The internal combustion engine is under attack today as greener alternatives are sought, but the reality is that the internal combustion engine will be around for quite some time given its inherent advantages in a variety of areas from cost to performance. However, that does not mean that improvements do not exist that go a long way towards improving the efficiency of the technology.
One such improvement is direct-injection spark ignition technology. DISI technology basically involves higher engine compression ratios with the injection of the fuel directly into the cylinder’s combustion chamber. In conventional engines, the fuel is injected indirectly, through intake manifolds and ports. The new direct injection technology is a “lean burn” approach that results in increased engine efficiency, which opens the possibility for more engine power and responsiveness, or greater fuel economy, or a combination of both.
It is anticipated that an improvement of up to 20 percent in fuel economy can be enjoyed with these engines. It is expected that in 2009 more than one million DISI engine vehicles will be sold into the U.S. market, with enhanced growth beyond that in coming years.
"Our read is that literally 75 percent of global OEMs are making some kind of a direct injection spark ignition this year, and that number is going to go up to 90 percent next year," said Kevin Foley manager OEM relationships, retail fuels, for Chevron Global marketing. "Wards Auto's top 10 engine announcements for last year—five of them were direct injection spark ignition. This year, 2009, another four. Motor Trend's premium car of the year last year was Cadillac CTS and the midsize car was the VW Passat—both direct injection spark ignition. So, they are coming."
The adoption of this technology does bring with it some issues relative to the current gasoline additives used within the industry.
"With these new direct injection spark ignition engines, combustion chamber cleanliness now becomes the most important aspect," Foley said. "And that's where we think we really stand apart with our Techron formulation. Techron was initially formulated to perform better in the combustion chamber compared to some competitive additives."
Foley noted that existing gasoline additive technology focuses on cleanliness associated with the port, intake valve and the injector. Combustion chambers have typically been of secondary importance. While Techron provides performance in all the primary areas, it also already provides notable performance in the combustion chamber through its unique PEA chemistry. However, he also noted that it's still too early to tell if the new engines are significantly more sensitive to fouling compared to port injection engines or if other fuel additives won't provide notably poorer performance with the new technology.
There currently are not automaker industry standards for fuel/engine performance with direct injection spark ignition like there are with traditional port injection engines. Chevron is aggressively working to conduct in-house studies to show the performance of its fuel additives with this new technology. Once this data has been collected, and Foley anticipates that it will fully support their contention for superior performance, it will be provided to the OEMs who will be encouraged to provide customer recommendations for using Chevron with Techron as an approved fuel. With the notable premium and high-performance automobiles using this technology, it is anticipated that a lot of the focus will also be on premium gasoline.
The appeal of new car owners using direct injection spark ignition technology aside, just how does gasoline quality play in the consumer marketplace today? Many marketers would say that having gasoline a few cents per gallon less than the competitors’ is the primary motivator in the marketplace, but that's not necessarily the case.
"Nobody has had an easy time selling anything lately, and gasoline has obviously had its specific issues particularly last summer and early fall," Foley said. "But Chevron's message for the last 50 years has always been about quality gasoline, and that's something we have never wavered. A lot of our competitors have advertised performance fuels one year, to clean bathrooms the next, but we have never wavered from our message."