EU Project Could See Electromagnetic Valve Actuators Replace Camshafts

The EU-funded ELVAS project has successfully designed, produced and tested an improved electromagnetic valve actuation system for car engines, delivering optimised fuel efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions.

The rapid growth of the European transport sector now looks set to continue into the foreseeable future, even as manufacturers struggle with ambitious environmental targets, including reducing CO2 emissions. Electromagnetic valve actuation systems have been identified as a key technology in this fight. They employ control electronics instead of the mechanical systems used in current engines.

The conventional system involves steel valves, actuated (opened and closed) by rotating cams linked to a crankshaft. This linkage of valve actuation to powerful crankshaft action is made necessary by the shear heaviness of the valves.

A new generation

“Electromagnetic valve actuation systems are replacing the mechanical camshaft,” says ELVAS coordinator Jean-Paul Rouet of Johnson Controls. “The goal of the ELVAS project,” he says, “was to develop an improved electromagnetic valve actuation system, using lightweight materials and valves.” This type of system decouples valve actuation from the crankshaft and allows valve timing to be fine tuned independently, improving engine efficiency.

“That system has now been delivered,” says Rouet. “New valve actuators have been designed and manufactured and a final demonstration has been performed on an engine test bench. The new system delivers significantly improved engine efficiency, reduced valve actuation power loss and maximum fuel savings.”

The ELVAS consortium includes two enterprises – a supplier of valve actuation systems and a supplier of engine intake and exhaust valves – and two independent research institutes. ELVAS ran in parallel with the LIVALVES project, another EU-funded initiative aimed at reducing valve weight.

More results

According to Project Officer Daniel Chiron at the European Commission’s Research DG, the list of ELVAS accomplishments is impressive. In a working engine, the new system delivers:

  • CO2 emissions reduced by up to 15%;
  • Car engine noise reduced by up to 10dB at 3000 rpm;
  • Fuel consumption reduced by up to 15%;
  • Materials 100% recyclable;
  • Weight savings of 25%, compared with conventional system;
  • Reduced electrical consumption.

In addition, ELVAS partners have developed a new set of testing guidelines for valve actuation system components, as well as a number of new manufacturing processes.

“The results of this project and others like it can make a big difference in the effort to reduce CO2 and other environmentally destructive emissions,” says Rouet, and this is something both policy-makers and European citizens will want to bank on.

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