Ferrari S.p.A has filed a patent application with the European Patent Office for a forced-induction four-cylinder engine with an electrically operated turbocharger.
This engine sounds different from any other four-cylinder forced induction engine we’ve heard of. According to the patent, the engine features a turbine inserted into the exhaust duct that is driven by the exhaust gases. The turbine wheel has no mechanical linkage to a compressor, however – only serving as a way to power an electric generator that stores energy. The energy stored is then used to power an electric drive motor that is capable of driving the wheels and an electrically assisted compressor that forces air into the engine.
The idea behind this engine design is to reduce turbo lag, of course, but the patent goes on to describe the importance of exhaust sound. This technique of inserting a turbine wheel into the exhaust duct helps with the acoustic sound of the engine. The faster the wheel spins, the more high-pitched the exhaust tone is, and vice-versa. Ferrari says the speed of the turbine wheel can be finely adjusted to perfectly tune the exhaust sound at any given engine speed, acting similar to an exhaust valve. But whereas most exhaust valves operate by being either ‘on’ or ‘off ‘, the turbine wheel allows for greater differentiation in tone. Due to the generator that stores energy away, the engine won’t suffer a dip in performance if the electronic control unit slows the turbine wheel down in order to deliver the desired exhaust tone.
In the simplest of terms, Ferrari has designed a hybrid forced-induction four-cylinder engine with an extremely accurate way of controlling its exhaust pitch. It’s not clear if this engine will ever see the light of day, but a four-cylinder Ferrari wouldn’t be complete sacrilege. In the 1950s, a number of Ferrari race cars used a number of different four-cylinder engines, which ranged in size from 2.0-liters to 3.4-liters, due to their reliability. The four-cylinder Ferrari engine was originally designed for use in Formula 2 cars before Enzo Ferrari began to implement them on his Formula 1 entries. It’s also possible that this example drawing represents one bank of a Ferrari V8.
Could this be the engine for the rumored Ferrari Dino? Will it be used by Alfa Romeo or Maserati? Is it actually for a V8 engine? Time will tell – but it’s sure interesting to see Ferrari, famous for its wailing V8s and V12s, take such an interest in a hybrid, forced induction four-cylinder layout.
Note: this article was updated to note the possibility that the patent represents one-half of a V8 engine.
With additional reporting by Dennis Chung.
[Source: European Patent Office]
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