Active Fuel Management

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See the main article on variable displacement for other similar systems

Active Fuel Management (formerly known as displacement on demand (DoD)) is a trademarked name for the automobile variable displacement technology from General Motors. It allows a V6 or V8 engine to "turn off" half of the cylinders under light-load conditions to improve fuel economy. Estimated performance on EPA tests show a 5.5%-7.5% improvement in fuel economy.[1]

GM's current Active Fuel Management technology uses a solenoid to deactivate the lifters on selected cylinders of a pushrod V-layout engine.

Background[edit]

High-powered multi-cylinder internal combustion engines may be necessary to satisfy driver demands for quick acceleration and/or heavy towing capacity, but during daily use they are generally operated at power settings of less than 25%. For example, at freeway speeds, less than 40 hp (30 kW) are required to overcome aerodynamic drag, rolling friction, and to operate accessories such as air conditioning.

However, when a gasoline internal combustion engine is operating under less than full load, the effective compression ratio is much less than the measured compression ratio. Under light load, the throttle is not fully open, and the cylinders receive less than a full charge of air on each intake stroke. The pressure and temperature generated at combustion are therefore less than full load and the thermodynamic laws which apply to all heat engines dictate that the engine will then be operating at less than its maximum possible thermal efficiency.

Thus, a high-powered, large-displacement engine is highly inefficient and wasteful when being used for normal driving conditions. This is the motivation for cylinder deactivation, to effectively spread the work load of the engine over fewer active cylinders which then operate under higher individual loads and therefore at higher efficiency.

Pumping loss[edit]

A so-called "pumping loss" is also cited as causing extra work for the engine to do under partial load conditions because the pistons have to work harder to suck in the fuel-air mixture when the throttle position results in low intake-manifold pressure. Under this scenario, deactivating some of the cylinders allows the remaining active ones to have less manifold vacuum to overcome during the intake stroke.

Operation[edit]

In order to deactivate a cylinder, the exhaust valve is prevented from opening after the power stroke and the exhaust gas charge is retained in the cylinder and compressed during the exhaust stroke. Following the exhaust stroke, the intake valve is prevented from opening. The exhaust gas in the cylinder is expanded and compressed over and over again and acts like a gas spring. As multiple cylinders are shut off at a time (cylinders 1, 4, 6 and 7 for a V8), the power required for compression of the exhaust gas in one cylinder is countered by the decompression of retained exhaust gas in another. When more power is called for, the exhaust valve is reactivated and the old exhaust gas is expelled during the exhaust stroke. The intake valve is likewise reactivated and normal engine operation is resumed. The net effect of cylinder deactivation is an improvement in fuel economy and likewise a reduction in exhaust emissions. General Motors was the first to modify existing, production engines to enable cylinder deactivation, with the introduction of the Cadillac L62 "V8-6-4" in 1981.

Second generation[edit]

In 2004, the electronics side was improved greatly with the introductions of Electronic Throttle Control, electronically controlled transmissions, and transient engine and transmission controls. In addition, computing power was vastly increased. A solenoid control valve assembly integrated into the engine valley cover contains solenoid valves that provide a pressurized oil signal to specially designed hydraulic roller lifters provided by Eaton Corp. and Delphi. These lifters disable and re-enable exhaust and intake valve operation to deactivate and reactivate engine cylinders [1]. Unlike the first generation system, only half of the cylinders can be deactivated. It is notable that the second generation system uses engine oil to hydraulically modulate engine valve function. As a result, the system is dependent upon the quality of the oil in the engine. As anti-foaming agents in engine oil are depleted, air may become entrained or dissolve in the oil, delaying the timing of hydraulic control signals. Similarly engine oil viscosity and cleanliness is a factor. Use of the incorrect oil type, i.e. SAE 20W40 instead of SAE 20W50, or the failure to change engine oil at factory recommended intervals can also significantly impair system performance.[citation needed]

In 2001, GM showcased the 2002 Cadillac Cien concept car, which featured Northstar XV12 engine with Displacement on Demand. Later that year, GM debuted Opel Signum² concept car in Frankfurt Auto Show, which uses the global XV8 engine with displacement on demand. In 2003, GM unveiled the Cadillac Sixteen concept car at the Detroit Opera House, which featured an XV16 concept engine that can switch between 4, 8, and 16 cylinders.

On April 8, 2003, General Motors announced this technology (now called Active Fuel Management) to be commercially available on 2005 GMC Envoy XL, Envoy XUV and Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT using optional Vortec 5300 V8 engine. GM also extended the technology on the new High Value LZ8 V6 engine in the Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo as well as the 5.3L V8 LS4 engine in the last generation Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS and Pontiac Grand Prix GXP. In both designs, half of the cylinders can be switched off under light loads.

On July 21, 2008, General Motors unveiled the production version of the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro. The Camaro SS with an automatic transmission features the GM L99 engine, a development of the LS3 with Active Fuel Management which allowed it to run on four cylinders during light load conditions.[2]

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