Electro Combustion Engine Pitched as Heavy Duty Range Extender

A UK engine specialist believes it has created an electricity generating combustion engine suited to extending the potential range of heavy-duty electric trucks.

Libertine FPE, has created what is calls is a Smart Engine control technology for free piston engine generators. It claims its free piston range of extender engines can offer the efficiency of fuel cells, the durability of conventional engines and achieve carbon reductions using renewable fuels. It claims its ‘intelliGEN’ control technology solves the free piston motion challenge, optimizing combustion conditions from the first ignition cycle.

Its engines feature pairs of pistons which are free to slide within a linear combustion cylinder. The introduction of a fuel mixture and a timed spark drives the pistons down the cylinder where they rebound off air springs, enabling the cycle to repeat. Magnets in the pistons energize coils around the cylinder, generating electricity the company claims is much more efficient than existing conventional engines and generators.

Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund is supporting the project to develop and demonstrate a performance validation prototype, building on successful proof of concept testing completed in 2020. The company says discussions with prospective automakers identified the need for a performance validation prototype as a key development milestone. The 2021 development will integrate Libertine’s technology with Mahle Powertrain’s pre-chamber ignition system to form a multi-cylinder opposed Free Piston Engine, designed and calibrated to start and run cleanly on renewable alcohol fuels. The project will also integrate multiple enhancements for thermal management, durability and electrical power conversion efficiency.

Sam Cockerill, Libertine’s CEO, said that the move to decarbonize heavy duty transport must be driven by demand and affordability. Truck operators will not invest in zero-emission technologies if there is no effective way to run, refuel and recharge them. He explained: “As a director of a major haulier, I have first-hand knowledge of the hurdles the industry faces in reducing emissions. The impact of a pure electric powertrain on payload, productivity and up-front costs, combined with limited charging infrastructure and restricted new vehicle choice, are real challenges. The combination of a smaller battery and an efficient onboard generator using 100% renewable fuels has the potential to solve these pain points and drive significant uptake of net zero trucks before the end of the decade.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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