Here’s hoping this ain’t as simple as it seems.
EduSaab, over at Saab Central has posted a story hinting at the fact that the Saab Variable Compression engine program might be officially dead in the water. I don’t have a link to his source article, but the SC link above will take you to the thread.
Here’s the summary and the scary bit:
European automakers are trying to wring every possible fuel-economy advance from gasoline engines to meet upcoming, tougher European Union CO2 emission levels….
….Fuel efficiency can be improved up to 14 percent with variable compression ratio, or VCR — enough to offset much of the fuel-consumption advantage of diesel engines…..Some engineers foresee VCR commercial use by 2010. Some don’t…..
There’s a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with regard to the varying levels of fuel efficiency gains that could be expected. Some expect great things and some expect less. One of the big hurdles seems to be reliability.
Saab also developed a VCR concept, but GM halted development. GM instead uses a cylinder cut-off system, "displacement on demand."
"We stopped VCR because of various problems, including cylinder seals," said a GM spokesman.
Engine development is a tricky thing, I’d say (OK, understatement of the year). Engines nowadays are quite sophisticated units and are getting better at extracting more from less. The benefits of the SVC engine were improved fuel efficiency and the ability to extract a marked boost in power when you needed it. The problem is that it costs a bucketload to develop this stuff and conventional engine development is catching up with you the whole time.
Here’s hoping that the program is still on track somehow. That GM spokesman could be referring to a previous incarnation of the program. The picture above comes from some test mules that Saab were running some time ago. But there’s been new technologies and new patents in this field. Saab was awarded a new patent for variable compression technology just earlier this year.
I posted an article back in September called SVC Thoughts that pretty much sums up most people’s feelings on this. It’ll be a real shame if it has been canned.
None of the problems with SVC engine that were mentioned above seem insurmountable if you apply the advanced knowledge that a company like GM should have at it’s disposal. Are you really going to try and convince me that Europe’s top scientists and engineers can’t solve a gasket problem? Really? Because I have a hunch that there’s some decent 12th grade science classes that could take this on for a year-long project and come up with a solution.
Others have opined in comments both here and elsewhere, that this concept deserves a second look . Think of the benefits! First up there’s the benefit to the motorist of having good fuel economy plus the torque curve and total output of an engine twice the size. Second up there’s the global recognition of pioneering a technology that breaks totally new ground like this. It’s got to be marketing gold. OK, you may need to test it for several years and make sure that you can apply a decent warranty to it, but if it works it’s manna from heaven.
As an aside, the SVC Thoughts article also includes my first reference to the Viggen I bought, which was on Ebay at the time. I was fairly sceptical about my chances with the Viggen, but looked what happened! Maybe the same could be true of this pioneering technology.