In this day and age, you might think that we have reached the pinnacle of the internal combustion engine. Having been using the design, you might assume that designers and engineers have gotten all of the efficiency out of the design that they can. However, recent advances like HCCI, variable valve timing and even adding heat recovery systems have proven that there is still life left in our good friend, the four-stroke engine. Yet, is the only hope of efficiency gains with major changes to the design of the engine? Maybe not. Timken is a major supplier of the bearings in our engines and other parts of our cars. They are using technology that is usually used for electric devices like speed controllers and sensors, known as the Hall effect, to monitor the load on their bearings and possible find efficiency gains. By incorporating this technology into their current offerings, they have created a "shaft-torque sensor" which will allow them to monitor how much torque is acting on internal components, which could allow them to optimize the component, reducing friction. They also say that there is potential to maximize the potential fuel economy by installing the sensors in a transmission.
Until a real game-changing technology takes over our cars drivetrain, we should look for as many incremental improvements as we can get.
[Source: Wards Auto World]