There will come a time when synthetic fuels will ride to the rescue of the internal combustion engine. I won't save the everyday cars from the oncoming dominance of the Battery Electric Vehicle, but it will add some life to enigmatic or historically important engines.
I doubt they'll be particularly green, as if any car can be. What they will do is enable us to use-up some of the carbon mass lying around on the planet as a result of our activities and dramatically reduce the harmful pollutants being released into the atmosphere. They will be expensive. One of the first brands will be Porsche. I would expect Ferrari to join-in very soon.
As far as the enthusiast is concerned, this leaves the super rich smelling of 4711, while others will struggle. I own a 1970 Fiat 124 coupé, so I could use synthetic fuel if I use the car occasionally for fun, and to not waste the years of practice I've invested in making manual gearboxes work. However, many enthusiast own sodding great cars. I also fall into that category.
I'm fortunate enough to own enough of the car pictured above to be able to base a project on it. It's a derelict Aston Martin and its renovation is roughly half-finished. There are a couple of hurdles in the way of getting it completed, but it'll get there. If it doesn't a near-identical project will replace it. I have been working with, and for, Essentially Different Ltd in designing the logic for this for a couple of years.
It has a 4000cc, twin cam, 6-cylinder engine which was designed and dramatically over-engineered in the mid-fifties. It probably produced 150kw (200hp) at the most when it was new. It's now a valuable piece of motoring history. In order to make the 1800kg car keep up with modern traffic it would be necessary to convert it to 'Vantage' specification. This would cost £10k+ and would ensure that it would empty its fuel tank in 350km, gassing many children and pets in the process.
Synthetic fuels would solve some of these problems, but would be clenchingly expensive at the pumps, which I would have to visit regularly.
I've had a better idea.
First, a quick glossary of terms, which are useful in separating a few concepts in what will be quite a complex system.
The motive force required to move the car is the Power Unit (PU).
The largest element of the PU is the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE).
The Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic (MGU-K) harnesses kinetic energy when the car is decelerating, and then releases that energy under acceleration.
The Motor Generator Unit-Heat (MGU-H), is connected to the turbocharger (which will only be partially deployed in this installation to harnesses energy from the exhaust).
Both MGUs convert energy sources into electrical energy, which is stored in a battery pack known as the Energy Store (ES).
All of this is controlled by a computer called the Control Electronics (CE).
The conceptual model for the conversion of this car is the Koenigsegg Regera which, although dramatically more powerful than would be required here does follow the principle of replacing the gearing system and torque converter with an electric motor which will assist the ICE in moving the car away from standstill and lessen the load on the ICE in gathering speed away from turnings and roundabouts. Capacitors are good for this immediate storage/use, while there will also be a small battery, comprising the ES, for moving the car away from a standstill and creeping through villages. Complex gearing systems are not required.
My ideas for the system of clutches and their logic is probably not yet ready to share, but the system will feature very strong regenerative braking (Possibly using a paddle or lever) and a system for charging the battery from commercial chargers would be included.
The ICE would normally be started by the MGU-K at low speed, just after pulling away from standstill. The point at which the ICE is started and begins to assist the MGU-K will be a matter of calibration following experimentation.
The source vehicle will need to have its electrical system replaced with modern systems including fuel injection, electronic ignition and a programmable ECU in order that it interact accurately with the electric motor. It would be sensible to replace all the vehicle electrics to include state-of-the-art lights and instruments in order that power consumption be kept to a minimum. Also, high levels of MGU-K regenerative braking should trigger the brake lights. The level of regeneration should not allow for the driving (regenerating) wheels to turn significantly slower than the non-driven wheels, that ratio being controlled by the motor controller.
Should synthetic fuels take their time, the ICE could also be upgraded to include LPG or Hydrogen, or a combination of both in order to make it more environmentally friendly. This system is worth considering. Hydrogen is impractical at present because it takes-up too much room.
It is anticipated that the new ES would not replace the conventional 12v car battery and that a conversion to electric power steering would be required. The brake servo is a challenge to be considered, some form of modern electric assistance system creating the required vacuum should be explored. It would be a good idea to look at the possibility of replacing the alternator with the electric motor regeneration system.
In addition to the above modifications, it would be very wise to upgrade many of the systems in the car to modern standards, including LED lighting and modern Apple Car Play navigation.
I've considered the possibility that the MGU-K is designed only to occupy the space taken-up by the torque converter or bellhousing/clutch so that a manual gearbox can be retained, retaining a feature well-loved by driving enthusiasts. We should consider the possibilities of fitting an overdrive unit in cases where the gearbox is removed completely. Overdrives will allow a lower rear axle ratio to be used and still retain the touring speed of the donor car.
To avoid what would be a very tedious design and development process, it is very likely that the conversion will use a Lexus gearbox, as described at here. This project is designed to utilise gearboxes from hybrid cars as the power units in full-electric conversions, and I intend to utilise that system for other projects, but it is possible that some modifications would make it appropriate for a hybrid.
The ideal hybrid conversion would consist of the above-mentioned modifications to a standard car and the addition of an MGU-K, CE (connected to the new vehicle ECU) and one or more ECs. The vehicle's existing torque converter/clutch, gearbox, and existing wiring loom would be removed. The new components would be comparable in weight with the removed components.
There are innumerable combinations of ES available and these can be located in multiple places within the car, meaning that weight distribution and convenience need not be compromised. Modern tyre technology and the ubiquity of effective tyre-sealing compounds means that a spare wheel would not be required meaning substantial space would be available in most cases. Obviously the location of the existing 12v battery would be available for the new battery or, more likely, a controller, if a smaller 12v battery can be fitted.
This could be a magnificent project; I think it has to be done, don't you?