Rocket Fuel

Tech Talk – Elio Engine Part 4

Getting it right…engine testing key to long term success

Last week, we discussed the meticulous detail it takes to machine the individual components for the engine prototype. This week, engine development partner IAV began the process of putting all those components together into one working prototype so that we can continue with the testing phase.

Entering the testing phase is one of the most crucial portions of the entire engine development process. To this point, we have used sophisticated simulations to model how the engine will perform in a variety of driving conditions. While we use the most advanced simulation tools available in the auto industry today, there is still nothing quite like having a physical prototype and putting it through a battery of tests on the dynamometer.

Figure 1: Elio Block assembly and head assembly

Why is this phase so important? Quality and customer satisfaction are essential to winning today’s highly discerning customers. There is no margin for error for any new vehicle – whether it’s a new launch from an existing manufacturer or a start-up like Elio Motors. Customers, rightfully so, demand excellence right out of the gate.

The testing phase allows the engine development team to determine the mechanical integrity of the prototype and conduct calibration activity to gather data. This information is compared to the data from the simulation phase to ensure that everything is working as it should, and to correlate real world to previous simulations.

Figure 2: Dry fit of the Elio engine “Front View”

Here are some of the important elements that IAV will test:

  • Burn Rate/combustion characteristics of the combustion chamber – Fuel efficiency of up to 84 MPG is one of Elio Motors’ four “Must Haves.” But, Elio Motors also wants to ensure that the vehicle will have performance characteristics that meet customer demand for speed and power.  Testing on the dynamometer will verify if the burn rates, knock resistance and combustion efficiency is conducive to achieving the level of efficiency for which the engine is designed.
  • Timing of the valve train – Another important factor in determining overall engine performance and efficiency is the timing of the valve train. If this system is not in sync, it will cause a detrimental impact on overall fuel efficiency.
  • Friction – Long-term durability also is important to overall customer satisfaction. Too much friction in the engine can cause wear and tear and impact engine life.
  • First-level emissions testing – Obviously, it is impossible to build a zero-emission internal combustion engine, but our goal is to be as environmentally friendly as possible. Testing emissions at this phase will allow the engineering team to make adjustments if needed.


Figure 3: Dry fit of the Elio engine “Back Right View”

Once these and other similar tests have been completed, the data will be compared to data previously generated in the simulation phase.  In the end, this will yield an efficient and reliable engine that will meet our customers’ expectations.

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