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.
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.