Almost every car in the world is run by the exact same kind of engine: The piston internal combustion engine first thought of by a guy named Benz (of Mercedes fame.) Obviously, it's a pretty good design, it took over the world in less than 50 years. But the piston combustion engine isn't the only internal combustion engine in the world, it's just the only one in the world's cars.
While we can hope for electric cars to come into their own, and for fuel cells to become a viable alternative to internal combustion, maybe we should also be thinking about how to make internal combustion better.
The quasiturbine engine does that. There's no doubt, it's more efficient, it's lighter, it runs in any orientation, and it can be powered by whatever fuel happens to be cheaper that day (ethanol, methanol, gasoline, diesel, natural gas, biodiesel, even hydrogen.) The engine produces no vibration, is up to 50% lighter than piston engines, and increases efficiency by more than 50%. A car that would get 30 mpg with a piston engine would get roughly 60 mpg using a quasiturbine. A quasi turbine hybrid could get up to 150 mpg.
The QT engine (somewhat aptly named, because it is on the Q.T., being mostly silent) is a rotary engine. Check out the graphic below for a pretty simple summary of what goes on in a quasiturbine engine.
The engine is, obviously, a bit more complex than a traditional piston engine, but it's really not that complicated. There are four steps in the quasiturbine cycle, each either compression or decompression.
First step is decompression, as the engine spins the engine actually sucks fuel into the vacuum created by the previous compression.
Second step, the fuel is then compressed (top part of the image) to prepare for ignition.
Third step, the spark plug fires at the fuel's maximum compression and the expansion of the combustion drives the engine in it's continuous cyclical movement.
Fourth step, the exhaust is squeezed out of the engine as the turbine prepares to suck in more fuel.
It's really an elegant system. There's no crankshaft, no valves, no pistons. All movement is contained inside the engine so lubricant (and oil pan) isn't necessary. The compression of the QT engine also allows for more complete combustion.All this ads up to a highly efficient, light-weight, long-lived engine that burns all of it's fuel and can operate with any available fuel.
So... you're probably wondering why you don't already have one? Car makers, mechanics and engineers have had 120 years to perfect piston engines and the complications raised by the somewhat more complicated QT engine have so far kept it out of the hands of the masses. Don't be surprised, though, if we see QT engines on the road significantly before fuel cells take off. The QT engine won't cure us of our addiction to hydrocarbons, but it might make the transition a bit easier.