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Efficient engines come in small packages

Small engines designed with huge technology imperatives are an exciting new trend.

Small engines designed with huge technology imperatives are an exciting new trend.

Lots of great vehicular creations showed up at the recent Paris auto show. Witness Mini’s electric scooters, Ford’s sassy Focus ST concept, Lotus’ upcoming supercar, and an absolute horde of electric vehicles in every possible configuration and stripe.

Lots to digest. Too much for one sitting.

That’s why I suggest we nibble on the smaller stuff first, a couple of hor d'oeuvres if you will…

We knew Fiat was working on a new, tiny, two-cylinder engine, and it showed up in Paris in a Fiat 500 concept. Depending on state of tune, this 900-cc “flat twin” will deliver 65 to 105 horsepower. The Fiat concept had an 85-hp version — powerful enough to propel the car to 173 km/hr, but also frugal enough to sip only 4.1 litres of fuel every 100 km (almost 70 mpg!).

The 65-hp will surely do even better, and all engines will also have an ECO mode. When activated it cuts engine torque, and selects transmission gearing for even better efficiency. Can you say, “100 mpg?” A hybrid version is also planned.

When the “TwinAir 85 HP” gets bolted into a Fiat 500 next September, it will also be the first automotive production application for Fiat’s “MultiAir” engine technology, which is essentially a different way of introducing air into the combustion chamber (via valves and not by opening the throttle). The plan is to integrate “MultiAir” technology to most future Fiat and Chrysler engines.

Consider also the technology being turned loose on those small “range extender” engines, which power on-board generators, when battery power runs low. The race is on to make these engines as small and as fuel efficient as possible — a reverse “arms race” of sorts.

At Paris, Jaguar displayed the C-X75 concept car, to show us what styling direction Jaguar intends to pursue for its future sports and GT cars, but also to showcase a possible hybrid powertrain.

The C-X75 gets its considerable “giddy-up” from four electric motors — one mounted at each wheel, for a combined 778 hp and 1,180 lb-ft of torque.

But mounted in the centre of the car are also two state-of-the-art micro gas-turbine engines (each good for 94 hp), which can quickly fire up a generator to ultimately re-charge the battery.
If you select “track” model, these engines can also help the electric motors (as if they need help).

This is an awesome trend — small engines, but designed with huge technology imperatives.

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