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Motorcycles Kawasaki Designing A Supercharged, Two-Stroke Four-Cylinder Hybrid

17:51  30 june  2020
17:51  30 june  2020 Source:   cycleworld.com

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Every now and then we hear news of the revival of two-stroke engines or innovations like superchargers and hybrid bikes—but it’s rare to see all those ideas thrown together into a single design. But that’s precisely what a new patent application from Kawasaki shows; a machine that uses so many radical technologies that to actually build it would mean completely rethinking the basics of motorcycles as we know them.

a close up of text on a black background: Crossplane crank, poppet valves, a supercharger—Kawasaki’s latest patent application shows a complete rethinking of motorcycle engine basics. © Provided by Cycle World Crossplane crank, poppet valves, a supercharger—Kawasaki’s latest patent application shows a complete rethinking of motorcycle engine basics. a close up of text on a white background: The electric hybrid engine would be a series type rather than the more familiar parallel model. © Provided by Cycle World The electric hybrid engine would be a series type rather than the more familiar parallel model.

Serial Hybrid

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The basis of the idea is that the new bike is a series hybrid, rather than the more familiar parallel hybrid. Parallel hybrids are the sort we’ve become used to in cars, thanks to machines like the Toyota Prius and others that use electric motors to assist their combustion engines.

But a series hybrid is different; it uses electric power alone to drive the wheels, with a combustion engine simply used to generate the electricity needed. Normally, series hybrids are “range-extender” electric vehicles, with a relatively low-powered combustion engine providing some extra charge for the batteries to boost range. Cars like Chevy’s Volt and the more exotic Fisker Karma are examples of production machines using the idea.

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However, Kawasaki’s idea isn’t going to use a low-powered engine that just tops up a battery to add a few more miles of range. Instead it uses a high-performance engine that can be vastly more efficient and cleaner-running than the norm because it will constantly operate at its most efficient speed.

a close up of a map: Despite being a two-stroke, the new engine would rely on poppet valves and double overhead cams. © Provided by Cycle World Despite being a two-stroke, the new engine would rely on poppet valves and double overhead cams.

Two-Stroke

Despite the traditional two-stroke’s reputation as a “dirty” engine, the two-stroke cycle is actually remarkably well suited to clean-running, efficient designs. But that means departing from the usual port-transfer two-stroke system traditionally used on motorcycles. Instead we need to look to other two-strokes, like the vast, supercharged two-stroke diesels used on many ships, which are renowned for being some of the most efficient combustion engines on the planet.

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The Kawasaki design doesn’t look much like a conventional two-stroke. Instead of ports in the cylinder walls, it features poppet valves like a four-stroke, complete with double overhead camshafts. It’s just the cycle that’s changed from four-stroke to two-stroke.

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That makes the supercharger a vital part of the design. On a normal two-stroke bike engine, the intake charge is forced into the cylinder via a transfer port by the downward movement of the piston. Without that, a supercharger is needed to increase the pressure of the intake air so it can fill the cylinder and evacuate the spent gases from the previous cycle.

In turn, that means both the exhaust and inlet valves are open at the same time, which makes direct fuel injection vital. It means the fuel can be added after both the valves have closed, so no unburned fuel can escape into the exhaust.

a close up of a map: A supercharger is key to filling the cylinder as both inlet and exhaust valves are open simultaneously. © Provided by Cycle World A supercharger is key to filling the cylinder as both inlet and exhaust valves are open simultaneously.

Crossplane Crank

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Since the engine is a two-stroke rather than a four-stroke, each cylinder has a combustion event for each 360-degree turn of the crank, rather than every 720 degrees.

If a flat-plane crankshaft was used, as on most inline-four-cylinder engines, that means you’d get two cylinders firing simultaneously, creating vibration and stress on the engine. Kawasaki has adopted a crossplane crank so the combustion events are spread evenly, with one cylinder firing for each 90 degrees the crankshaft turns.

Instead of being attached to a clutch and a gearbox, there’s simply an electric generator at each end of the crankshaft. These feed power to a storage system—either a relatively small battery or a set of super capacitors—which in turn sends electricity to an electric drive motor connected to the rear wheel.

A crossplane crank means combustion events are more consistent and spread out evenly. © Provided by Cycle World A crossplane crank means combustion events are more consistent and spread out evenly.

What’s The System For?

While the main target of the idea is motorcycles, Kawasaki’s patent also says the engine and hybrid system could be used on watercraft, trikes, and buggies.

It has the potential to give the combustion engine a lifeline in the face of increasing pressure for electrification. Ship engines operating on a similar principle manage to be more than 50-percent efficient—i.e., they convert more than half the energy contained in their fuel into propulsion—and two-stroke experts believe that 60-percent or even 70-percent efficiency is an achievable target. That might seem weak compared to electric motors that can be as much as 95-percent efficient, but once that’s combined with the losses involved in power generation and distribution and battery charging, there’s potential for something approaching parity in terms of efficiency. And of course, the combustion-engine hybrid solves all the refueling problems normally associated with pure electric vehicles.

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a close up of text on a black background: Crossplane crank, poppet valves, a supercharger—Kawasaki’s latest patent application shows a complete rethinking of motorcycle engine basics. © Japanese Patent Office Crossplane crank, poppet valves, a supercharger—Kawasaki’s latest patent application shows a complete rethinking of motorcycle engine basics.

Don’t expect to see a bike with this system anytime soon, but Kawasaki clearly isn’t going to let the internal combustion engine die without a fight.

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