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5 ways modern car engines differ from older engines

Modern engines work smarter

In an old V-8 engine, all eight cylinders were firing, no matter if the car was idling or accelerating. They all got the same amount of fuel, regardless.

Today’s engines have technology that makes them work smarter. Cylinder deactivation allows some cylinders in an engine shut down when they’re not needed and `wake up’ when more power is needed. This means the engine only uses the fuel it needs and puts in effort required for the job at hand.

Variable-valve timing and lift is another technology that helps modern engines work smarter. In older systems, valves open for the same amount of time and the same distance no matter how hard the engine is working. That wastes fuel. With variable-valve timing and lift, the valve openings are optimised for the type of work the engine is doing. That helps the engine use less fuel, and work smarter.

Modern engines are smaller

Since modern engines make more power than older engines, you’d expect them to be larger. But while engine power increased, engine size decreased. Car makers have learned that you don’t have to make the engine bigger to get the power consumer’s want. You just have to make the engine work smarter.

Modern engines are more powerful

People are more concerned with fuel economy now than when cars were new, but they’re also more concerned with engine power because modern cars are a lot heavier. So today’s engines are more powerful than their predecessors – even compared to engines that are just a few years old.

Modern engines are more efficient

Your basic gasoline car engine isn’t all that efficient. Modern engines have a number of technologies in place to make them more efficient. For example, direct injection technology, which mixes the fuel and the air before they’re put into the cylinder, can improve engine efficiency by 12 percent. Turbochargers, which use compressed air from the car’s exhaust system, compress the air that’s used in the combustion cycle leading to more efficient combustion. Variable-valve timing and cylinder deactivation are technologies that allow the engine to use only the fuel it needs, increasing efficiency.

Modern Engines Have Partners

Modern engines have a lot of technology that helps use less fuel while making more power than older engines, but they have one last thing that older engines just didn’t have: partners.

Today’s car engines are not only sophisticated technological achievements, they’re partnered with other high-tech components that help them do their jobs better. A four-or five speed transmission used to be cutting-edge, but today’s engines are partnered with transmissions with seven and even eight speeds. The more speeds a transmission has, the better it’s able to mesh with engine power, making the whole drive train run more efficiently. Or, if eight speeds aren’t enough, modern engines are partnered with Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVTs). CVTs have an infinite number of gear ratios, making them able to transmit the engine’s power to the wheels in the most efficient way possible.

In hybrid cars, modern engines get help from electric motors powered by battery packs. While the electric motor can power the car at slow speeds, or run accessories when the car is stopped, it can also kick in to generate extra power when it’s needed, like when a car is accelerating hard.

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