By on July 11, 2014

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Cylinder deactivation is available on a handful of Chrysler and General Motors V8s, as well as Honda V6s, cutting power to a set of cylinders in order to boost efficiency in the short-term. However, one supplier wants to take this further by using the technology on turbocharged three-cylinder motors, deactivating one cylinder while the other two do all of the work.

Ward’s Auto reports German supplier Schaeffler, which brought the switchable valve lifters to the Chrysler and GM cylinder-deactivation programs, is looking to help its customers develop three all-new three-cylinder engines that will put aside one cylinder under certain conditions. Manager of valvetrain systems David Kehr hopes the first prototype will be available for driving in six months, and believes the tech is ready for small engines thanks to advances in NVH:

It will make sense when the consumers don’t even know it’s there. To tell someone you’re going to do it, they’d probably have a lot of apprehension. But even with all the cylinder-deactivation applications that have hit the market, I would argue most people don’t even know it’s there.

The supplier plans to use electronic “rolling” cylinder deactivation, changing the amount of cylinders in play — and which ones — based on driver behavior. In turn, this would boost fuel economy over the long-term, even though it would also add cost to the engines that receive the tech. Thus, the focus will be on three-cylinder units as the cost of adding cylinder deactivation is much lower than even on a four-cylinder unit, let alone using ICEs with electric power in a hybrid configuration to do the same thing.

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65 Comments on “Schaeffler: Run On Two Cylinders Instead of Three...”


  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    Heh, we have a mid-60’s John Deere tractor (3-cylinder Mannheim model) that does the same thing. Only it’s not wanted, and we can tell when it happens.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      I think this idea could work. Ask any owner of a John Deere 720 (or any Two-Putter)

      You’ll just have a car making distinctive putting noises.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Johnny Popper as my dear old dad would say.

        Pop…pop…pop…pop

        For the companies conservative clientele it was a big deal when the two cylinder Johnny Popper was discontinued in 1960.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        This is a brilliant idea for a triple.

        The current problem with cylinder de-activation is that that the same cylinders go dead each time on an 8 or a 6 with deactivation. They get cold and carbon up and misfire due to lean mixtures and cold combustion chambers when they come back on line.

        With a triple and rolling deactivation, you can fire 1/2, then 2/3, then 3/1 over 6 revolutions of the engine. All cylinders remain hot.

        Then you work out what vibration-control strategy gives the least NVH on average for each configuration and integrate the result into a whole.

        Avoids all the current problems like the Honda V6 (whose strategy has changed twice) when it comes to deactivation, and the V4 Chev V8 as well. Plus instead of canning 50% of the cylinders, you’re only stopping 33%.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    So the argument is basically that most people haven’t got a clue so just keep cutting. I can’t imagine how most people wouldn’t know but don’t let that stop making an idea reality….

    Why stop here? Have the car run on one cylinder! But wait. Need to cut some more weight so lets remove 2 wheels, take off the top and all the glass, and give the driver a raincoat! Then what do you have. Exactly. Nobody asked what PEOPLE want!

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      That’s exactly it. Most people don’t know or care. Why do you think BMW and Mercedes are introducing front wheel drive models? Because they figured out that most of their customers didn’t even know which wheels were driving their cars and didn’t care.

    • 0 avatar
      koshchei

      This isn’t a question of amputating cylinders from your car in a coordinated attack on your basic rights and freedoms – it’s designing efficient and reasonably powerful engines that pass emissions and displacement regulations around the world.

      I feel like the guy revealing to his kid that Santa isn’t real when I point out that the United States is no longer the economic powerhouse that it was 50 years ago — this is an unfortunate side-effect of deregulated late-era capitalist globalization.

      Economically, this is neither good nor bad (it’s just a natural side-effect of unregulated market discipline), but socially and politically, you’d better get used to the idea of being satisfied with less, because the money moves where efficiencies can be found. That, or start voting for the socialist candidate who believes in rebuilding economic barriers to protect local industry and your standard of living.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        [Comrade,] you’d better get used to the idea of being satisfied with less [for the glorious People’s Party is leading us into a bright future where they have everything and we make do with less].

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        If enough people are smart enough to believe that deregulation is the cause of our loss of economic might, we will be the next North Korea.

        • 0 avatar
          koshchei

          Because Stalinism has anything to do with economic theory.

          Go to a place like this for four years, and then we’ll talk like adults about a subject you obviously have no clue about (yet):

          https://college.harvard.edu/admissions

          North Korea is a fascinating country though — it’s like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory mixed with mass starvation, executions by flame thrower and mortar shells, and massive choreographed cultural shows involving a cast of hundreds of thousands for the exclusive benefit of less than ten people.

          That such a state could exist is almost beyond belief.

  • avatar
    koshchei

    Wouldn’t it make sense to just go to a two cylinder engine in this case? A three fires every 120 degrees, which is already choppy. My guess is that skipping one, even on a rotating basis to keep the engine’s inherent imbalance in check, would still feel quite unsettling.

    Just go with a larger displacement boxer 2.

    On the other hand, your car would be able to keep time with Meshuggah.

  • avatar

    Ridiculous.

    Everyone knows that cars need nothing less than a V8 and a supercharger…

    • 0 avatar
      koshchei

      And to be brown and a station wagon. The supercharged V8 also must be diesel. And made in Europe so that owners can feel worldly, despite never having had a passport.

      • 0 avatar

        Koshchei…

        You forgot to say that it has to have a Tremec 6-speed manual.

        • 0 avatar
          koshchei

          Absolutely correct! And be AWD. And have squishy breast-implant type plastics throughout the interior, so that you feel like you’re in some kind of space-age leathery womb when you’re driving.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Get it right, people:

            1) Rear wheel drive (or light AWD system, sending no more than 18% of power to front wheels)

            2) Diesel (turbocharging a diesel, unlike a petrol motor, is not only fine, but the only way to fly)

            3) Manual transmission with hydraulic foot operated clutch & 5 or 6 speed gear lever

            4) Durable yet supple whale peni foreskin leather interior trim

            5) Mocha and/or dark’caramel brown exterior paint option

            6) 0-60 time of less than 7.5 seconds/top speed of 150 mph @ 48mpg

            7) Starting MSRP of $12,998 with fully equipped model maxing out @ $16,339, including destination

            8) Factory standard bumper-to-bumper warranty that is 12 years/120,000 miles

            9) Only station wagon or true hatchback configuration

            10) Actual center console mounted, non-electronic hand brake

          • 0 avatar
            koshchei

            @Deadweight

            Thanks for the nasal coffee enema there. It burns hilarious.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Shouldn’t it come with a full size spare tire?

            What towing capacity is required?

            Is a VTEC sticker standard or part of the Titanoplatiunum package?

    • 0 avatar
      BigWill

      “Everyone knows that cars need nothing less than a V8 and a supercharger…”

      True. A Mazda 2 Hellcat comes to mind.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Wasn’t there a version of the Gremlin with an engine approaching 400CID?

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          There was a factory V8 Gremlin, yes. Randal AMC in Mesa, AZ built 401 V8 models starting with factory 304 V8 models.

          Growing up (in Ohio) a neighbor had a 304 V8 Gremlin. The weight distribution was so nose heavy he refused to drive it in the snow. It had an open differential and could do a 180 in slick conditions if you got one rear tire spinning.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      You guys forgot one thing: The car HAS to be used, because 90% of TTAC’ers wouldn’t buy new if their life depended on it!

      As for 3/2 cylinder engines, just make larger water-cooled lawn tractor engines and we’ll all drive thumpers. That’ll settle things.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    How about complete motor deactivation while we’re at it, Schaeffler?

    The whole point was to run a larger motor more efficiently…

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      You mean Stop-Start tech that’s now standard in a whole bunch of cars? I mean, it’s a safe bet when the light turns green and I hear a car firing up next to me, it’s a late-model BMW (although BMW just moves an absurd number of cars around where I work, so it was likely something Bavarian whether or not I heard it).

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m not sure what you mean. I’m referring to the idea of cylinder deactivating being running V8s on six or four cylinders at any given time. This makes sense to me because it gives you the best of both worlds to a point. This Schaeffler idea feels like a handicap on an already handicapped system. Maybe in a boxer config.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          You want complete cylinder deactivation, even sarcastically? At a stop, all cylinders are deactivated. It’s a thing.

          Besides, a car at steady cruise needs, what, 10-20hp? I think it’s reasonable to say a 667cc twin (as part of a 1.0 triple) can make that. The contingent around here who never seem to want a motor to have to exceed 2500rpm for any reason ever was never going to consider a triple anyhow, but the target market for those engines might be open to whatever marginal economy increases this might bring.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Oh ok. Yes I was being sarcastic, I already see a 1.0L I3 as somewhat anemic and if we’re going to start running them without all cylinders we’d might has well pack it up and drive mulch bag riding mowers.

            “The contingent around here who never seem to want a motor to have to exceed 2500rpm for any reason ever”

            I am the local chapter leader, actually. If you as an engineer need to spin up your motor to 5000+ rpm in order to achieve 100+hp, something is slightly amiss.

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            There’s something to be said for being at that power point where you get to wind out your engine on a normal basis (I hit redline on a routine basis) while not being dangerously slow. You get to live out your race driver fantasies, foot to the floor, apexing turns (or, well, as best you can), heel-and-toeing all the time (where applicable), and absolutely no one notices your vaguely anti-social behaviour.

            That might be an exhaust leak that was poorly fixed speaking though.

            Also, I hear good things about Fiat’s twin, even if everything suggests it makes no sense. I welcome more things of that ilk.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Don’t modern cars cut all fuel injection during deceleration? Regarding cylinder deactivation, I just returned from a road trip in my C7 and using economy mode, 7th gear and allowing V4 operation, I achieved 32 MPG at a varying speed of 65 to 70, no cruise control. All on a green motor with 500 miles on it. It ate over a quart of oil though…

      • 0 avatar
        blowfish

        just wonder how many months down the road when the car refuse to start upon turning green?

        i suppose it got to be super tough on the battery and starter, notwithstanding the oil pressure issues ( as some dude pointed it out on a diesel ).
        What are the down side besides the starter and batt?
        if oil an issue they could have an electric oil pump to augment it when stopped.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Just put some pedals on the bottom, and each person in the car can add power.

      Seriously, 3-cylinder is enough fuel savings already.

  • avatar
    BigWill

    Think of the nostalgic properties of this tech, reliving the engine smoothness of your dad’s Monkey Ward riding mower.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I don’t know if this will fly but VCM is a useful part of the landscape.

    Firing fewer cylinders, though, will not have the same impact as firing no cylinders and getting energy recovery on braking. It might be cheaper, though.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    In the future, we’ll see back at the Toyota Yaris with both fondness and amazement at its extravagant size and off-the-wall power.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I’m not sure that the “people don’t notice it” comment is accurate. They may not notice it because some manufactures, like GM with its new 1/2 ton trucks and, IIRC Acura, use active noise-cancellation systems to mask what’s going on (in a pickup truck, imagine that!). Reportedly, the 6.4 liter V-8 in the new RAM 3/4 ton, which also uses cylinder deactivation, is not so subtle. I think RAM may have skipped the active noise cancellation feature.

    Perhaps the problem is less with smaller displacement engines, but I’m wondering whether forced induction isn’t a better way of varying the displacement of the engine, at least in terms of NVH.

  • avatar
    triumphbob

    koshchei. SCE to AUX
    When a cylinder is deactivated (Valves remain closed) the piston is still present and going up and down, so how is crankshaft balance affected??

    • 0 avatar
      koshchei

      Disconnect the spark plug wire from one cylinder at random on your car and then turn it on. Did you notice anything?

      • 0 avatar
        triumphbob

        koshchei
        Ah yes but then the valves are still opening and closing pumping air throught the deactivated cylinder. Also you are standing with your head under the hood.
        From inside the vehicle, with valve deactivation and appropriate calibration (fueling , timing, idle control etc.) it is pretty much undetectable.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Loss of a power stroke seems like a problem on the face of it. But as wmba points out above, there may be something more sophisticated going on in order to reduce the vibration problems.

      This really seems like a stop-gap attempt to get another couple mpg. I’d rather have a decent 4-cylinder or hybrid.

      • 0 avatar
        koshchei

        I’m definitely willing to be wrong in this case, but yeah – it does seem like we’ve passed the point of diminishing returns.

        I’d just go hybrid as well.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    As GM owners how their cylinder deactivation is working out for them on the LS V8’s, it’s caused all sorts issues resulting in complete engine rebuilds or replacements.

    All to meet some ridiculous CAFE quote and “save” the consumer a few dollars a month in gas, never mind the thousands in repair bills. Oil starvation is the main issue. Buy hey, they got 19mpg on the highway instead of 18.2 mpg, so it was totally worth it.

    Many people buy kits that disable this feature through the ECM because they don’t want to have to buy a new engine at 60k miles. It also causes all sorts of bad oil consumption issues.

    • 0 avatar
      OldWingGuy

      Jacob has it correct. Run as fast as you can from a GM with AFM (active fuel management). My 2010 Silverado with a 5.3l LC9 (I believe) has a ticking valve that drives me nuts, at 170k km. turns out this is all to common a problem. Lifter replacement requires cyl head removal. This is my first and last GM truck. As Jacob points out, lots of extra complexity to go wrong for a negligible real world fuel economy payoff.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Yea, GM’s cylinder deactivation is on the “Avoid” list for now.

      • 0 avatar
        blowfish

        it was 30 some yrs ago that GM brought out the 4-6-8 V8 cataracts.
        And still can’t get it right, guess is not quite second time looky anymore, perhaps she need third time looky!

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Absolutely, also one of the many reasons I herald GMT800s, no AFM BS to deal with.
      The only way I would touch a GMT900 gasser is 6.0 or 6.2, because both lack the AFM.

  • avatar
    tbone33

    This approach to increased efficiency, a relatively minor change to the engine for a minor increase in efficiency which presents many problems, will fail. How about throwing money into developing wave-disk generators for electric engines, or the liquid piston X1 design? High mpg requirements require new technology.

    • 0 avatar
      koshchei

      I completely agree about the idea, although I’m not familiar with the concepts you’re referring to. Ultimately the biggest issues with current ICE designs are parasitic losses from the spring-loaded valve-train and suboptimal combustion conditions brought about by a variably sized chamber.

      Fix one of these issues with a cheap and reliable solution, and revolutionize transportation.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    A common method of cylinder deactivation is practiced by some of the local yokels, living in my area, who drive vehicles powered by V7 engines. This is an engine that left the factory as a V8 but was given only cursory maintenance over the years. These engines are quite popular in 20 year old pickup trucks and Camaros around the trailer parks.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    I had cylinder deactivation on a MB V8 E430 Sport. It caused more problems for that MB money-pit. I personally want all my cylinders working at all times… R.I.P E430

    • 0 avatar
      blowfish

      i suppose when u blow 80-100k for a car and whats the 2-3 mpg going to cost u?

      those stop when stopped engine are great as its kind of stone silence when stopped, but I am not crazy about the shaking when re-start again.
      Thats the thing I guess nobody can avoid yet.

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