There is life yet in the good-old gas engine

Simple innovation boosts fuel efficiency remarkably..
New Piston Ring Could Drastically Improve Gas Engine Efficiency, Longevity
Jason Mick

Tiny change to engine could offer better lubrication for a more pleasurable experience

Think the standard gas engine can’t measure up to hybrid vehicle performance?  A new gasoline engine breakthrough, along with recent innovations may invalidate that premise.

Admittedly, gasoline automobile engine at the turn of the millennium was disappointingly inefficient.  While there had been great advances in digital control and performance tuning, the base efficiency of the engine proved only slightly improved from designs of two decades prior.

Today that’s starting to change.  There’s two basic schools of thought.  One is to adopt a radical redesign, going for technologies like electric motor-driven hybrids or full-electric vehicles.  The other approach, equally promising, is to keep the gas engine, but to reevaluate every engine part and their operation.

Companies like Ford have enjoyed great success with this approach, employing engine technologies such as direct fuel injection and turbocharging to milk V8 performance out of a V6.  Now a breakthrough in the oil rings that line the cylinder head in gas engines and keep it lubricated with engine oil may allow even more impressive performance on a gas-burning engine.

An engine parts supplier called Federal-Mogul Corporation has managed to adapt a specialized two-piece oil ring design from diesel engines into a gasoline engine form.  The patented oil ring tech, known as an LKZ ring, not only can reduce oil consumption by 50 percent, but also reduces frictional losses by 15 percent (compared to standard conventional oil ring designs).

Where as traditional rings apply equal pressure on the downstroke and upstroke, the new ring design primarily provides pressure on the downstroke.  The surface inside the piston bore also employs a unique design, offering a tapered, two-step surface (versus an untapered surface in standard oil rings).

The result is that oil is more effectively returned to the oil pan, reducing the amount of oil that enters the combustion chamber.  The less oil entering the combustion chamber, the better, as this has numerous undesirable effects, such as wasting oil via combustion and coating the spark plugs with carbon byproducts, reducing their ability to combust gasoline.  The improved oil performance also leads to better cylinder lubrication and less friction.

The rings are available to enginemakers with a variety of coatings, including chrome, CKS (chrome ceramic coating) and GDC (Goetze diamond coating).  By selecting the right coating, engine makers can match the rings to their engine’s intended performance profile, ensuring longevity.  For example, a more powerful engine would necessitate a hardier coating to ensure that the ring remained undamaged under intense mechanical forces.

For engine makers looking for the ultimate in performance tech, Federal-Mogul says it will offer the new ring design with its patented DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating, which offers the least engine friction, while offering a long lifetime.

It would be truly exciting to see these new LKZ rings end up in a bleeding-edge mass market gas engine design, such as Ford’s Ecoboost engines.  It could perhaps offer an additional 5-10 percent (at least) additional extension to fuel economy out of an affordable and easy-to-deploy component upgrade.