Enter Saudi Aramco, an oil producer from the Middle East that has recently let it slip that it’s working on various engine technologies that reduce greenhouse gasses by 50 percent compared to regular ones.
A recent study involving those technologies was drafted following a collaboration between scientists at Saudi Aramaco, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and scientists in China, and was unveiled in a paper published in the Applied Energy journal.
If the global health crisis hadn’t happened, the Saudi company would have unveiled no less than two vastly different green engine concepts at the ill-fated 2020 Geneva Motor Show. Notice I said ‘engines,’ not ‘motors,’ which should have been obvious since we’re talking about an oil company after all.
What is it so special about those engines, you ask? Well, one of them is an ultra-lean gasoline compression ignition engine paired with a 48v mild-hybrid electric motor/generator that’s not unlike Mazda’s fabulous Skyactiv X, only taken just a tiny step further.
The second one is a bit more on the Sci-Fi side since we’re talking about a two-stroke opposed-piston engine that has two pistons per cylinder, which run ‘against’ each other and eliminate the addition of a cylinder head or a valve train.
From what I managed to gather, the second one was developed together with the peeps from Achates Power, who had been working on a similar concept of their own for the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-e program.
With a total of three cylinders and six pistons, comprising a displacement of 2.7 liters, the original Achates Power prototype engine delivered 270 horsepower and a massive 650 Nm (480 lb-ft) of torque.
According to Saudi Aramco, the new two-stroke thingamagig can offer up to 50 percent better fuel economy compared to a conventional engine of similar displacement and power. In other words, it sounds like a development of the exact same unit that was powering a modified Ford F-150 and dropping jaws at the 2018 North American International Auto Show. You can see a video of how it works below.
Seeing an oil producer get so serious about improving and most of all prolonging the life of the internal combustion engine should mean nothing but good news for traditional carmakers and old-school driving purists, right? The ICE lives!
But does it, really? Before I answer that, we ought to first look at what other things are foreshadowed by the company, stuff like electric vehicles doing more harm than good if they take over the planet at the current rate.
“Climate change and mineral resourcing are inextricably linked,” said Amir Abdul-Manan, head of the Aramco team working in China with Shanghai Jiao Tong University. “A disorderly mobility transition worldwide could stress the supply of critical raw materials for battery production, possibly risking adverse ecological impacts particularly in mining countries, and potentially creating supply-chain vulnerability.”
The quote was made in the context that most carmakers are currently moving toward larger and larger batteries as a means to increase an EV’s range, which is definitely not the brightest idea going forward for numerous reasons.
Apart from the extra weight, which is there no matter if the car is filled with electrons or less so, bigger batteries translate into worse driving performance and safety, less energy efficiency and longer charging times no matter how you look at it.
How batteries are manufactured and where the energy required to power them is produced is also highly influential in the existence of an actual benefit to a large-scale EV switch. In other words, maybe we shouldn’t jump headfirst without squeezing every ounce of life from the soon-to-be-defunct internal combustion engine.
The only problem with that train of thought? Well, all these truths come from the most profitable and most polluting company of all time, by far. To put things into perspective, Saudi Aramco is responsible for over 4 percent of the global greenhouse gasses emissions on its own, so put that in your pipe and smoke it!
Of course, they’re trying to protect their massive market share by heavily promoting ICE, but what they think of the rather abrupt switch to BEVs that's currently going on is also true.
I’m still looking for the silver lining to this oil-infused cloud and can’t seem to find it at the moment, can you?