The future is here

And I like it. So much so that I probably won’t sleep much tonight now that I’ve found it and keep thinking of multiple applications to use it for.

No crankshaft, no problem: Toyota’s free piston engine is brilliant

Let’s get one thing straight: The variable-valve-timing, direct-injection, turbo-wonderful powerplant in your new car is not cutting-edge. Despite the complexity of the modern engine, the fundamentals haven’t changed since Grover Cleveland was in office. Pistons turn a crankshaft that eventually spins your car’s wheels.


Electrically driven cars are the future. But until we have cheap, 1000-mile batteries, we still need range-extending fossil-fuel engines. Those devices don’t need to turn wheels, just generate juice. The simple solution is to strap a generator to a piston engine, as BMW did with the two-cylinder range extender in its i3 EV. But if the engine never turns a wheel, there’s no need for it to rotate anything. Why not cut out the middleman and use the piston’s reciprocating motion to generate electricity? That obviates camshafts and most other rotating parts, too.

Question 1: How soon can I have one of these in an engine-driven welding machine?

Question 2: Will it fit in a suitcase?

Question 3: If not a suitcase, then will it fit on a TIG cart?

I’m not asking how much because I don’t care. Just build it. Then shut up and take my money.

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3 Responses to The future is here

  1. Rolf says:

    Could a person be even more devious and stick a compression chamber on both ends, so you get a push going both ways?
    Pretty cool concept, sort of like powering a rifle’s electronics by having magnets and coils on/around the bolt, dampening recoil whilst pumping out power, and if it dies all you have to do is work the action a few times….

  2. Eric Wilner says:

    I’ve had ideas vaguely along those lines over the years, but never tried to put any of them into practice. Always seemed like a good idea in principle, and Toyota certainly has the resources to make it practical if anyone does.
    A related idea, from a couple of decades back, was to use a blank cartridge to propel a magnet through a coil, thereby producing a bunch of electricity for a very short time. (The proposed application involved converting the burst of electricity to a microwave chirp, for the purpose of frying ghetto blasters at the beach.)

  3. Rivrdog says:

    My German is at best, 50%, but did that active graphic just say the Free Piston is wide-range multifuel-capable by ADJUSTING COMPRESSION RATIO? If so, that is a huge advance. Multifuel diesels have been around for 60 years, they are a matter of adjusting valve and injector timing and of having really tough valves and seats (Stellite). Doing this in a free- piston engine is only (!) A matter of electronic timing. This type of generator has HUGE military applications, because the rngine speed can be regulated to a gnat’s ass, making high-frequency A/C power a reality, thereby bringing in lighter, more powerful motors. An electric prop-driven drone
    with free-piston generation using liquid hydrogen fuel and some range-extending
    solar panels could probably stay aloft for a month. Boeing’s best internal-
    combustion-powered drone is good for 250 hours at most. The efficiency of this motor could make residential/boat/RV power generation a whole new ball game, too. The best genset available (Victron Energy, ltd) uses a Sterling Cycle heat engine burning 0.3 liters of fuel/hr to generate .75 k/w and 6,000 BTU/hr.

    BTW, the one-shot impulse generator has been in military use since the 1950s, to fire explosive bolts, etc.

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