- The Washington Times - Friday, July 17, 2009

Unless you are an engineer or serious tuner addict, you probably haven’t heard of the air-powered engine from the Scuderi Group.

The Scuderi Air Hybrid Engine uses oxygen to supplement the combustion process, which improves its overall efficiency, squeezing up to 50 percent more power, torque and mileage out of the engine’s other source of fuel: gasoline. And since air is the primary fuel, the engine runs cleaner than even the squeakiest clean of today’s partial zero emissions gas engines. Scuderi claims its revolutionary design can reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent.

So what’s the secret?

Despite a century plus of tinkering, today’s engine is much the same as the four-stroke Otto cycle design developed by Nicolaus Otto, Gottlieb Daimler and Rudolph Diesel in 1887. The four strokes refer to intake, compression, combustion (power), and exhaust as the pistons churn up and down at lightning speed. The four-stroke engine has the pistons working in unison - all together up, all together down.

The Scuderi engine uses a “split cycle,” meaning half the cylinders are sucking in air while the other half are firing, so there is no more waiting — even a millisecond worth of waiting — for your 4, 6 or 8 cylinders to recycle and re-ignite. That sounds more efficient to me, and I’m not an expert in thermodynamics and fluid mechanics like the military aircraft engineer who designed this engine, the late Carmelo Scuderi (1925-2002).

The century-old Otto-Daimler-Diesel design has pistons firing at the very split second they reach the top of their cylinder chambers. The Scuderi engine, on the other hand, fires them a blink after what’s called “top dead center,” four times faster than conventional engines, and pushes the super-heated air into a tank that Carmello’s son, Sal, described to me as a value-added extra.

This compressed air can be used “the same way hybrids store battery power for regenerative braking and driving at low speeds up to 10 or 20 miles per hour.” This reduces even further the amount of fuel needed to power the engine, and maybe even the need for the electric motor entirely, which will reduce both vehicle weight and cost.

Another feature of the Scuderi design is that it can work with any non-air fuel: gas, diesel, ethanol or methane. “It’s not fuel-specific,” Mr. Scuderi said, part of why manufacturers including Daimler, Fiat, Peugeot Citroen, Honda, Ford and Bosch reportedly are interested. The Scuderi Group, based in West Springfield, Mass., has an office in Frankfurt, Germany, and plans to open one in Japan.

Ah, yes, turbo-charging. Mr. Scuderi told me all that does is push more fuel into the chambers for more power, but it doesn’t make the engine more efficiently. The Scuderi engine potentially can double the power of an existing engine without turbo-charging. That means engines can be smaller, so cars can be lighter, further adding efficiency and reducing emissions.

“Our engine can be in a car in 2012 without changing the car’s design,” he said - that is, if he can convince carmakers to switch from something they’ve been using since 1887.

The Scuderi engine has been undergoing tests at Southwest Research Institute, an independent testing facility in San Antonio, Texas, that also conducts tests for NASA, and things look pretty promising. How appropriate in this 40th anniversary year of the Apollo moon landing that there’s a viable new propulsion system for our four-wheel vehicles designed by an aeronautical engineer.