Automotive

Interesting 4-stroke engine idea replaces the flywheel with a lightweight electric motor

Interesting 4-stroke engine id...
Instead of a weighty flywheel, RK Transportation proposes a lightweight rotor disc with embedded magnets that can respond to coils in the outer housing like an electric motor
Instead of a weighty flywheel, RK Transportation proposes a lightweight rotor disc with embedded magnets that can respond to coils in the outer housing like an electric motor
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Energy bursts would be applied with the piston at the top and bottom dead centers of its stroke, so as to hit it at the points of minimal friction
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Energy bursts would be applied with the piston at the top and bottom dead centers of its stroke, so as to hit it at the points of minimal friction
Instead of a weighty flywheel, RK Transportation proposes a lightweight rotor disc with embedded magnets that can respond to coils in the outer housing like an electric motor
2/2
Instead of a weighty flywheel, RK Transportation proposes a lightweight rotor disc with embedded magnets that can respond to coils in the outer housing like an electric motor

Lock up your flywheels, folks, an American inventor is coming after them. Randy Moore of RK Transportation is working on an idea that replaces an engine's flywheel with a lightweight rotor with embedded magnets, to apply little pulses of electromagnetic torque just when they're needed in search of easier acceleration.

The problem, as Moore sees it, is everything that happens between the "bangs" of a four-stroke engine cycle. The power stroke sends the piston downward with considerable energy, but then the exhaust stroke, intake stroke and compression stroke all drag on the system.

The inertia and weight of a flywheel can help keep the whole thing spinning, and smooth out the power delivery somewhat. But inertia works both ways; the heavier the flywheel, the harder it is to accelerate as well as decelerate, so the engine might keep happily rolling through the three non-power strokes, but it's also going to struggle to pick up speed freely when you're on the gas.

Moore's idea is fairly simple: replace the flywheel with a lightweight disc, embed magnets in that disc, and hit those magnets with electromagnetic pulses to replace flywheel inertia with electric torque. Effectively replacing the flywheel with a rotor for a low-power electric motor that can apply torque in a precise and useful way.

Energy bursts would be applied with the piston at the top and bottom dead centers of its stroke, so as to hit it at the points of minimal friction
Energy bursts would be applied with the piston at the top and bottom dead centers of its stroke, so as to hit it at the points of minimal friction

Moore wants to hit the crank with a little burst of torque right when the piston's at bottom dead center before the compression stroke, giving it a helping hand to squeeze the air-fuel mixture before the power stroke. He sees his system as being maximally useful at low RPMs, chiefly under acceleration. At cruising speeds, coils in the housing could start to drop out and let the engine work by itself, or even start operating in reverse to charge up the system's own batteries or capacitors.

One interesting application might be in a small chainsaw engine, for example, which could perhaps benefit from a bit of electric help when the motor starts to bog down under heavy load. Others could include small motorcycle and scooter motors, or potentially race cars that could benefit from flywheel-free rapid acceleration.

The device is currently back at the "laboratory" stage after things didn't go so well with the first prototype, which was built around a faulty "cheap foreign-built engine." Moore tried using a lightweight plastic plumbing part to hold the rotating magnets, and the entire thing ended in a "spectacular explosion." Some of the magnets are reportedly still at large.

In a blog post that, curiously, chiefly outlines his previous failures in working with engines, Moore says he plans to revisit the idea of a prototype once he's got the time and courage to give it another crack. He's got a patent on the idea, and is looking for collaboration partners. Perhaps the New Atlas brains trust can chime in with some advice?

Source: RK Transportation

22 comments
Mr T
This is one of the silliest ideas I've ever heard of in quite a while. Small ICE engines for things like chainsaws etc are now completely unnecessary, there are cordless versions of almost any ICE powered device you can name, and they have more grunt, without the noise, fumes and environmental damage, and with multiple battery packs you have unlimited runtime.
A typical example, I have an old CoreOutdoorPower line trimmer, it's got the same power as a 25cc petrol stinker and with 3 batts I can cut for over an hour of heavy grass/weeds etc, which is all you want to do in one session. There are much more powerful, faster charging units available now, like the Dewalt 54V FlexVolt series and many others.
Same goes for motor scooters and other devices with small petrol burners, they are just no longer needed. The fact that this guy's first prototype disintegrated shows he doesn't know what he is doing. Seems like a classic example of a tinkerer who comes up with an idea that only he thinks is worthwhile, and no amount of effort can disuade him (being tech editor for a sustainability org, I have seen many inventions like this, the people who come up with them are a particular type, usually obsessive-compulsive types who will listen to no-one).
I'm amazed this even made it as an article here in NA.
Terence Hawkes
Let me se if I have got this clear in my head. So the purpose is to smooth out engine pulses. Instead of adding a bit of mass the the rim of the flywheel, the idea is to add electromagnets, and an optically triggered controller (essentially a brushless motor) to do a similar job, just gain a small bit of engine response. Have you really saved any weight? But you have creatinly added a fair amount of cost and more points of failure. I don’t understand the benefit,
Mike Johnson
This is a truly GREAT idea and it can definitely be pursued and the creator/inventor can definitely persist. The best part is that it develops 2 known technologies in a fresh configuration with R&D focused on the nexus!
fb36
Imagine making a hybrid car, that has a single motor/engine, instead of one electric motor and one Internal Combustion Engine!
ljaques
Thanks, Loz. Hmm, shouldn't Randy have kept this under his hat until he had built an actual working prototype which didn't grenade on him? How does he expect to get funding after that story, which shows him in a foolish light with zero mech skills?
The concept is interesting. I'll give him that. Now make it work, Randy! Until then, it's not news.
DougNelson
I love the humor if nothing else: Some of the magnets are reportedly still at large.
Expanded Viewpoint
Perhaps those magnets which are still at large can find use as adornments for a tin foil hat! The cost/benefit ratio of adding all this complexity for such little gain befuddles my mind! If a faster rate of acceleration is what is really being sought after, then more displacement, higher compression ratio, better engine tuning in the air flow department and a few other things should be looked at first. The part about a "cheap, foreign built" engine being the cause of a failure in the execution of this low merit device sounds to me more like a lack of planning and good engineering sense. No matter how much time, effort or money is thrown at a bad idea will EVER make it into a good idea. Perhaps this chap needs to learn the key to success, which is to first find a need, and then fill it! I see no real need here for this.
Randy
paul314
Small IC motors seems the place where this kind of thing is least needed (although I can see why an small-scale experimenter would start there). And if you're going to do this right, you'll want to be able to take energy out as well. But really, flywheels are already incredibly efficient at doing what this guy wants to do.
DaveWesely
Honda used a version of this in their hybrid automobiles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_Motor_Assist). It didn't attempt to even out the power cycle and could have done more to assist the engine. Gas mileage is awesome due to small engine size and lightweight body. It's still just a gas engine. Recently bought an EV and will never buy another gas engine car.
BrianK56
On a power stroke the neighboring pistons are pushing the piston for compression. Thanks to the crank shaft.