In addition to a deeper understanding of engine manufacturing considerations than I even knew I cared to learn, this article helps me appreciate why people are into engine work.
The perfect tolerances and synchronization of these machines makes me a little ashamed to use the word "engineer" in my title of "software engineer". There is no real comparison of the quality of the result.
edit: And later it occurs to me that Mr. Ciechanowski is a true craftsman of software; handmade and built to 1) Be beautiful (and informative), 2) last for years. (The open web standards are the ones that seem to stick around the longest, for better or for worse. (I'm ignorant of the shader world though))
I think that's because the barrier to entry is too low and anybody is being called a "software engineer" these days.
But think about a system which makes proper use of synchronization primitives, like an OS kernel or a robotic control, or a CPU design like the other guy commented too, or maybe a 3D game with tricks like that of John Carmack. Those things can be as complex as an ICU engine.
To make an analogy: in the physical world there are the engineers, and the mechanics.
In the software world everybody is a software engineer.
The point is, the “field” , has taken in a number of disasters, established a professional association, set standards for what you need to know to not be putting people at risk of dying, and created tests that new entrants have to pass in order to be certified with a title.
Now, you can say that is pointless bullshit—fine. That’s an opinion. But then you are just saying you think the title of “Engineer” is bullshit, we could still at least try to use the word properly.
The point is, people used to be able to use the word “Engineer” to mean something like, your house isn’t going to slide off the cliff, and your bridge you bought isn’t going to fall down, and due to “software engineers” who never bothered to set any professional standards for themselves, that word is less and less meaningful.
Words come and go, it’s not the first time. But it’s still a little bit of a bummer when it happens.
It’s also clear to me that most experienced software developers are more qualified than most “credentialed” graduates of CS/software engineering (most of whom can’t really code).
From a complexity perspective an ICU isn’t nearly as complex as even something as simple is a script scraping a webpages for links and queuing them up for further crawling. I’m not sure if “complex” is the word you are going for but even the TCP state machine has significantly more complexity than an ICU and that’s just a fragment of what it takes to transmit some data.
The composability and abstractions we have in this industry allows you to quickly dwarf any regular mechanical system. There is a reason this is a whole new era beyond the industrial revolution.
Scraping a static webpage is simple when examined at the level of abstraction involving Python and ready made packages. An ICE is similarly simple when examined from the perspective of basic mechanics, as in the article under discussion.
As you note, scraping that static webpage is no longer simple when you include as part of your assessment the TCP state machine, kernel interface, NIC firmware, and similar layers that had previously been abstracted away. Neither is the ICE though once metallurgy, machining, oil chemistry, and the physics of combustion are included.
Granted, pursued to the logical extreme software eventually drags in everything the ICE did and more due to the physical hardware. But then modern engines are controlled by computers ...
The platonic carburetor is a dead simple device: a Venturi, a jet, and a butterfly valve. Real life carburetors are fiendishly complex: multiple jets, an accelerator pump, a choke. And god help you if you have multiple carbs on a single engine and need to sync them.
Everything that goes into making an engine work is similar: cooling it correctly and evenly, allowing for operation while parts expand and contract at different rates as the engine reaches operating temperature, lubricating everything, preventing vibrations that'll make the car feel unrefined or maybe tear the engine apart, valve timing (fixed in most engines at some compromise between performance and drivability), ignition timing (variable in most engines), sealing things that need to be sealed across a huge range of operating temperatures and in the presence of differing rates of thermal expansion (head gaskets, among others) oh, and making it work for a quarter million miles or more with fairly minimal maintenance. And manufacturing them at enormous scale, and holding the tolerances that make all of the above possible across the lifespan of the production line.
And all of that is before we even discuss pollution controls.
And even if you never tinkered with transistors surely you've at least looked at assembly code, and the amount of painstakingly detailed data layout orchestration that is going on there. A simple printf("hello world") is magical if you know what happens under the hood.
Most importantly, I'm talking about my own ability more than the best in the field.
Either way, it's the core process of engineering - applying theory, and breaking up complex parts into more manageable chunks. Same goes for the car engine - it's a complex piece of machinery, but still a sum of its parts.
It might be useful to build tools for research projects, interactive elements for assessment etc.
The bulk of my coding is work Matlab and an increasing amount of Python. JS would allow me to to more web based stuff.
I’d love to learn more about a number of engineering disciplines by helping people who know those fields, learn how to implement the algorithms and mathematical calculations they need in Python and simultaneously, learning more about those algorithms and calculations in order to best implement them and show how best to use Python for these tasks.
But unfortunately such opportunities are few and far between outside academia and other learning oriented environments in my experience.
There are a lot of clunky engineering tools that would benefit greatly from professional software development. Computational Fluid Dynamics software in particular is just plain awful in terms of usability for beginners.
Then there’s OpenFOAM which is a fantastic open source alternative. It’s entirely command line based but there are UI derivatives and cloud based versions (SimScale). However it’s a nightmare of disjointed code, difficult to build and heavy on dependencies. You spend all your time dealing with endless problems related to defining simple geometries in the basic BlockMesh tool and then dealing with and compiling various solvers. It’s a research grade tool and not a polished piece of software. I won’t go into the various versions with incompatible differences.
Getting the most basic stuff working is tedious and frustrating in both.
After a few years of this masochism you just get on with it. However, when you are trying to guide students through the software for their final year project they spend about two thirds of their time just figuring out how to get something simple running and then never want to touch CFD ever again.
Then there’s Blender where I can install it in seconds and set up a simple flow simulation with a straightforward workflow. Sure the result is not remotely accurate but that’s just the solver, there is no reason for the complexity of the workflow in Ansys or OpenFOAM other than it was designed by (Mechanical) Engineers who know nothing about good software design.
My response was meant to be humorous.
For general JS:
There's other stuff like build tools, cross-browser, and other stuff, but that's likely to be confusing and not super necessary to begin with. The above should be enough to get you running with what it sounds like you want to do.
I appreciate you sharing those links. I'm trying to learn mechanical engineering stuff myself, if you have any further useful learning materials I would love to see them.
What areas are you interested in?
Observable is geared toward the use of d3.js (essentially a library for drawing charts and graphs) which can be a bit intimidating, but you can use other libraries as well. For 3D, regl seems to be a good option. It's a library which makes using WebGL a bit more convenient. Here's an example of an Observable notebook that uses regl: https://observablehq.com/@rreusser/contour-plots-with-d3-reg...
I use Jupyter because it’s something that the students are finding used more and more when they go on industrial placement. Matlab is extremely popular in engineering but Python is growing.
My notebooks are deliberately simple so it’s not I ntimidating for students who are frequently terrified by code. The point is to show them that some basic readable code can help them solve problems and avoid going too deep into the weeds.
2.Then the three.js library for 3D in the browser.
3. Maybe P5.js as well for 2D.
This page summarizes pretty good what web technology is capable of, when in the hands of a real professional.
Ok, I just realized this is from Bartosz Ciechanowski, and this reminded me of the Cameras and Lenses  article which I've seen recently. It was the same kind of quality.
This man is a real genius.
I would like an article on how he made the interactive animations in the article.
It's almost like being able to hold the part in your hands, examine the reasoning behind its structure and "debug" your mental model of it by playing its operation back and forth.
We also had really large blocks, because someone dropped one on my head.
"Just bare webGL, it’s not that many lines of code to setup and it gives me complete control over what I want to render" https://twitter.com/BCiechanowski/status/1388504529646211076...
It seems parts of it are auto-generated like all those co-ordinates. But then some parts appear as if they are hand-coded.
I also noticed that other program texts are getting assigned to variables (example "line_vert_src"). Could someone please describe what's going on?
That explosion animation is absolutely mind-blowing. Goes to show what can be achieved if someone focuses their attention to a topic to understand it in depth and explain it at the same depth.
These are fragments of code in "OpenGL ES Shading Language", passed to WebGL. See for instance  for a tutorial.
He doesn't even use any libraries for the 3d math, input, rendering, etc. Pretty inspiring.
> [...] We’ve barely scratched the surface of optics and camera lens
A real genius certainly, but, I'm always doing this; bad choice of metaphor here!
Or a funny one.
> While reliable and easy to direct, a cannon ball won’t be very effective at pushing the crank
This is even better, I will bookmark it as an example.
Crazy that no one’s made this before
I was looking at this when I went to bed, and though the subject matter isn't completely new to me I was enthralled by the execution and stayed up and read all of it...
Absolutely LOVE the way this has been put together, it really speaks to me of beauty in simplicity, at least from the visual perspective!
Yes. This is what Web Pages should have been. Simple, Clear, with Animation to help with certain demonstration. He could have been add an ad at the bottom if it needs to be. A Web page with added on interactivity.
Instead we got Web Apps.
Smokey Yunick (blessed be his name) used to make see-through timing covers, oil pans, valve covers + strobe light + some sort of oscilloscope setup to watch the craziness. I think I remember seeing the results for small block Chevrolet timing gears on sprint car engines as the teeth wiggled more and more with rpm. Cam went backwards and forwards. Ooof.
Oh, man. I'm not a huge NASCAR fan, but that guy. That guy. He was an absolute master of "But the rules didn't say I couldn't..." and probably is responsible for half the thickness of the modern rulebook on his own!
"What? The fuel tank capacity can't have an inflated basketball in it that springs a leak during the race, leaving us with more fuel capacity?"
"What? The fuel lines have to be a short path between the tank and engine? Now, look, nowhere in this here book does it say I can't stuff the frame rails with a couple hundred feet of spiraled fuel line. It gets an extra gallon or two in the car? Really? Huh..."
"Nowhere in the book does it say the bodywork has to actually match the size or positioning of the stock car the race car is based on. I can't help it if nobody else has totally redone the bodywork to improve aerodynamics... oh, OK, you're bringing cardboard templates next season, got it, that trick is done."
The guy was an absolute master of "creative advantages that weren't actually illegal at the time they were used."
Not to say that cheating didn't happen elsewhere. Check out the front-end sheet metal of the Trans-Am Boss 302s. Use of the headlight holes for brake ducting. The inline Autolite carb. There were some good minds at Holman-Moody, Kar Kraft, Bud Moore, etc.
Pardon my ignorance- what is the motivation for temporarily reducing the fuel capacity in this example? And why was it disallowed?
They check, at the tech inspection, that your tank doesn't hold more than 10 gallons. Great.
Except, once you deflate the basketball (or get creative with routing fuel lines all over the car), you actually have 11-12 gallons onboard.
Which means, at the end of the race, when everyone else has to pit, you can make the "risky option" to skip the final pit stop, keep rolling, and, well, surprise of surprise, make it over the line (in first place) before you flame out.
He would temporarily meet the small tank regulations during inspection, but under race conditions, the ball would burst, allowing for more space in the tank, which would get filled up with more fuel than his competitors at the first pit stop.
If sth gives you an edge for half a season until rules are adjusted, that might be enough to win a championship. It's a cat-and-mouse game, but it's also exciting, and important for the whole thrill of it.
Decades past Gordon Murray designed a fan quite literally sucking cars to the ground, which somehow was within regulations, because no one even considered something like that https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hb6DAmm7sZg In rally driving, they would sometimes come up with fake reasons for a start to be delayed, so they wouldn't have to drive in the front car's dust all the time. Audi entering with their 4-wheel car back in the days was only possible, because they pushed for a rule change and no one else really knew what was coming. Sometimes manufacturers straight up "cheated" (almost, sometimes for real) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lo4dGTrzr8 ; it's a thin line, but also what makes it exciting.
I would say that it's the hacker's / engineering ethos almost. What can I do within the framework? Whether it's building a bridge (to make it more stable while still following this brash design), a road car (how can I create something fun, with torque, sound, emotion, down force, power, but a nice shape, and still get a road legal car within environmental regulations), computer games (consider https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izxXGuVL21o ; computer games are full of hacks to get the most out of the hardware), even legal (how can we pay almost no taxes, while not being busted for tax avoidance?) ; not every ingenuity is necessarily good, but it will always be cat-and-mouse, that's the point of living.
This got meta quick ... and quite a more detailed answer than I anticipated. Sorry for that, hope I gave you a different perspective though.
This reminds me of a similar story (and I'm having trouble finding a source now, perhaps it was the Lotus 78?), where the team bragged to the press about a new technology they had developed which reduced the losses in their differential, which explained their recent competitive advantage. On race day the pit crew even covered the part in rags as they ran to the back of the car to swap out the differential mid-race, lest their competitors catch a glimpse of this new technology.
Only there was no fancy differential technology. That was all a ruse to distract from the aerodynamic skirt they were using which literally sucked the car onto the track :)
It's quite literally a major part of what makes the sport interesting. Yes, driver skill matters, but an exceedingly creative crew chief (see Smokey) is worth quite a bit more.
Some of it is certainly "cheating, good luck catching us." Some of the trick throttle body restrictor plates that look like a perfectly valid restrictor plate ("A hole of X diameter to restrict airflow to the engine so everyone has the same power") end up flowing a lot more are pretty clearly cheating - they're against both the letter and spirit of the rules, but you have to catch them, which is hard.
Others? It's literally just undefined areas. To borrow a few of Smokey's antics, sure, the car has to be based on a stock car you can buy - but does it have to be dimensionally identical, or can you get creative? He did things like create smoother windshield/frame junctions to reduce drag, extended the bumper down to improve aerodynamics, etc. Is that cheating, or is that just creative optimization within the rules? You were, at one point, allowed to use an alternative frame for the car. As worded, that doesn't prohibit a custom made frame with the drivetrain offset to one side for balance improvements for circle track duty... but is that actually cheating? It never said you couldn't.
One might reasonably assume that a fuel line routing would be "a more or less direct and protected path from the fuel tank to the engine." But, if you've not specified this, and someone stuffs the frame rails with a couple gallons worth of spiraled fuel line... the requirements specify fuel tank capacity. They don't specify fuel line length or capacity. So if you stuff a ton of the largest diameter fuel line you can get your hands on in just about every frame rail and it doesn't say you can't... well, is that cheating?
The rules have gotten more strict over time, but there are still plenty of creative ways to use the provided parts. A few years back, some team found some way to use the provided suspension components, within spec, to meet the ride height requirements at the start of the race, when it was measured. They were consistently lower than they ought to be at the end of the race, but they used the provided parts and met the requirements, as written, at the time they were racing. I believe the letter they got was essentially, "We can't figure out what you're doing, but stop it, and we're going to start checking ride height at the end of the race, here's the tolerances." They met every requirement provided, but found some way or another to get an advantage.
And that's just NASCAR. You get into F1 with "functionally unlimited budgets" and some of the engineering insanity that is entirely within the bounds of the rulebook, but is still wonderfully absurd...
Stuff like "You never said we had to race with the physical engine we qualified with, so our qualifying engine is run at the literal edge of holding together and we replace it before the race." I believe it was BMW that got around 1500hp out of a 1.5L motor (so 1000 HP/L), but the engine more or less came apart at the end of the qualifying laps.
Can you water cool your brakes? Well, OK, nothing against it. Whoops, did you water cool your brakes so much you're underweight during the race, but refill the tank before post-race weigh in? Well...
Far as I'm concerned, this is the sort of thing that makes racing interesting!
I guess it depends whether you accept "technically, according to rules as written (...)" is a valid explanation.
Maybe I am wrong, but in racing it seems to be.
When the basketball sprang a leak and deflated, the tank held X+Y gallons, netting a slight advantage between pit stops (an extra lap or two over 500 miles adds up)
Temporarily reducing fuel capacity means the car passes tech inspection, but really has more capacity.
These incredible forces are why rotary and turbine engines are substantially more reliable. Some gas turbines have only 1 moving part, and in some applications this moving part experiences zero wear due to magnetic/aerodynamic/active bearings.
For modern passenger cars, it's kind of like overcoming the difficulties of two-stroke.
In anti-defense of 4-stroke ICE, it seems to me like we are hitting peak wacky complexity of those. Variable timing cams, turn off the cylinders, direct port injection, turbos, variable intake, complicated ECU. It's a far cry from a flathead 6 or VW flat 4.
Thank God electric cars are becoming more available, although I fear increasingly complex cooling and battery management and the 1000 things a software guy is going to add to them.
I'm hoping lithium iron phosphate starts to be used more in midrange vehicles; partly because they can be scaled up while sidestepping the potential resource bottlenecks around cobalt and nickel, and partly because they're very durable and cooling isn't usually much of an issue. Though heating might be an issue in the winter time (most LFP cells don't like being charged when temperatures are below freezing; heating might be necessary in winter).
That actually is a thing, its only worth a few percent of power at the same size, and I totally expect to see it happen.
If you take a look at list of ICE records, nearly all of them were made decades, and decades ago.
Biggest piston engines - early 20th century
Most powerful piston engines - fourties
Most efficient piston engine - Jumo 204 held the record until nineties
Most power to weight - eighties
Uncounted billions put into engine RnD were mostly about scraping last few percents off everything above, and environmental compliance.
And what has happened since then? Google is showing me several engines with breakthrough efficiency in the last 10 years.
When I was a kid in the 90s, SUVs commonly got 12 MPG. The new models are 25 sometimes 30 MPG. Emissions have gotten considerably better in the last 30 years.
I’m looking and can’t find any info to back up the claim that this 1920s engine was more efficient than engines designed in the 80s and 90s. I am curious about it, not just is it true, but specifically what kind of efficiency you mean and what design features made it efficient. Do you have any sources or reading? Wikipedia talks about how the arrangement of the valves increased the efficiency, but only says this made it approach four stroke efficiency (at the time), not that it exceeded other designs. The 204 was a two stroke, and it seems to be common knowledge that even today, four strokes are more efficient. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junkers_Jumo_204
The amount of engineering and brain power that has gone into making common ICE engines in cars in wide deployment reliable is staggering.
Talking to the dealers I took the car too, many of the issues with related to people who didn't warm engine up, or baby the engine below 3,000 rpms causing carbon build up.
Also a couple of great ones about the struggle to find alloys for radial engine cylinders that could flex without cracking. His writing is so insightful and concise!
Probably a ton easier to simulate it these days but at the time it was absolute magic and really helped me understand how to ear-tune an engine to at least good enough to get on a dyno.
I work with metals all day every day, and damn can it flex, but would have imagined the high carbon steels used in engines would he fairly still.
Hopefully the vibration problem is gone.
Although I really appreciate the reliability, efficiency, and durability that modern engine design has brought, a part of me is sad that modern cars are all about chips and software, and the average guy in his garage or under a shadetree can no longer break one down to the bare bones of electromechanical parts and put it back together better than it was.
That's a totally flawed understanding of modern ICE vehicles.
There was an era of vacuum-line misery separating the 70s and 90s, where you'd almost certainly never get it back together and functioning good as new again with the literal miles of vacuum lines and solenoids.
But modern stuff, especially with just 4 cylinders, is relatively simple and entirely DIY servicable. Wiring harnesses have replaced all the vacuum lines, and everything has a physically unique connector pair, and the harness routing is well described in the service manual. So all the guesswork is gone there, honestly the worst part on new stuff is not overlooking any of the grounding lugs.
I share your attitude WRT modern EVs, but I bet if we just treat the controller and battery as black boxes we don't attempt to disassemble and service, the rest is just more of the same simple machinery except with no hazardous gasoline and motor oil to drain and handle.
Of course, now days the wiring harnesses themselves have become huge and unwieldy in many vehicles - literal miles of cables! Automakers are looking at technologies like automotive ethernet and even wireless communication in order to reduce the cost, size and complexity of wiring.
> "I share your attitude WRT modern EVs, but I bet if we just treat the controller and battery as black boxes we don't attempt to disassemble and service"
Some EV batteries are quite serviceable (eg: LEAF), with the pack being able to be disassembled right down to the cell level relatively easily. Although admittedly, some modern pack designs are moving away from this level of serviceability (eg: Tesla, whose cells are cemented in place with fire-retardant foam/glue. Disassembly is a one-way operation).
Things like motor controllers/inverters tend to be very reliable so there is rarely any need to disassemble or service them during the lifetime of the vehicle. If they do fail there's a ready supply of affordable replacement parts, thanks to salvage from crashed vehicles, so it's often easier to just replace a faulty part than attempt to service.
Engine harnesses are not that bad in my experience, especially not for a small 4-cyl. Chassis harnesses, with all the bells and whistles they keep piling into smartphones on wheels, agreed. But we're talking about engines here.
> Things like motor controllers/inverters tend to be very reliable so there is rarely any need to disassemble or service them during the lifetime of the vehicle. If they do fail there's a ready supply of affordable replacement parts, thanks to salvage from crashed vehicles, so it's often easier to just replace a faulty part than attempt to service.
I figured as much. This is basically already the case with all the various modules littering the chassis in modern ICE vehicles. We don't service the power steering or engine control modules; it either works or you replace it, usually with some cheap used replacement from a wrecker. Unless the car's been flooded, the miles and age don't seem to be a problem except the occasional cold solder joint.
Many more of my hours have been wasted fussing with jets and floats on old carburetors than any control modules on these newfangled computerized vehicles.
On the contrary, twisting a distributor to set timing, or doing _anything_ on a carburator, will make you long for those aspects of ICE to be abstracted to control by software. Weirdly enough, that's what's happened over time in cars with direct injection controlled by ECUs.
Grafting two engine harnesses together because you can't buy the one you need (because nobody sells that stuff for 20+yo vehicles) will make you want a carburetor.
It doesn't help when they refuse to sell scanners to independant shops, or customers.
Yes---vechicles are much more complicated, but every vechicle sold in America should be required to tell customers up front about the ease, and accessibility of required repair information.
My point is if they didn't hide repair information we might not look at modern vechicles as Challenger space ships.
I have been casually looking to buy a new vechicle, and every salesperson laughed when I asked about buying a factory manual.
Sales guy, "Oh--no one works on their car anymore, they bring it here." Sign behind him said, Shop rate is $275 hr. People drinking Starbuck's coffee for free though.
My father told a salesman to throw in a factory service manual on the sale of a '97 Dodge Dakota. Salesman, "Hell yes!". He gave him the manual before he received the truck.
And yes--after dealing with a failed smog check this week, and seeing the PID only shows up on the dealership scanner, I am more than pissed over propiatiary information. Failed smog--$125 gone. A trip to the dealership $450, for a sensor that one of the better scanners didn't have access to.
I went to Automotive School, and worked on all my vechicles ever since.
I am so hesitant on buying a new car.
Today is definitely my Right to Repair Day.
I thought about RTR movement while shopping. I was trying to think about being out, people getting vaccinated, friday, but that Right to Repair was stuck in my mind. We need to all get behind the movement.
(To tired to edit.)
Would be happy to pay for some commercial encyclopedia of that kind and quality.
When I was a child I absolutely loved Encarta 96. It fit on a single CD and had enough interactive material. With today’s computing, network and disk possibilities I don’t see any reasons why nowadays there is no single curated source of truth about the world around us.
Instead, all the information is spread around the vast amount of resources around World Wide Web and in order to find something meaningful you sometimes have to trudge through hordes of bullshit.
The number of people on earth who can author such content is extremely low. The number of people with the vision, fundraising ability, and general meta skills needed to lead a team of people doing such work is likely even lower.
Creating an entire encyclopedia at this level of quality and interactivity would be a Herculean project.
In the meantime, we have other kinds of similar Herculean projects like Khan Academy and Wikipedia, and they’re pretty great too :)
Skip to 3:30 for the explanatory part.
I also appreciated the humor. They seem to have built a working mockup of a car with the driveshaft penetrating the passenger compartment, just to make the joke that it would be inconvenient to rest luggage on the spinning shaft.
And going through the archives, looks like all the pages are!
It's really, really rare to see this level of care, attention and detail put to something we all consider will be seen only for a few seconds. But as a testament to the adage "the cream rises to the top", I spent around an hour going through the website.
Pure craftsmanship. Thank you.
Engine cylinders are honed to accuracies that are less than 1 thousandth of an inch. Crank journals as well and rod journals. This is all precise machine work with metal. I use inches here because in machine work thousandths of inches is the language du jour. Transmissions are similar works of very precise and clean machine work.
The distance between a crank bearing or rod bearing is less than 2 thousandths on modern engines. A small amount of oil in that tiny space is all that keeps your engine from having metal on metal seizure.
So one would think that when EVs reach the same scale they will be significantly cheaper than ICE vehicles.
One could make an EV with aluminum motor windings and electrical cabling, no rare earth magnets, and lithium iron phosphate batteries. That would keep expensive materials to a minimum.
EVs don't need a catalytic converter, so that's a big thing in their favor.
I'm looking forward to mass manufacturing continuing to bring down EV component prices. I think we're a long ways from the point where material costs are the bulk of the expense.
I feel there is some sort of scam going on with catalytic converters for the last few years. I actually worked in a small family owned auto shop in the early 2000's. If a car came in with a clogged cat, we'd first fix the source of the issue (usually a mis-firing cylinder allowing raw fuel into the exhaust) and then we'd cut out the cat, and weld in a universal fit one that we'd get from the auto store for $20. Then charge the customer $200-$400 for labor. I still see universal fit ones although they are $80 now. But still, if you aren't dumping raw fuel or oil into your exhaust, cats are basically good for 300k+ "normal" driving miles. I assume they are expensive now because they are all mostly specially made/custom fit since all car manufactures keep cramming bigger and bigger engines into smaller and smaller spaces.
And while I'm ranting, there's always a negative for every positive and no doubt for the catalytic converter. For a catalytic converter to convert "greenhouse gases", the engine has to be burning fuel at a perfect air:fuel ratio of 14.7:1. While cruising down the highway, an engine could easily save fuel by running a more lean mixture, but this would cause more "greenhouse gases" to go out. So choose your poison I suppose.
The main greenhouse gas from a car is carbon dioxide. The amount you create is directly proportional to the amount of fuel you burn.
I don't know why modern cats are expensive; it might have to do with the price of platinum, palladium, and so on, and the relative amount of those materials. A cheap generic cat might have the bare minimum amount of catalyst, and might not do a very good job.
I thought the same thing, but interestingly that's only kinda true. If anything, cats increase CO_2 as a desired end goal, because it's better to have CO_2 than CO or NO_x (or so the EPA has decided, I am no where near qualified to decide that). The issue with running too lean is that the reactions in the cat would rather use plain O_2 than NO_x, and so if you have too much O_2 (lean) you won't get rid of any of the NO_x . Before looking into this I thought lean engines produced more NO_x because of higher cylinder temps or something like that (which might be true as well).
Cats not reducing NO_x when lean is essentially why Volkswagen (and practically every other manufacturer has been caught doing similar things to diesel engines) was cheating the test. Diesels have no throttle so they are (almost) always lean, typically very lean.
This does make me wonder, though, does running lean actually increase fuel efficiency? Obviously rich lowers fuel economy because not all the fuel burns, but assuming it all burns what does it matter if you have 1 gram of fuel to 15 grams of air in the cylinder, or 1 gram of fuel to 18 grams of air in the cylinder? You'll still get the same amount of energy, right?
It depends on the car/engine. My old Mazda RX-8 had a huge cat - longer than the muffler and cost me $2,000 to replace (including labor) back in the late 2000's.
The rotary engine in that vehicle had a terribly difficult time passing California's emission laws even when it was brand new off the lot - which led to strange "hacks" including a blower motor that moved high volumes of air through the exhaust to heat the cat sooner and somehow improve it's numbers, among other things. I assume the extra-long cat was part of the shenanigans Mazda had to go through to get it compliant.
This is because the catalyst works more efficiently at higher temperatures. Emission regs also test vehicles under a cold start. The quicker the cat can be heated up, the quicker it starts working, and that equals fewer total emissions over a given period of operation.
The cat blower, and the subtle whining sound it made when you started up cold was one of the ways every RX-8 owner was hazed into the fold... after calling the dealer or posting on a forum and finding out it's entirely normal!
Other oddities included how it deliberately burned oil (scaring new owners into thinking they had a serious engine problem), and how you were required to drive it hard to clear out its engine ports (multiple Mazda mechanics confirmed this factoid) - driving it like a normal car would literally clog up the exhaust ports and cause a loss of power (something to do with the lack of moving valves). If memory serves right, it had only 3 (!!!) moving parts in the engine, and was perfectly content to hang out at 9,000 RPM all day - that's incredible.
But, it seems the issues Mazda had maintaining it's emission certifications, and warranty issues with those apex seals (mine had 3 engine replacements over it's lifetime) eventually caused it to be retired. I was sad back then, and still sad we don't have a new improved version - there's really nothing else quite like it out there, not even the RX-7. It really was/is an enthusiast's car.
Good luck on your project - sounds like a fun one!
In theory, it should fix some of the maintenance issues (apex seals are attached to a stationary part of the engine where they can be more easily lubricated) and fuel efficiency / emissions issues (combustion chamber is closer to spherical).
I like the idea of the Mazda rotary engine, but I'm not really surprised they stopped making them, due to fuel economy and emissions. And at them moment, the hundred-thousand mile engine rebuild interval basically means you can get an RX-8 with a bad engine for almost nothing, which opens up a nice opportunity for EV conversion. It's hard to imagine a nicer platform to start from.
> I'm not really surprised they stopped making them, due to fuel economy...
Eh, nobody bought that car for the fuel economy!
The car sold itself... just one test drive and you had to have it. I've owned and driven muscle and other sports cars, and still nothing compares to the RX-8 - it's just such a unique experience.
Not sure how you're doing the conversion, but if you're keeping the carbon fiber driveshaft (vs. a motor on each wheel I suppose), there will be nothing keeping it from screaming off the line with an electric motor under the hood (traditionally the wankel wasn't good off the line with low RPM's, power band kicking in around 6500 if I recall - could make for a great "sleeper"). Although I'm unsure if the driveshaft would stand up to the torque a motor would output, since the wankel wasn't particularly torquey.
If you're not already, keep a blog and pictures of the conversion - that would make for an interesting read!
True enough, but I'm sure there are other factors in play, such as public policy. Fuel economy standards have been going up.
The motor I'm putting in my conversion is a Netgain Hyper9 (high-voltage, double-ended shaft version). It's about 120 horsepower and less than 200 foot pounds of torque, so in theory the clutch/transmission/driveshaft should be fine. (I'm keeping the 6-speed transmission.) It probably won't be particularly fast, but we'll see. More powerful AC motors exist, but they tend to be expensive.
I haven't posted any pictures yet; I've been meaning to, just haven't gotten around to it. There's another guy in the UK I think with a youtube channel that's doing close to the same thing, but with a Leaf motor.
And the purpose of the catalytic converter is to make sure the CO, NOx, and unburned fuel are rapidly oxidized to CO2, N, and water before leaving the exhaust system. The outcome is that you will produce more greenhouse gases but fewer compounds that are more immediately dangerous to people, especially in cities. So it reduces localized pollution at the price of more CO2.
I don't know where you got the 14.7:1 number but I am certain that NOx are unstable at any concentration (at or near STP) and will always be depleted by a catalyst.
Another commenter is unsure whether the NOx or some GHGs should be reduced preferentially. To clarify: CO2 can't be removed, it is stable; only CH4, N2O and O3 can be removed, and they are not present at relevant levels (except ozone which is poisonous) anyway. The poisonous gases are far more important — NOx pollution alone kills thousands of people every year (statistically, considering excess deaths as correlated to air pollution).
The increased price of catalytic converters is partially related to the supply of palladium, which experienced a glut following the collapse of the USSR. The Soviet palladium ran out in 2012:
The cat has to be hot to catalyze. The engine is run rich so unburnt fuel makes it to the cat and is combusted there, warming it up enough to also kill the undesirable gases. This is wasted heat... unless you mount a turbocharger after the cat, which has its own set of weird tradeoffs. (I've never heard of a factory car with a rear turbo)
I think induction motors tend to be less efficient than permanent magnet motors (and thus require more cooling). The Netgain Hyper9 (a popular motor for conversions) is a permanent magnet motor which doesn't use rare earths. It's very efficient but not particularly powerful (though that may be due more to the relatively low voltage it runs at).
That's cool that Tesla is using aluminum for power cables. Makes sense to save cost and weight where you can.
I think for motors generally you just end up with a larger motor for the same amount of power.
If people look down upon it, it’s because they’re either lazy or ambivalent. It’s the superior performance solution in some situations.
Ugh, really ? That offends my sensibilities ...
Plus, the cost of those other materials is going to increase if demand for EVs goes up.
: I know they aren't that rare, but they aren't mined/processed in many places and it takes a long time to bring a new mine online.
Raw material costs might still be less than the manufacturing costs, but they're pretty hard to avoid. Also, materials that are cheap now might not be if demand grows faster than supply.
Not to denigrate the amount of engineering that went into car engines, but literally, what about chips? Devices that contain billions of transistors, arranged precisely on the order of nanometers. Yet they cost only hundreds of dollars.
Engine blocks, on the other hand, are CNC machined one at a time and the force of machining steel causes vibrations that move the cutting tools thousands of nanometers back and forth. Placing both in the same building, for example, would likely cripple the semiconductor fab. Having a machine shop in China make a one off would likely cost as much as a luxury car.
Yeah not in Australia unless your machinist is >50 years old. Metric is more accurate/easier/less prone to mistakes. Metric is what we use.
If you're under 40 and can't use metric and imperial jargon without a second thought in the shop here that's a different problem. I personally enjoy doing machine shop-esque metal fabrication in metric and woodshop type things in imperial, but all machine shop instructors I've met through several good stem uni's that look even slightly middle aged love to talk in thou of inch, some to the point of getting quite physically frustrated when asked where the metric drill index/reamer set are in otherwise highly stocked shops...
Also, I've noticed and heard the same from others in surrounding states - Fluid Dynamics professors love to include absolutely unecessary boatloads of strange units and conversions in coursework/exams to apparently "prepare us for the shitshow that is industry"
We even have some stuff thats neither metric or US imperial, but is british witworth imperial...so different again and just enough to make a difference. Makes for some confusing repairs when your working with stuff that's had a mix of all 3 systems due to a long life of repairs.
Only time I've needed an imperial set of tools was when overhauling a B&S lawnmower engine.
When cars started getting electronic engine controls, there was much internal grumbling about the cost. One Ford production guy, on hearing that the engine controller cost about $100, said "I can make the whole engine for 100 bucks."
It is super rewarding not to mention you get to buy a bunch of really cool tools.
I build a 350 Windsor from the block. The research and design decisions were one of the best parts of the project. Then to put it all together and realize the power was amazing.
Only in the USA ;)
Therefore you can use the milifoot equal to a thousandth of a foot, or the kiloinch equal to one thousand inches, or the microyard equal to one millionth of a yard, maybe even the centifurlong equal to one hundredth of a furlong.
We are quiet proud of our prefixes. Now if only we would decide on a single reference unit to which to apply the prefixes. Conversion from megainch to hectofurlong is rather inconvenient.
My personal solution is to live near the metro and bike as much as possible.
>The distance between a crank bearing or rod bearing is less than 2 thousandths on modern engines. A small amount of oil in that tiny space is all that keeps your engine from having metal on metal seizure.
The BMW S65 and S85 engines are prime examples of what happens when the wrong tolerances are chosen. I can't think of another engine family where rod bearings are considered a maintenance item.
I had cracked a cylinder/piston on the original LSA. I did not trust anyone to do the work so I did a lot of research and did it all myself. I appreciate someone asking because my friends and software dev co workers aren't interested :)
My wife's engine had an issue and it was the middle of winter so I said whatever let's just have a shop fix it. In the process they "flushed the transmission" and it failed 4 days after we got the car back. Of course they stonewalled us and I can't prove they broke it. So I ordered a late model wreck transmission and replaced it and 3 years later still running strong.
But I then decided that I would never be in that position again where someone could tell me it wasn't their problem and get me aggravated. With this engine I built it from raw parts. I had the block machined, and I had the tools to verify.
It was certainly not worth my time, but as you said I love working on cars too.
Flushing can really be bad if you've never done a routine flush on a schedule. You don't want to go 150,000 miles before your first one. You would need a garage with a forced flush system to move it all out, and then probably flush again soon after to make sure all the gunk is out.
Transmission oil breaks down with heat and wear like any other, and will eventually contain sludge and dirt.
I love working on cars so I totally get wanting to do that, but why didn't you trust someone else to do the work? There are probably more reputable LS builders across the US than any other engine family.
Edit - For reference here's a video of the shop I'm referring to. They're far from a podunk operation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HgwF5dISmU
Edit: I dont have the machines they do, but when my bare block comes back from the machine shop, my tools are just as good as theirs to verify the dimensions are correct. That isn't possible to verify with a built short or long block. They could possibly have 100 employees that care as much about my job as me who knows. This is a job about verification of specs and assembling correctly not of insane tech. They don't have anything I dont when assembling an engine. Machine work yes
As cool as 2-atom thick plasma transfer wire arc cylinder liners are, that's not something which will ever be available to a layman.
And no, the LS motors have been in use since '97. Including the gen1/2 small blocks doesn't count, there are no shared parts between them.
what amazes me is the cam lifts we're running these days. I'm running .646"/.649". In the 90s .500" was big for a street motor, and only full blown race motors were running whats normal now.
Since a short block is mostly just a short block, I'll be interested in seeing if LS heads/intake manifold/headers takes off in the SBC community.
If you mean "do the LSx heads drop onto a gen1/2 SBC", then no, not at all. only thing common between them is the cylinder spacing. The LS uses 4 bolts per cylinder like a ford, instead of 5 like the SBC, the firing order is different, the valve layout is different (ports are symmetric vs mirrored), etc.
There are small block Chevrolet blocks that accept LS heads (Bill Mitchell maybe?)
(note: I wasn't referring to box-stock LS heads on a box-stock SBC)
You don't really hear about those other engines much because their buyers understand that a race engine needs more maintenance than any other road car.
Also, not beating on the engine until oil has warmed up to temp will elongate the bearing lifespan quite a bit. I have a friend with E60 6mt S85 that has factory bearings at 110k mi and has perfect oil analysis results.
The S54 is also notorious for VANOS issues and cam drive failures. I had to replace the solenoid pack on mine but elected to not upgrade the drive while I was in there.
4AGE is 4cyl 11:1 compression producing 155hp with 7200rpm redline.
S85 is 10cyl 12:1 compression producing 500hp with 8250rpm redline.
I am curious if there is proof to this. I've always felt the same way. I know in the "old days" with iron pistons, if you you simply started up a cold motor and and drove it hard without a warm up period, the pistons would expand quicker than the block and would start to scour the walls and/or lock up.
But other than that, the only other "proof" I have is from people in high school that like clock work at 3:30 everyday, would smoke tires leaving the parking lot everyday. They seemed to go through motors every 6 months. I'm talking knocking bearings and lifters cracked in half. I've never gotten rough with anything I own until after a 20 minute "warm up" and all has been well (so far).
I'll make a wild guess: In the USA.
EDIT: Heh, sorry... See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26991690 . This time I really thought I'd checked, but there was lots of catalyst talk in between.
I expect that batteries are the only hangup, there's probably not that much magic left in an electric motor. Additional cost for regen brakes of course.
I agree on the amazing cheapness of it all if you stick with the common stuff. That, along with the low cost of flat panel TVs is a miracle of the modern age.
Regen braking has no physical cost associated - it's pure software/firmware. The exact same hardware that is used to power the car forwards can be used for regen braking. It can be as simple as a single negative sign in the code to cause the phase to be 180 degrees out, current to flow backwards, torque to go the other way, and the battery to be charged instead of discharged.
One day regen braking will take over hydraulic brakes, and another big cost/complexity of a car will be eliminated. The only reason that doesn't happen today is there are lots of laws and regulations requiring hydraulic brakes, and braking systems typically require more redundancy than power systems.
I think this is a slight exaggeration.
The way I understand regenerative braking is that you (effectively) run your AC generator in reverse of what you would in order to accelerate in the direction of motion and then take the current generated by that, rectify it to DC, and use that current to charge a battery. The energy in the system is provided by the back EMF induced in the stator by the magnetic field generated by the motor rotor. I agree that the AC generator is going to stay the same, but I think there's specialized hardware needed for the rectification and charging cycles. At the minimum, you need a more specialized battery and battery management system to make sure that you're balancing the charge across the cells in your battery.
If you're not overdoing regen, you probably don't need additional balancing. Even if you wanted to charge the EV by towing, you could probably use the normal charge balancing circuitry, again minimal if any HW changes. Non-wimpy batteries and cells should be fine - if they can fast-charge, they can take regen. Might have some limitations on acceptable power vs. temperature, charge state etc.
I have read somewhere that the regenerative braking is much less effective when the car is going really slow, so you still need the hydraulic brakes to come to a complete stop.
It is true that electric braking would continuously use a small amount of power to stay stopped on a slope. That wouldn't be an issue for a few hours, but you couldn't park on a hill for months without ending up with a flat battery, and then eventually the car rolling away.
Small locking pins are the answer to this, rather like the "park" on automatic gearboxes. They are very cheap, since they don't need to do any actual stopping, but merely keeping something stopped.
One implication to software-only brakes is that it requires that that corner is a drive wheel. If that's the case, I suppose that anti-lock is simply firmware and a sensor.
note: I do see that Teslas have master cylinders, so they apparently are hydraulic braking systems.
Teslas have traditional braking systems in addition to the regen braking. The hydraulic brakes have nothing to do with the regen system.
>The hydraulic brakes have nothing to do with the regen system.
I strongly suspect that they interact for antilock.
I wonder how Teslas deal with parking brakes, historically kind of an issue with disks.
It does seem to me that an entirely regenerative braking system would imply additional expense in terms of the strength of the half shafts, u-joints, transmission if any.
That's really astounding, I just looked at a 55 inch brand name 4k TV going for 400 bucks retail.
Guess it's the same logic as cramming more CPU, etc. into the usual couple hundred sq. mm chip. But you get more CPU for the same money and chip size, which is not as spectacular as more screen size for less money ...
I believe this sentence has been said about many technologies in the past that definitely invalidated it. I'm more playing devil's advocate than trying to falsify you, likely for being burned sometimes reading or, worse, stating it, haha.
Substantial improvements in other metrics might be had, but they probably won't massively impact EV's (weight and costs of the motor are both a small part of the total for a car)
Batteries are a huge hangup. For example, we don't know how to recycle them and they aren't good for dumps. And, used car batteries are expensive to replace and you get a lot fewer miles per charge out of older cars. Manufacturing of cars isn't great for the environment so we should want older cars to last. This model helps push people to more new cars faster.
I don't like this line of thinking but I'm sure it's going to or already is happening.
Because the whole nature of market competition? People will still choose the cheaper option if its available.