Changing the transportation paradigm is far more complex than connecting a battery to an electric motor to produce an “electric car.” A true paradigm shift requires the replacement of every gasoline or diesel fueled engine in every type of vehicle. To do this, the replacement engine must have power that is equal to, or greater than, the conventional engine being replaced. It also requires the same operating characteristics and range of operation. To date no fuel cell, electric or hybrid vehicle has achieved this capability. Despite billions being spent on research, it appears that neither fuel cell nor electric will ever be a universal replacement for the internal combustion engine.

The underlying reason is that inherently, fuel generally contains over 100 times the energy by weight over any electric battery or fuel cell. With this power advantage, a fuel powered engine is the only universal solution to replace current conventional engines. The basic task therefore is to address how we can ignite fuel more efficiently. The second task is to understand what fuel produces when ignited, not on a molecular basis, but rather with a view to physics. These issues have to be addressed before any engine design is even considered.

This perspective leads one to the proven fact that 1) burning a fuel is more efficient than exploding it, and 2) igniting a fuel will produce pressure and heat.

Since an internal combustion engine explodes fuel, this inherent flaw is not as efficient as the optimal chemical reaction of burning fuel. Nothing can be done to an internal combustion engine to overcome this flaw, which at best, must be partially controlled by the sophisticated, expensive engine controls and anti-pollution devices in use today.

Second, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, when fuel explodes in an internal combustion engine, typically 25% of the fuel energy is converted to pressure, while 75% is converted to heat, which is discharged as waste energy out the radiator and tailpipe. An inherent flaw of internal combustion engines is that they must discharge 75% of the fuel energy as waste heat or the engine will overheat and fail. What this means in practical terms, is that if you buy $100 of gasoline, $75 does nothing to move your vehicle, and is discharged as wasted energy into the atmosphere.

internal combustion engine

Another factor integrated into the new ZED engine design is the relationship between pressure and heat which is clearly defined by the First Law of Thermodynamics.

With a “clean sheet” approach to the matter, it would seem logical that the new ZED engine “burns” fuel, and is designed to then use the heat of combustion in addition to pressure, specifically in a relationship defined by the First Law of Thermodynamics. Using the heat of combustion to improve engine efficiency is a new classification of high-efficiency heat engine called “bottom-cycle”.

It is important to note from an engineering perspective that the highest theoretically efficient engine ever designed, the Carnot-cycle is a heat engine. In many features the ZED engine mimics the Carnot-cycle design as follows:

Carnot-cycle design

Similarly, the highest efficiency operating engine is the Stirling, also a heat engine. Due to its relatively constant speed and low power however, it is not suited for transportation, although General Motors started research on the engine and in 1958 signed a formal agreement with Phillips for cooperative R&D. By May 1969, GM had accumulated over 22,000 hours of operation on Stirling engines from 2 to 400 hp but it was abandoned due to its inherent operating characteristics being incompatible with vehicle operation. However it is worth noting that the most important attributes of the Stirling engine which initiated the research, multi-fuel capability and ultralow emissions, are both characteristics of the ZED heat engine.

As the result of an extensive international technical search by engineering firm NERAC in Connecticut, as well as an exhaustive search by the law firm Greenberg Traurig in Washington, D.C. it was determined that ZED is the only bottom-cycle piston engine in the world, a truly break-through technology derived from a “clean sheet” approach, which can replace any engine in any vehicle.