at Delphi, the company has reached fuel pressures of 43,511 psi on its latest system. As a comparison, the injection pump on Project 300 (’87 Ford F-250 6.9L) only squirts at 6,700 psi. Today, a company called Transonic Combustion uses fuel pressures so high they reach a supercritical state. When injected with this much power, the fuel instantly vaporizes into clean fire. It can also be injected near top dead center so the explosion does not have to fight the engine when the piston is coming up at it. Also, completely mixed fuel and air will not condense in the cooled combustion chamber and create an incomplete burn (soot, emissions, and lack of power).

Enjoy the Moment
I always want to improve things. I’d like for us to turn our waste and sunlight into liquid fuels. Some scientists, like Dr. Martin Linck at the Gas Technology Institute, share this same goal, but they actually know how to do it instead of just talking about it. Still, I like to investigate and tell other people what I gathered. I need to learn how to enjoy the moment and appreciate what we have right now. For example, I asked Exergy Performance, “How many times does a fuel injector fire in its lifetime?” Here is the answer:

Number of miles/lifetime x average speed x 60 min/hour x average engine rpm x number of injections per engine revolutions (two-stroke or four-stroke) = Number of injections per lifetime

Example:
140,000 miles/lifetime x 1 hr/33 miles x 60min/hour x 1,300 revolutions/minute x 2 injections/2 engine revolutions (pilot and main in a four-stroke) = 330,000,000 injections /lifetime

For someone who sometimes can’t finish one thing on time…that is amazing.

By Jason Thompson
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