Don’t sell your oil shares just yet

Reports of a game-changing development from Nissan call into question the rationale behind the rush to electric vehicles.

Nissan Motor Co. will unveil its VC Turbo engine, which uses an efficiency-boosting variable compression ratio system, at the Los Angeles auto show next week.

Shinichi Kiga, the head of Nissan’s gasoline engine project group, told Reuters that the global automaker plans to keep improving the internal combustion engine and that the VC Turbo engine is part of that vision.

On Nov. 28, Nissan unveiled its Infiniti QX50 sport utility vehicle at the LA Auto Show.  The luxury SUV engine uses the variable compression ratio system which will boost thermal efficiency to about 40 per cent, as much as twice the level of current gasoline engines available.

Thermal efficiency is the power an engine generates from a unit of fuel.  Kiga says his goal is to develop engines for Infiniti and Nissan vehicles that offer thermal efficiency of 50 per cent.

The VC Turbo engine could prove to be a challenge for policy makers looking to encourage the use of electric vehicles.

James Chao, Asia-Pacific chief of consultancy at IHS Markit Automotive told Reuters that advancing ICE technology is “one of the most overlooked trends in the industry.”

He added “These advances beg the question…Are EVs the best solution to the issue of vehicle greenhouse emissions?”

VC Turbo

The Infiniti QX50 VC-Turbo. Infiniti image.

The new Nissan engine uses electronics and software to choose an optimal compression ratio for combustion.  This results in an average of 30 to 35 per cent higher fuel economy than the 3.5 V6 engine it replaces.

The VC Turbo has comparable power and torque to the old engine and Nissan says the VC Turbo matches a diesel engine for torque.  Matching the torque of a diesel engine has been a long-time struggle for gasoline powered engines.

Kiga told Reuters that along with higher power and better fuel efficiency, the VC Turbo system costs thousands of dollars less than a comparable gasoline-electric hybrid car.[…]

The energy density of petrol is 12,200 Wh/kg, the best EV battery is of the order of 250 WH/kg.  Even though current petrol engines only get about 20% to the wheels (about 2440 Wh/kg), Li-ion gets 90% (224 Wh/kg), so an improvement in a gas engine from 20% to 22% efficiency exceeds the output range of an additional kilogram of a typical battery, adding about 242 Wh/kg to turn the wheels.  With Nissan promising not 2% improvement but a doubling, or 100% improvement, this technology could well be a game changer.

It is heartening to see that Nissan, who brought us the virtue-signalling, shopping trolley, a.k.a. Leaf, still has skin in the game at the “real men’s” end of the market with a motor that will out torque a diesel, outperform the previous 3.5l V6, and deliver better fuel economy.  I know which one I would rather park in my garage.

Nissan, USA

And there are other efficient hybrid possibilities:

[…]Since gas is great at storing energy while batteries suck, and electric motors are great at moving your vehicle and incorporating regenerative braking, while mechanical transmissions are limited and gas engines hate running at anything but the optimal RPM, a serial hybrid is still the best way to go: efficient gas engine running at optimal speed, turning a generator with a small battery pack just for rapid acceleration and regenerative braking.[…]

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WH is a pale, stale, male who does not believe all the doom and gloom climate nonsense so enjoys generating CO2 that the plants need to grow by driving his MG.

To read my previous articles click on my name in blue.