While the function of the internal combustion engine is still to get from Point A to Point B, the way that’s accomplished has evolved significantly. This is due to several factors like advances in technology and government regulations. So what exactly are the differences in newer engines vs. older engines? Lets take a look under the hood and find out.
In some cases, government regulations are responsible for the advancement of efficiency in modern vehicles. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy, also known as CAFE Standards, is a set of nationalized standards for automotive fuel efficiency that went into effect in the early 1970s. In 2012, those standards were updated to increase fuel efficiency goals to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
On top of efficiency standards, there are also government-regulated emissions laws in place. These laws require vehicles to have catalytic converters and other devices designed to reduce a vehicle’s emissions.
Modern engines have become way more efficient over the years with advances like cylinder deactivation, aluminum engine blocks, direct injection technology, and turbocharging.
Cylinder deactivation technology has been a key player in the advancement of the modern internal combustion engine. This technology provides superior fuel efficiency to modern engines by systematically turning off the cylinder of a car’s engine during times when the vehicle doesn’t require maximum power.
Cast iron engine blocks were industry standard until efficiency became vehicle manufactures’ top priority. Now, aluminum engine blocks have gained popularity due to their light weight properties, resulting in better fuel economy and ease of handling.
In newer engines like gasoline direct injection (GDI), the fuel is injected directly into the combustion chamber, which improves fuel efficiency. In non-GDI engines, the fuel is pre-mixed with the air before reaching the cylinder, which results in lower energy conversion.
Like GDI engines, turbocharged engines provide increased efficiency, but by a different means. Turbocharged engines force more air into cylinders in order to burn fuel at a faster rate, which increases efficiency.
Mechanical < Electrical
Like watches, engines used to be completely mechanical. Due to continued advances in technology, mechanical parts have slowly been replaced with electrical parts.
In modern engines it’s more common than not to see electronically controlled pumps, electric power steering, and electric fuel injection systems. Though these parts are superior to their mechanical counterparts, it does come at a cost. One of the downsides to going electric is the precision and digital understanding necessary to fix a modern engine. It’s not as easy as it used to be.
Even though engine size has been shrinking, horsepower has been growing steadily. It was common in the 80s for a passenger car with a 3.8-liter V-6 engine to have 144 horsepower. These days a modern passenger vehicle with a 3.6-liter V-6 makes 252 horsepower. As a result of the increased horsepower, pickup and acceleration are also increased.
In summary, your modern engine helps decrease emissions, increase fuel economy, and increase horsepower, all of which leads to a more efficient vehicle. One thing that hasn’t changed in newer engines is the fact that you should still keep up a regular maintenance schedule.