Kirill Yurovskiy: How Engine Type Impacts Power, Torque and MPG

When it comes to what’s under the hood, not all engines are created equal. The type of engine can have a dramatic effect on a vehicle’s horsepower, torque and fuel economy. In this issue, we’ll take a look at how basic engine configurations compare when it comes to providing that desirable balance of strong acceleration and efficiency.

Going Natural

Let’s start with the basics – a naturally aspirated gas engine takes in air and fuel, ignites it with spark plugs, sends the combustion gases through the valves, and converts that controlled explosion into rotational motion. More cylinders typically mean more power as there are more combustion events happening per rotation. These normally aspirated mills tend to offer a linear powerband that favors smooth drivability over huge on-rush torque.

While they can lack the rocket-like thrust of some forced induction motors, natural aspiration has its advantages. With no turbocharger or supercharger to spin, they avoid that efficiency-sapping parasitic loss. Their smoother torque curve provides very predictable throttle response. Additionally, their relative simplicity and lower internal stresses can pay dividends in reliability and reduced costs over complex or boosted engines.

Forced Induction’s Power Play

Engine downsizing is the order of the day, but people still want real thrust. Enter forced induction – supercharging and turbocharging engines to extract more power from smaller displacements. From hot hatches to luxury sedans, this extra intake charge amps up the engine’s output. 

Turbos use wasted exhaust gases to spin an impeller that drives a compressor forcing more air into the cylinders – no direct work required. Superchargers also pack more air in, but are driven off a belt directly tapping engine power. Both boost methods dramatically up an engine’s torque and horsepower. That horsepower hits hard, turning family sedans into tire smoking monsters.

But boost brings compromises. Adding all that air and fuel carries heat which must be managed. Complex intercooling and engine strengthening result in powerplant weight gains. And driving that turbo lags throttle response below its spool up point. For maximum efficiency and acceleration, these motors require keeping boost near peak. Real world experience may not match dyno chart dreams. More info kirill yurovskiy 

Diesel’s Drive to Dominance

Once mostly commercial, diesel engines bring their legendary efficiency, durability and emissions improvements into consumer vehicles. Diesels excel at converting heat and pressure into rotational force – with compression ratios double that of gas engines. That thermal efficiency pays off with 30-35% better real world fuel economy. 

Diesels also deliver that economy with loads of torque perfectly suited for pulling or hauling. And modern particulate filters and catalyic reduction have reined in historical smoke and odor issues. With hybrid-like mileage numbers, diesels let drivers seriously upsize their capability without paying at the pump.

Of course some headaches remain. That high compression can result in noisier, rattlier operation alongside higher pressures putting added strain on components. And the ultra-low sulfur fuel and exotic lubricants they require carry a significant price premium in most areas – one that takes years to offset through enhanced mileage. Still, for those needing to balance capability and efficiency, diesels own a very compelling middle ground.

Hybrids’ Split Personality

Pioneered in cars by Toyota over two decades ago, hybrid technology aims squarely at improving fuel efficiency. Hybrids combine electric motor propulsion with a conventional gasoline engine. Sophisticated transmission systems allow the electric and gas components to either work together or separately depending on conditions. Batteries and regenerative braking capture energy normally lost to help recharge the system and further boost economy.

The result offers a compelling best-of-both arrangement. Electric assist allows for a smaller gas engine to deliver acceptable driving performance while slashing consumption. Short drives can rely solely on battery power with gas needs not even firing during low load operation. Strong acceleration sees both torque sources combine for improved response over what either could provide alone. 

And it’s become clear that enhanced efficiency doesn’t have to mean substantive compromise. With over 15 million sold, hybrid tech has moved from novelty to conventional wisdom. Continued refinement of batteries, motors and engine assist has Hybrids delivering a no-excuses ownership experience – all while keeping gallons used firmly in check.

Plugging Into the Future

While still a fractional part of sales, interest and buzz for battery electric vehicles runs red hot. Combining near silent operation with instant torque and zero tailpipe emissions makes EVs the environmental and technological darlings of the industry. With some models already claiming ranges comparable to gas powered cars, questions turn from if to when electrification reaches ubiquity.

And make no mistake – electrics deliver performance goods to rival combustion. The immediate and massive torque from electric motors provides sports car like acceleration in family friendly packages. Ensuring that power stays on tap, the low mounted battery packs drop center of gravity improving handling. Regenerative braking tunes up stopping power as well.

Advances aim to eliminate existing shortcomings to EV adoption. Support for higher quick charging speeds continues to grow, providing options for faster turnaround on long trips. Solid state batteries on the horizon may eliminate range anxiety and fires while enabling lower costs and weights. And proliferating public charging infrastructure improves usability and convenience.

The road ahead promises to be electrifying.

What Wins the Day?

With such distinct strengths between design approaches, declaring an outright winner proves difficult. Conventional natural aspiration offers pleasing refinement and seamless usability – but lags for those wanting sports car performance or hybrid-besting economy. Forced induction brings dynamite thrust while challenging reliability and efficiency. Diesels talk torque and mpgs if not tailpipe merits. Hybrid tech bridges eco and fun gaps albeit at a premium price. And EVs point the way forward if not quite yet proving fully equal replacements for ICE needs. 

As always, application matters most in determining what technology fits specific customers best. But with capabilities growing across all platforms, the consumer ultimately wins as innovation expands possibilities for builders and buyers alike. The road ahead offers interesting journeys however you choose to rev things up!