Jack Keebler | Automotive News – Shift Magazine
We get frequent reminders that we are on the “bleeding edge” of autodom’s electrification. And the reality is that because of huge EV production investments and battery costs, as well as range and charging issues, the internal combustion engine will likely remain with us for some time.
A recent breakthrough in plasma-ignition tech is helping to ensure that probability. It promises better fuel efficiency and much lower emissions. And that will add regulatory compliance life to gasoline and natural gas engines.
No, plasma here has nothing to do with blood; it’s an electrically conductive ionized gas. By converting an engine’s intake charge into an ionized gas, the spark from the plug is significantly more likely to propagate a flame front through the entire air-fuel mix, resulting in a cleaner, more complete burn and combustion.
“Obviously, the promise of electric vehicles is very real, and it’s a long-term solution,” observes Dan Singleton, CEO of Transient Plasma Systems in Torrance, Calif. “But we see mainstream market penetration for EVs as a decade or more away. So in our vision, internal combustion engine vehicles need to become cleaner and more efficient now. Our technology uses 10-nanosecond pulsed power to produce transient plasma. And we’ve demonstrated that we can get a more than 20 percent improvement in fuel economy and 50 percent lower [oxides of nitrogen] emissions compared to a conventional ignition system.”
By electronically exciting the combustion air-fuel charge to a transient low-temperature plasma state using very short, lower-energy electrical pulses, the technology enables even highly diluted charges — using exhaust gas recirculation or air — to burn quite completely.