Special Coverage

SAE World Congress

DETROIT – Scuderi Group is ready to take the next step with its innovative split-cycle engine concept, announcing its first full proof-of-concept prototype now is set for testing.

“This is a big milestone for the Scuderi Group and the Scuderi family, company President Salvatore C. Scuderi says at the SAE World Congress unveiling Monday of a cutaway model of the new engine.

Plans are to begin testing the powerplant in May at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, where final assembly currently is under way. The goal is to interest auto makers and engine manufacturers into taking up the technology and putting its concepts into production. Scuderi says it has no plans to manufacture the engine itself.

The SRI testing is expected to take about a year to complete, but data will begin flowing to interested manufacturers within the first month or so, Salvatore Scuderi tells Ward’s. The company has drawn interest from 14 of the top 20 auto makers worldwide, he says.

It likely would take two to three years for the engine to make it into production once a licensing deal has been signed, Salvatore Scuderi says.

It’s been a long road to get to this point for Scuderi. The engine, based on concepts that date back to at least 1914, was designed by Carmelo Scuderi, the family patriarch, who applied for his first patents in 2001. Scuderi Group was formed in 2002, the year Carmelo died, leaving his family to pursue further development and commercialization of his alternative-engine concept.

“After over seven years of hard work, this unveiling marks the realization of our father’s dream and his vision of the full potential this technology holds,” says Salvatore Scuderi, who credits teams at SRI and Robert Bosch GmbH for helping solve the engineering hurdles.

Key to the powerplant is the split-cycle design, which separates the intake and combustion processes into separate cylinders. Air compressed in the first cylinder (at a 100:1 ratio) is transferred via a crossover passage to the combustion cylinder, where fuel is indirectly injected by twin injectors.

It takes just one crankshaft revolution to complete a single combustion cycle, rather than the two revolutions required by conventional engines.

By separating the two processes, Scuderi says it is able to generate high output – 140 hp from a 1L displacement in turbocharged form, while reducing oxide-of-nitrogen emissions 80% compared with a conventional gasoline engine.

To make it work, Scuderi had to find a way to initiate the combustion process after the piston reached top dead center (TDC), “which many people didn’t think we could do,” says Salvatore Scuderi. Conventional engines fire before TDC.

That combustion process, said to be four to five times faster than in a conventional engine, and such ancillary developments as the fast-acting valves required to regulate it are elements Scuderi thinks could pay off in other engine designs, as well.

“This concept is opening up tremendous possibilities for the industry,” Salvatore Scuderi says. “Engine makers will be able to take this technology to new heights.”

The developer says the split-cycle powerplant would cost about the same as a conventional gasoline engine but offer more power and improved emissions. It also would open the way for an economical air-hybrid application, because the Scuderi process can be designed to capture unneeded compressed air and store it for later use as a launch assist.

Efficiency under full load is rated on a par with a conventional gasoline engine, but the Scuderi concept gains 15%-20% when turbocharged.

Once Scuderi has proven the basic concepts of its naturally aspirated split-cylinder design and post-TDC firing process, it expects to move rapidly to development of a more fuel-efficient turbocharged rendition of the engine, then an air-hybrid concept and finally a diesel-fueled version, Salvatore Scuderi says.

One of the big advantages to the design is how well it fits into the existing engine manufacturing infrastructure.

“We’re using Mahle pistons and Bosch injectors,” Salvatore Scuderi says. “You can produce this with conventional manufacturing processes. There would be some changes, but not drastic changes.”

Though it took nearly eight years to reach this stage with the basic concept, Scuderi says subsequent concepts, such as the air hybrid and turbocharged versions, should reach the prototype stage in 2010.

“It will go a lot quicker than this one,” Salvatore Scuderi says of subsequent phases in the Scuderi engine’s development. “We had to solve some problems with this first one.”

Scuderi Group raised an additional $20 million last year to back its research and development. Salvatore Scuderi says it’s been tougher to cultivate investors given the current economic climate, but adds, “We’ve never slowed our R&D.”

dzoia@wardsauto.com