Automakers are improving fuel economy by exploiting a new controls approach that uses the waste heat from vehicle engines. Currently, up to 65% of the heat energy produced in internal combustion engines, whether gasoline or diesel, is wasted. Typically, the powertrain or engine dissipates the heat by convection, where it is carried to the cooling circuit or lost out of the tailpipe in exhaust gases.
That is not to say that things will stay as they are now. The engine is undergoing a significant evolution of its own, as new fuel economy and emissions standards in the light-duty and heavy-duty sectors push the development of new technologies on an unprecedented scale toward the theoretical limits of engine operation. Coupled with continuing research into fundamental engine processes, the introduction of affordable high-performance computing, and the adoption of advanced manufacturing techniques throughout industry, those new technologies are leading to potentially disruptive opportunities for the introduction of engines with extraordinarily high efficiencies. How these new engines perform and how they will be integrated into new vehicle architectures will be the story of personal mobility for this half of the 21st century.
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