When Fiat shows GM how it’s done, Detroit is in deep trouble

You would think that the sustainer engine in a car like the Chevy Volt would be cutting-edge for its size, weight and efficiency, wouldn’t you?

You would be wrong.  The sustainer in the Volt is an off-the-shelf 1.4 liter with little to recommend it.  It does not even use the Atkinson cycle.  Worse, it has been owned in every respect… by a 2-cylinder from Fiat!

The turbocharged TWIN-AIR engine appears to outclass the Volt engine in every way.  The Volt sustainer produces 53 kW; the TWIN-AIR, 63 kW.  The Volt sustainer displaces 1.4 liters; the TWIN-AIR, a mere 900 cc.  The TWIN-AIR is 23% shorter and 10% lighter than an equivalent 4-cylinder, and it has a smaller parts count almost by definition.  Variable intake-valve timing for engine throttling could be eliminated in sustainer duty, so GM probably could have obtained most of the advantages without infringing patents pertaining to MULTI-AIR or anything else.

A 2-cylinder turbo engine using the Miller cycle would be tailor-made for a car like the Volt.  I know that Ford was working on EV sustainers at least into the early 90’s (I saw both gas turbines and Wankels in test cells), and I would be shocked if GM hadn’t done the same.  This knowledge has to exist within the company.  When a company can’t convert knowledge to product, that’s it:  they’re dead, they just don’t know it yet.

I have long predicted the demise of GM due to the UAW and its own lousy management, but there’s a new twist.  The US government now owns most of GM.  Does this mean that bad product design will be subsidized by the taxpayer?  If it turns out that way, not just Detroit and Michigan are at risk, the whole country is; that is essentially how the Soviet Union destroyed itself.  If that doesn’t scare you, you aren’t paying attention.


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