MAHLE F1 Jet Ignition Has Benefits Off the Track

Jul 15, 2016

Combustion technology provided by MAHLE Powertrain to improve Ferrari’s Formula 1 race track performance may soon improve new-model fuel economy off the track as well.

The new lean-burn combustion process is made possible by MAHLE Jet Ignition, a high-energy distributed ignition technology for motorsports applications, but MAHLE also is working to develop the technology for series production vehicles that could produce higher fuel efficiency similar to that of diesel engines.

The new Ferrari technology demonstrates how motorsports continue to be a technology driver. “The extreme requirements in these vehicles are the starting point for many innovative solutions that also can be used in series production at a later stage,” said Fred Tuerk, vice president of MAHLE Motorsports and MAHLE Powertrain.

MAHLE Jet Ignition uses a pre-chamber in conjunction with a spark plug and secondary fuel injector. The chemical, thermal and kinetic energy from the combustion of this small fuel-air mixture is transferred via nozzles to the main combustion chamber where it ignites the main fuel-air mixture.

When translated to passenger cars and other on-road vehicles, “MAHLE Jet Ignition can produce gains of 10 to 20 percent in fuel efficiency and a 95-percent reduction in harmful NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions at minimal cost and complexity,” Tuerk said.

“MAHLE’s design distributes the high-energy jets deep into the main combustion chamber, which significantly reduces knock, useful for motorsport applications, and also enables ignition of very lean mixtures for high fuel economy applications,” said Hugh Blaxill, general manager of MAHLE Powertrain.

These ultra-lean conditions reduce throttling losses, improve combustion efficiency and reduce heat losses, according to MAHLE Powertrain.

MAHLE Powertrain, in cooperation with the U.S. Dept. of Energy, has demonstrated that MAHLE Jet Ignition can deliver impressive results in passenger car applications, according to the company.

The technology has demonstrated sub-200 g/kW-hr brake specific fuel consumption, peak brake thermal efficiency above 41.5 percent, and more than 95-percent reductions in engine-out NOx levels, all while reducing knock and maintaining acceptable levels of combustion stability. A 10-20 percent increase in fuel economy (mpg) is expected when compared to current production gasoline engines, according to MAHLE Powertrain.

MAHLE Jet Ignition also can increase fuel efficiency for natural gas and LPG powerplants, according to the company. In cooperation with ARPA-E, the advanced research projects agency on energy of the U.S. Dept. of Energy, MAHLE Powertrain is developing Jet Ignition for a natural-gas-fueled combined heat and power (CHP) unit.

The goal is to produce a micro-CHP unit that meets both electrical and heating needs for a residential site that not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but also is competitive with traditional electrical grid power pricing, according to MAHLE Powertrain.

Combining the high fuel efficiency of MAHLE Jet Ignition with MAHLE friction reduction technologies and systems expertise, an ultra-high efficiency, long life, low life-cycle cost micro-CHP unit is conceivable and is a key to opening this emerging market in the U.S., according to MAHLE Powertrain.

MAHLE continues to develop the technology for high specific power, high efficiency, low emissions, and off-road applications as well.