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See Inside February 2010

Better Mileage Now--Improving the Combustion Engine

Emerging technologies could make the internal combustion engine substantially more fuel-efficient, even as green vehicles make inroads



Oleksiy Maksymenko Alamy

Demand for automobiles is rising worldwide. So is concern about greenhouse gas emissions. In response, scientists and engineers are working diligently to perfect new power plants for future vehicles, including battery and hydrogen fuel-cell electric cars. Although these and other alternatives show great promise for the long term, perhaps the single greatest way to reduce fossil-fuel consumption in the near term is to further improve today’s dominant transportation power plant: the gasoline internal-combustion (IC) engine.

Fortunately, efficiency can be raised in a number of ways, notably, better control over the air-fuel mixture entering the combustion chamber, over the way gasoline is ignited there, and over the mechanical systems that harness that energy. These can improve traditional automobiles as well as gasoline-electric hybrid models.

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