A startup claims to improve ICE engines' torque by 30 percent with a small design change

Could this save the internal combustion engine?
Ameya Paleja

A small design change in the engine could improve the performance and efficiency of internal combustion engines, a recently funded company, Transcend Energy Group, has claimed. The group showcased its design change at the recently concluded SEMA show in Las Vegas.

When the world is looking at electric vehicles to transform transportation, it might seem silly to try and improve the internal combustion engine (ICE). Yet, Transcend Energy Group's chief product officer and president Jon Woodard is convinced that we haven't unlocked the potential of ICEs.

Speaking to Road and Track, Woodard said that ICE's are very inefficient and after years of doing the same thing, engines have stagnated and people are looking at oils to improve their efficiency. However, Woodard and his team have found a simple solution that could effectively change how we look at ICEs.

The world's first two-piece connecting rod

A connecting rod attaches the engine's crankshaft to the piston and is responsible for transforming the energy from the piston into rotational energy that spins the crank. In a conventional engine setup, the piston is a pivot point on the connecting rod.

However, in their radical new design of a two-piece connecting rod, dubbed Thunder Rod, Woodard, and his team has moved the pivot location to the arm of the connecting rod creating a much more linear motion for the piston and increasing the volumetric efficiency of the motor.

Woodard told Road and Track that their design allows the piston to remain neutral on the load side and engage only when it is on the other side. The design change allows one to use the piston without a thick skirt. However, it has also increased the overall weight of the piston. Woodard isn't bothered much by this as his team is confident that it does not affect overall piston speed in any way, even though it moves through different parts of the stroke at different rates.

Testing in LS engines

Woodard and his team have focused their development work on 5.3 liter and 6.2 liter LS engines so far due to their high demand in the aftermarket. When the team tested the Thunder Rod on a 5.3-liter V8 engine, the torque output obtained was similar to that of a stock 6.2-liter V8 engine, a gain of around 30 percent.

The team also found improvements in the compression ratio for a Thunder Rod-equipped 6.2 liter LS engine which recorded 198 psi, while a stock engine only manages 155 psi.

While these numbers are impressive on paper, experts are not sure how they will translate into real-world conditions. Changes made to the connecting rod design also require changes to the piston head and camshaft designs. Until these changes are made and tested, the real effects of the design changes won't be completely known, Road and Track said in its report.

Woodard and the team are talking to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to get feedback on their design and how the system can be improved further.

Will their ideas be able to save the internal combustion engine from oblivion or remain a small collectible for fans of gas-powered engines in the future will be known in the years to come.

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