Nerd’s Eye View: LA Auto Show 2015 – The Engines, Electrons, and Extra Bits


The plastic intake manifold has relatively long runners from the looks of it. This engine is likely biased towards low-end torque for better everyday drivability.
The only thing interesting in the Lexus booth was world renowned automotive journalist Alistair Weaver getting followed around by a guy with a crazy backpack mounted camera jig.
The world of many electrons is making its way under the hood of cars. That’s no engine but a fuel cell. Fuel cells still need air of course, so there’s the familiar air snorkel leading to an air box with air filter.
Well, the outside of a fuel cell is not terribly exciting. It basically looks like a metal box. Each company packages their fuel cell systems a bit differently and Honda choose to put the voltage control unit on top of the fuel cell stack.
Forcing air into the Honda fuel cell stack is a 2-stage compressor driven by an electric motor. Here you can see the first stage compressor which sends air to the second stage compressor with the motor sitting between the two. Fuel cells are like internal combustion engines, they need oxygen to combine with the fuel (hydrogen). The more oxygen you can stuff in the fuel cell, the more power you get out of it increasing the power density just like an internal combustion engine. The downside is the electric motor to spin the compressors is a parasitic loss. However, in transportation where smaller is better, the improved power density trumps overall system efficiency.
In this extremely poor picture is the new Honda 1.5L turbo engine. The air box sits on the driver’s side corner of the engine bay and sends air all the way across to the passenger side…
… where the air has to make a 180 degree turn into the turbo. The guys who had to design the intake were probably not too happy. Anyway, that electrical connector plugs into the linear electric wastegate actuator. Expect to see all cars going with electric actuators in the future.

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