New Life for an Old Technology?

I was recently discussing internal combustion engines with a somewhat geeky bookworm colleague (Yeah, I know; “geeky” and “IT worker” are redundant). I had made the statement that internal combustion engines were an old technology, having been around for more than 100 years, and it was about time we replaced them with something more efficient. To which he lectured me on the many advances that have been made in automotive technology in recent years. What follows is my attempt to concisely relate his long-winded, but admittedly very knowledgable, lecture.

First of all, current electronic fuel injection systems are vastly superior in performance to carburetors. I remember from a high school car repair class what a pain carburetors were to mess with, so if they’ve been replaced, good riddance!

He then said that the anti-pollution laws of the 1970s, while friendly to the environment and us, (it’s now much harder to kill yourself by sitting in a running car in your garage), ruined the performance of the engines of that time. It took a while for engineers to develop ways to get the performance back.

One way performance has been restored, and even substantially increased, has been through the use of better sealing systems, such as o-rings and gaskets. We now have more horsepower per cubic liter than in the past. Whereas 1 horsepower / cubic inch was a standard years ago, we now have many stomping horses / cubic inch. A normal, drive-the-kids-to-school car of today packs as much power as a car with a high-performance engine of the past.

Our current engines are more durable, and the parts and assemblies are built with a much higher level of precision than before. This has the added benefit of increasing our car’s gas mileage.

Finally, although not directly related to the engine, auto bodies have seen a considerable improvement. They are much more corrosion resistant, using metals such as galvanized steel. As those of you who were around at the time remember, the cars of the 1970s would rust away upon contact with the salt used to melt snow.

So there you have it …… a quick summary of my co-worker’s verbal manifesto on the recent improvements to the internal combustion engine. Any errors or omission, please blame him, not me!


We originally published this article on Bubblews, then spiffed it up a bit and posted it on FullofKnowledge.