At the recent SAE World Congress AutoblogGreen spent a few minutes talking to Nick Scuderi of the Scuderi Group about their air hybrid engine technology. Calling this engine an air hybrid may be a bit of a misnomer, especially when compared to a gas-electric hybrid vehicle. Semantics aside, the concept is an interesting one and shows that the potential of the internal combustion engine hasn't yet been fully exhausted. We'll keep an eye on this one to see if it actually works as promised when running prototypes are available.

AutoblogGreen
: I'm talking to Nick Scuderi who's the VP of the Scuderi Group about their air hybrid engine technology.

Nick Scuderi: It's a split-cycle engine and basically the way it works is we split the cycle so we still do the four strokes of the Otto cycle but what happens is one piston is doing intake and compression and the other one is doing power and exhaust. But by splitting the cycle it gives the engine independence to do things that you can't do with a regular Otto or diesel-cycle engine. What those are are basically we have high-pressure air which comes from the compression side over to the power side and we're able to maintain this high-pressure air in a storage tank and that's how we get our air hybrid system. We can take regenerative braking of the vehicle, we take the kinetic energy of the wheels through engine braking. We're gonna pump up that tank filled with high-pressure air. Now we don't use high-pressure air to run the car although we can. We use the high-pressure air in our combustion process to operate the vehicle, it's a lot like an electric car. If you just think of that air tank as your battery pack, the difference is, it's much less expensive to manufacture and it's as efficient as electric hybrid systems.

Continue reading about how the air hybrid engine concept works, and see a video of it in action, after the jump.

ABG
: So by having this high-pressure air accumulator system that essentially acts as a supercharger, you could use a smaller displacement engine to achieve the same amount of power. Is that what you're doing?

NS: Again because you're using a split cycle engine there's a lot of design flexibility. For example, we can internally supercharge by just taking the bore of the compression side and making it larger than the piston in the power side. You can do things like have a water power stroke which allows gas more time to expand to get more work out of the engine and it doesn't hurt you on the compression stroke because that piston is not doing the compression.

ABG: So do you actually have any running prototypes of this?

NS: No, this has all been done on GT-Power and on CFD modeling at our independent testing laboratory which is in Texas, and the first prototype is scheduled to come out first quarter of next year and we have data reports that are coming out this year. We have a number of OEMs that are lined up already to look at the data and we've got a tremendous amount of interest worldwide now from manufacturers.


ABG: How much of an improvement in efficiency or power do you think you could achieve?

NS: Well with the split cycle and the air hybrid it depends on the vehicle itself. Obviously with larger vehicles you have more mass so you have more kinetic energy when you brake the vehicle. So we expect to get as much as fifty percent increased efficiency.

ABG: Now with double the number of pistons it seems like a lot more weight and complexity.

NS: It's not double. That's the trick. That's the biggest misconception about our engine. When everybody looks at this they go Ah it's double the number of pistons and that's okay. I thought the same thing when I first looked at it but basically we fire every revolution. We don't have double the number of pistons. We have the same number of pistons. We just have paired sets of pistons.

ABG: So it's almost acting more like a two-stroke in that respect.

NS: Something like a two-stroke but it's just like, think of the Otto cycle. What Nicolaas auto do? He took the two strokes, you compress the air, intake, compression, combustion and exhaust. We're doing exactly the same thing as a four-stroke. We're compressing the air before we fire. We use high-pressure air to split the cycles so one side compresses the air and the other one does power and exhaust. Intake and compression one side, so it's actually a four-stroke split. Now there's some big advantages to this and a lot of design flexibility. If you were to go to a V engine you would actually put it in a smaller package, an RV, which is smaller than a regular V because the intake manifold, instead of being down the middle, you come in from one side, come across the two sets of pistons and out the other side. There's packaging advantages to our engine. Just the split cycle alone again with the air hybrid you can increase your efficiency. Basically what this does is it makes a hybrid system less expensive. It makes it more affordable for the average American, European or Japanese driver to drive it. This doesn't just rival the electric hybrid system. This rivals the Otto cycle.

ABG: Certainly a traditional hybrid with an internal combustion and electric hybrid system adds a lot of weight and complexity to the vehicle. If you could do something like this that could achieve more efficiency with the internal combustion engine it really seems like it would be beneficial.

NS: And it's definitely beneficial. We're confident. The data looks fantastic. We have a lot more patents that are evolving from this base technology and our goal is to just license it worldwide to engine manufacturers around the world and right now we've got interest from all around the world, from Europe, Asia, United States. We've been showing this now for about a year. We started last year at the SAE show and we're at the point now where the manufacturers are taking it serious.

ABG: Well, thank you very much.