ROTARY ENGINE SENDS SHOCK WAVES THROUGH AUTO INDUSTRY

The new wave disk power plant will change the way hybrid autos are designed and fueled. Is this a Black Swan approaching?

The first commercial application of the Shockwave Engine has been piloted by Ford in their latest hybrid SUV. The brainchild of Norbert Mueller of Michigan State University, this innovative rotary engine uses a fraction of the fuel consumed by a normal piston engine, for the same power output.

A cross between the Wankel rotary engine and a jet turbine, the Mueller engine is best suited to generating electric power at fairly constant speed, rather than driving a mechanical transmission. It runs on a variety of liquid fuels, from biodiesel to kerosene and could replace diesel backup generators.

In the Ford Shockwave hybrid SUV, the engine has been matched to a stator generator, which can drive the electric transmission at full speed, even when the battery is exhausted. “This is a new concept in power plants,” says Mueller. “It’s like having a gas turbine generator in the trunk, only much more efficient, and quieter, of course.”

If the Ford pilot proves successful, this power plant will radically alter the market for hybrid cars. With lighter weight and less fuel required than conventional hybrids, and smaller batteries and lower cost than plug-in electric vehicles, the car of the future will be cheaper and more efficient than anything currently available.

But the real advantage of this power train is the freedom to drive many hundreds of miles on a small tank of ordinary fuel. That’s what makes it revolutionary.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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