For the past decade, Europe has been a breeding ground, an out and out orgy, for small electric vehicles. Across the closely quartered European landscape, these little electric buggers zip in and out of traffic and sell to the populace like hotcakes.
Nobody has capitalized on this recent bite-sized European revolution more than the famous 115 year old automaker, Renault. In fact, in the electric world, Renault has become so big that last year they claimed an astounding 58% of the global share for electric vehicles.
Much of this success can be contributed to Renault’s willingness to innovate and experiment with new technologies and designs. Last week, at the Innovations @ Renault event in Paris, Renault busted out some of their top powertrain ideas for the upcoming future.
At the event, Renault showed off an eclectic mix of different ideas, ranging from an all electric motor that was built entirely in-house (and even better, reduced in weight by 10% from previous electric motor models) to a powerful and efficient hybrid diesel engine for larger vehicles.
Possibly the most surprising of the mix, however, was an experimental gas powered engine, which was dubbed “The Powerful.” This extremely small engine is a 730 cc, two-stroke, two cylinder supercharged and turbocharged diesel that only makes between 47 and 67 horsepower and 83 to 107 pound-feet of torque.
But why exactly did they undertake this seemingly minuscule project?
Well, Renault says, “Two-stroke diesel engines are commonplace in large container ships. Their thermal efficiency is around 50 per cent while four-stroke diesels struggle to reach 35 per cent. The difficulty, until now, has been in adapting two-stroke technology for an engine small enough for automotive use, which Renault is aiming to solve with its ‘POWERFUL’ (POWERtrain for Future Light-duty vehicles) project.”
According to the company, this engine is currently half the size of the 1.5-liter dCi diesel, which is currently being used in the Nissan Juke. Producing an engine that weighs 40 kg less would obviously be beneficial for a company that strives to make the most efficient vehicles on the market. Unfortunately, though, the Powerful won’t be ready until the efficiency is improved.
Renault says, “nitial tests are encouraging, although the performance needs to be improved before Renault could consider introducing it. The engine is being developed with 18 industrial, scientific and academic partners in France, Spain and the Czech Republic, with investment from the European Union.”