Infinitely variable valve control is coming, but will anyone need it?
Camcon Automotive, a company in England, has developed a system called Intelligent Valve Actuation, or IVA. This technology may replace conventional internal combustion engine valvetrains as we know it. Instead of a camshaft spinning from the crankshaft, each valve runs its own camshaft that is itself attached to a small electric motor. No spring is involved -- the valve just follows the camshaft, which can run clockwise or counter-clockwise. This setup gives infinite variability to both lift and duration of an open valve.
Having fully independent valves comes with several advantages, including running different combustion cycles, like Atkinson, or achieving the holy grail of gasoline engines: homogeneous charge compression ignition. This, of course, also brings the associated benefits of lowering carbon and other emissions, as well as increasing fuel efficiency.
Last year, Mazda announced a combustion process that starts down the homogenous path, but that system is still fundamentally limited. Camcon’s system gives engineers as much control over air as they have over fuel and spark. No manufacturers have announced official involvement with Camcon, but we can only imagine that if the system proves durable, interest will be high.
The big question, however: Is it too late? Battery technology continues to advance rapidly, as does the strictness of general and carbon emissions. The amount of alternative energy tech in the auto industry is more abundant every year (even hydrogen is gaining traction). If Camcon is fast enough, this is another extension to the life of the internal combustion engine, akin to revolutionizing the carburetor.