By on May 26, 2012


Walking across the exhibition floor of the annual conference of the Japan chapter of the SAE, one gets the impression that the internal combustion engine is an endangered species.

Nearly everything that is on display here is battery operated. The few ICEs on display are either big diesel holdouts from UD Trucks, or the flat four of the Hachi-Roku.  Just about anything else is electric in one way or the other.

In a corner, a man demonstrates the engine that will be in the Infiniti EMERG-E mid-engined range extended electric sports car if it ever gets built.

Dr. Michael Lamperth is a Swiss mechanical engineer. He moved to England, where he taught at the Imperial College for 10 years before founding EVO Electric. Fashionably located at the former headquarters of McLaren, the company builds electric motors and generators based on axial flux technology.

Asked to explain what powers the Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid and the Infiniti EMERG-E, Lamperth gives it short shrift: “The car has two times two electric motors. Together they produce 400kW, everything in a light package. They get their juice from a battery, the battery is range extended with an ICE.” Then, he wants to talk about something else.

The true church of EVs demands either pure battery, or a range extender, but Lamperth is not convinced:

“I think series/parallel is much better. On the highway, there is nothing better than a diesel engine that powers the wheels directly. This is more efficient than even fuel cells.”

Lamperth thinks it is wasteful to convert fuel into mechanical power, which creates electricity, which then powers an engine.

Instead, Lamperth is pushing his DuoDrive. The drive consists of a generator and an electric motor, mated through a clutch. It replaces the transmission. In a London Taxi, it was a straight swap.

On the freeway, the ICE powers the wheels. If needed, it receives assistance from the electric motor.

In the city, the car runs on battery as long as there is a charge.  EVO has a patent on a system that uses axial flux engines, but Lamperth concedes that the series/parallel principle has been there before. “It’s the holy grail of the business.”

Looks are deceiving. The ICE will power the car for a long time. Maybe, through a more efficient transmission.

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15 Comments on “Swiss Inventor Explains The EMERG-E Engine, And Why He has Something Better...”


  • avatar

    Plus que change. If I understand it correctly, this system isn’t entirely different from the 1915 Woods Dual Power hybrid car, which also had an electric motor inline with the ICE and a magnetic clutch that engaged the engine for speeds over 15 mph.

    Also, the Chevy Volt also can be seen as a series/parallel hybrid since the combustion engine can drive the car under certain circumstances.

    http://howardautopres.com/woods-dual-powered-coupe.html

  • avatar
    Hogun

    This is more evolution than revolution in hybrid tech. This’ll work in longitudinally mounted engines, but I want to see his solution for transversely mounted stuff (ie, most passenger cars). Since this is longitudinal, I wonder if it can be scaled up for pickups, trucks, and tractor trailers, which could really use the fuel economy boost.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Someone has to understand at some point that the solutions to the challenges ahead don’t involve a whole shift to, for example, EVs.

    It is good to see people like him and the OPOC ones working on practical real world solutions instead of unicorn farts.

    The ICE is going to be with us for long time.

    Is there any talk in those exhibitions about alternative fuels?

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Toyota’s “Hybrid Synergy Drive” provides the same functionality using a planetary gear “power split device” instead of a clutch. I guess Infiniti does it this way to work around patents.

  • avatar
    Campisi

    Shoot, I was kind of hoping for a bit more on axial flux electric motors. Oh well, to Google for me…

    “On the highway, there is nothing better than a diesel engine that powers the wheels directly. This is more efficient than even fuel cells.”

    Is there more context to this quote? What sort of efficiency is he talking about? My understanding was that the poor thermodynamic efficiency of internal combustion engines put them far behind electric motors in that regard, and that the energy density of liquid hydrocarbon fuels is what allow them to outperform their alternative-fuel brethren out in the real world.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      > poor thermodynamic efficiency of internal combustion engines put them far behind electric motors in that regard

      I think he’s talking about series-hybrid systems (or mode of operation) where go fuel->IV->wires->Motor-> wheels, in which case it would just be simpler and more effective to go fuel to IC o wheels instead. It’s pretty much born out by the Fisker Karma… on range extender mode when the battery is depleted and the engine is supplier all of the electricity for the wheels, its mileage is pretty hideous.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I don’t get the quote, either. Fuel cells are around 40-50% efficient at converting the fuel energy to useful work. I can certainly see a diesel in a similar range, and since the diesel’s output is already in the form of torque, it wouldn’t have the losses associated with a motor.

      However, battery EVs are more efficient than fuel cell EVs, so I don’t understand the “more efficient than even fuel cells.”

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    So GM’s dual mode hybrid system, which Farago used to rip at every turn is really the way to go?

    My take was that GM should have discontinued the conventionally powered Tahoe, Suburban, Escalade, Yukon SUVs and gone dual mode with all of them. They would be much better positioned for $4 gasoline, and the new CAFE rules.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    axial flux electric motors, they’re basically pancake motors, IE the ev bikes hub motor, or CD rom’s motor.

    http://www.imtmotors.com/technology.htm

  • avatar
    slow kills

    If Dr. Lamperth would shave and put on a tie, I might listen to what he has to say.

  • avatar
    skor

    Pure electrics running off batteries alone will never be practical except as short commute city cars. The solution will be in building highways and secondary roads that are wired to provide power to vehicles via some kind of induction system. Electricity used would be metered and the owner billed at the end of the month. The car would switch to battery backup when it leaves the powered roads to travel the last few miles of conventional road or if the induction system became disabled.

    Of course this will never happen in the USA. The only entity that has the resources to build such a thing is the government, and we can’t have any of that socialism going on here in the US of ‘Merica.

  • avatar
    G35X

    If only Honda can put a clutch between ICE output shaft and the IMA motor… Closing all the valves when in EV mode is not enough.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I understand that “bridge” technologies have to exist, but we need more EV thinkers that don’t have the “easy out” of ICE – think of Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz, or the loss of a major Saudi oil facility.

    In other words, think of $10/Gal fuel, and then get back to me about that ICE stuff.

    We need to get our day-to-day commutes off of oil (and save it for the intercity diesel trucks and air travel for commerce) so if bad things happen overseas, we are more independent and our economy won’t collapse.

    This is a question of national security, not a silly game.


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