Monthly Archives: April 2017

Compression ignition gasoline engine

Car manufacturers are delving deep into their boxes of tricks to make internal combustion engines more efficient. Infiniti unveiled a variable compression ratio engine last year, and hybrid technology is getting smarter, but Mazda has a different solution. In 2019 it will release the first commercial compression-ignition gasoline engine, dubbed SkyActiv-X.

At the core of Mazda’s upcoming range of engines is technology called Spark Controlled Compression Ignition. Currently, gasoline engines ignite their air-fuel mixture with a spark from (aptly-named) spark plugs. The new SkyActiv-X line of engines will break with that process, instead delivering spark-free ignition of the air and fuel mix through compression.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because diesel engines do the same thing. The process allows the engine to operate at lower temperatures, which reduces a lot of the heat energy normally lost in gasoline engines. This, in turn, allows Mazda to run with a much leaner air-fuel mix for better fuel consumption and lower emissions. According to the company, the technology is an evolution of the ultra-high compression ratio being used in its current range of engines.

Mazda says the new (proprietary) process combines the benefits of both diesel and gasoline engines, for significant improvements in fuel efficiency. Some other manufacturers have tried to nail the process in concepts, but the narrow temperature range at which compression ignition engines do their best work has caused problems. SkyActiv-X will avoid the issue by operating as a conventional, spark plug-ignited engine when conditions demand it.

Powered SUV glory of its Trackhawk

A Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat dressed up in its toughest outerwear and all-terrain hiking boots, the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is an absolute force to be reckoned with. This was not in question coming out of its New York International Auto Show debut. What was a question was just how much it would cost to park the “most powerful and quickest SUV ever” in your driveway. Jeep gave the answer today, putting an US$85,900 sticker on its high-horsepower Grand Cherokee.

The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk goes up for order this Thursday, ahead of deliveries starting later this year. The $85,900 MSRP is before a $1,095 destination fee, so buyers are looking at just under $86,995 all told.

“As the most powerful and quickest SUV, there is nothing else like the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk in the market, and with its starting price of $85,900, there is no better value for a high-performance SUV,” promises Jeep chief Mike Manley.

Ultimately consumers and drivers will decide if that’s true, but to help sway them there’s Trackhawk’s 707-hp 6.2-liter V8. That big, supercharged engine puts out 645 lb-ft (875 Nm) and pushes the Trackhawk to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in 3.5 seconds and the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds at 116 mph (187 km/h). On the other end, the new Brembo braking system pulls things back from 60 to 0 mph in 114 ft (34.7 m). Top speed is listed at 180 mph (290 km/h).

Protect connected cars from hackers

As cars become more reliant on connected services, and autonomous cars appear on the horizon, they’re shaping as juicy targets for hackers. Rather than sitting back and waiting for cyber criminals to strike, the UK Department of Transport has created a list of principles designed to make cyber security a top priority for car manufacturers.

The list, catchily dubbed “The key principles of vehicle cyber security for connected and automated vehicles,” is made up of eight central ideas. As a start, car companies are expected to make sure security is “owned, governed and promoted at board level,” and any risks should be “assessed and managed appropriately and proportionately.”

The third principle says organizations need to continually update and support their older products as new threats arise, and the fourth encourages third-parties and OEM suppliers to work with manufacturers in pursuit of better security. Given many of the electric parts in modern cars – from engine-managing ECUs to window switches – come from external suppliers, that’s an important consideration.

Guideline five suggests computer systems need to be designed to make hacking difficult. That means making sure they don’t rely on single points of failure, and having appropriate security and early warning on cloud-based systems working away in the background. Finally, any data storage or transmission needs to be controlled and secure, and systems should be able to respond appropriately when their defences are compromised or sensors damaged.

The list is designed to address public fears that hackers might be able to target connected cars, either to steal personal data or for other malicious purposes. The basic message from the UK Government is simple: this is an issue that needs to be taken seriously, and carmakers need to be dealing with security from a management level.