Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Lambretta-based Tork 150 BR, a failed attempt to compete with Honda and Yamaha in Brazil

Brazil is definitely a land of surprises when it comes to motor vehicles. Among all those specific versions of Volkswagens there used to be a space for experiences regarding the motorcycles market which grew a lot in the '70s with the arrival of local manufacturing operations from Honda and Yamaha, ending the previous leadership of Lambretta and Vespa scooters in the small-displacement range.  However, the Brazilian manufacturer of Lambretta released some motorcycles with a more conventional frame and the very same wheels and engine from the classic Lambretta, and so Brumana Pugliese released a model initially named Xispa and lately renamed Tork 150 BR, using the Xispa nameplate from 1971 to 1979. Despite having an engine which was already well known by Brazilian mechanics at the time, it became nearly impossible to compete against Honda and Yamaha which moved to Manaus in order to benefit from the Free Port Zone and import components at the beginning of local manufacturing, in a time when imports were otherwise severely restricted. However, the Brumana Pugliese company went bankrupt in 1982, and then the Lambretta and its unique Brazilian derivatives were phased out.

Friday, December 01, 2023

5 cars which could be an interesting testbed for a 2-rotor engine based on the LiquidPiston designs

With a different approach to the rotary engine, which is more reminded by how Mazda took the Wankel concept and turned it into one of the most relevant parts of its brand identity, the startup LiquidPiston is a proponent of what could be described as a Wankel turned inside-out in order to effectively address its downsides. So, unlike the Wankel layout which resorts to triangular rotors inside oblong housings, with 3 variable-volume chambers at each housing where different stages of a 4-stroke combustion process is undertaken, LiquidPiston has resorted for both spark-ignition and compression-ignition engine designs to an oblong-shaped rotor inside a housing containing 3 constant-volume chambers where all 4 strokes happen in a way analogue to the cylinders of a conventional reciprocating engine, yet only single-rotor variants of its proof-of-concept engines had been showcased. However, just like only Mazda achieved commercial success only with 2-rotor Wankel engines (and even a twin-turbo 3-rotor to a much limited extent), most likely a mature LiquidPiston-based engine would only achieve commercial viability once it could be scaled-up to 2 or 3 rotors, with 2 being more likely to happen considering the weight savings intended for the design and some odd features such as resorting to a hollow eccentric shaft (analogue to the crankshaft of a reciprocating engine) to guide the intake charge, and among so many cars which can be interesting testbeds for such an engine I could quote at least 5 without a doubt:

1 - Renault Kwid: originally intended to be made in India, this budget-oriented model also became available in Brazil from 2017 on. Considering its featherweight nature, and how it was intended to be a fairly inexpensive "people's car", the claimed lower overall cost to manufacture a LiquidPiston-based engine and its intended fuel-efficiency would be a perfect match, once its scalability and lubrication of the eccentric shaft get properly addressed;

2 - Peugeot 208 (second generation): even though forced-induction had been taken more seriously at an earlier stage in European versions than in its Argentinian-made counterpart, to which at first only the ancient naturally-aspirated 1.6L EC5 engine had been offered, until the 3-cyl 1.2L EB2 also became available in Argentina and Uruguay, while the 1.0L Fiat GSE engine had to be specified only for Brazil in order to benefit from a tax break for 1.0L-engined cars. A lower cost and the simplicity of being able to resort to a single engine with fewer parts, at a more favored displacement class, yet with a better power-density, would be beneficial;

3 - Chevrolet Montana (third generation): the oil-bath timing belt on itself is enough to justify the will to fit another engine without this controversial feature. As the Brazilian-made turbocharged versions of the GM CSS Prime engine retain port-injection, unlike its Chinese and Korean counterparts which resort to direct injection, is also subjected to criticism in Brazil, so as a LiquidPiston engine tends to feature a higher power-density even with natural aspiration it would most likely remain proportionately cheaper (at least in theory), not to mention how turbocharging an engine makes it more critical to not paying attention to lube oil specifications;

4 - Ford Pampa: most noticeably the rare 4X4 version, which could be more specifically interesting as a testbed for a Diesel engine, which could be based on the 25hp 2-stroke LiquidPiston XTS-210 engine, which has been more highlighted for its intended usage on portable gensets and military drones. Had it already been possible to stack a pair of XTS-210 engines together to form a single 2-rotor 50hp engine, comparable to the 1.6L Diesel version of Volkswagen's EA827 engine, I'm sure it would be quite easy to find a Ford Pampa owner to volunteer as a test-driver;

5 - Kombi: either the water-cooled EA-111 engine or the air-cooled boxer it replaced are far from being bad enough for someone to replace them just for the sake of it, yet it would still be tempting to pick one as a testbed for a different engine. The compact and lightweight nature of LiquidPiston designs would also render it less likely to affect too much the weight bias while unloaded, which could be a critical matter for other engines.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Brazilian '74 VW Beetle retrofitted with a turbocharged EA827 engine

With engine swaps being a fairly common deal nowadays, a car which used to be such a strong seller in Brazil like the Volkswagen Beetle/Fusca would also have its fair share of the deal, not only from a basic utilitarian approach in order to keep an ancient car operating but also for performance enhancements, to which the Volkswagen EA827 engine range better known in Brazil as "AP" is among the favorites. And even though a stock EA827 would most likely be an improvement over the stock air-cooled boxer, there are those who take one step further and enjoy the extensive aftermarket support. Not only Volkswagens are adapted with this engine in Brazil, and turbocharging may be actually essential to keep up with the original performance of some models, while for a Beetle the performance enhancement is noticeable.
Even though a fully-dressed EA827 engine is considerably heavier than the air-cooled boxer, which can be much more of an issue for engine swaps into air-cooled Volkswagens because of the way the engine is held in place only through the bellhousing, the bolt patterns being much similar makes the adaptation easier than for most engines from other automakers. And unlike other regions such as the United States or Africa where Japanese automakers took over the market for compact cars way before the Beetle, and Volkswagen in general, fell out of favor among budget-oriented buyers, performance enhancements for the Volkswagen EA827 remain easier to find and more affordable than for most other engines. Maybe a flat-4 Subaru EJ engine could have fewer impact to the weight bias, but the Volkswagen EA827 is much more dumbproof for Brazilian standards and is easier to get either used or as a brand-new crate engine.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Could the Hyundai HB20 also be competitive outside Latin America?

Developed specifically for Brazil and now in its 2nd generation, the Hyundai HB20 was meant to be an answer to some local demands, in contrast to other regional markets where Hyundai still used to source small models straight from Korea and even from India or Turkey. However, amid all the SUV craze and how it impacted other segments, in some Latin American countries now the HB20 and its sedan variant HB20S are the only Hyundai cars available new, other than SUVs or hybrids, and it's worth to notice its external dimensions being smaller than other Hyundais within the same class available elsewhere leads to an easier maneuvering through tight spaces, in the end rendering it more convenient for urban traffic.

Naturally having been designed with one specific "emerging" market requires budget-oriented measures to keep it cost-effective for Brazilian standards, also influencing other Latin American markets because Brazil is still among the most important automotive industrial hubs in the region, opportunities in other regions to which Brazilian-made vehicles used to be exported at larger quantities decades before could also receive the HB20, or even have it made locally if they have protectionist policies similar to Brazil. Still justifying the classification as a compact, while other models grew larger than what a mid-size car used to be a few decades ago, and designed with affordability in mind, the Hyundai HB20 could also be competitive in Southeast Asia or Africa for instance. There were other examples of economy cars which had been designed for the Brazilian market and went far beyond Latin America, Africa and Middle East to reach some Western European countries and even India, so there could be some realistic perspectives for the HB20 if Hyundai ever gives it a chance.

Sunday, October 08, 2023

WG Jeep Grand Cherokee with rack-and-pinion steering

A modification which is now quite common in Brazil is the fitment of a rack-and-pinion steering gear in vehicles with a solid front axle, which resorted by default to an ancient worm-and-gear steering box. More usually adapted to 4WDs such as the WG Jeep Grand Cherokee, for recreational off-roading, this setup requires some custom fabrication to match a very unlikely setup, as usually only vehicles with independent front suspension are factory-fitted with a rack-and-pinion steering.
The most usual steering rack used on such adaptations is the one from the Hyundai HR, known as Hyundai Porter or Hyundai H-100, which is basically the same of the Mitsubishi Delica/L-300. A much more direct steering response is the goal of such adaptations, yet the matching to a solid-axle front suspension may be surprising at a first glance.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

'64 Lambretta with a side-car on the left side

The fitment of side-cars to scooters have been outlawed in Brazil, yet I don't know exactly when, as the current Traffic Code was implemented in early '99, and the side-cars used to not be taken much seriously until a side-cars manufacturer in Santa Catarina started to promote them for commercial cargo applications. Sure older side-car rigs were grandfathered, such as this '64 Lambretta coupled to a side-car on its left side, as it would be better suited to countries where the traffic is on the left side of the road, rendering it even more unusual in Brazil. Naturally the motorcycling culture not having been much developed as a practical option for the average Joe until the Japanese took over in the '70s, as car industries were favored in the '50s during Juscelino Kubitschek's presidential term, a Lambretta actually had its fair share of the market, but side-cars are still seen more often as a curiosity, so it would never be an actual contender to the Volkswagen Beetle for instance...

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Why and how the 3rd-generation Ford Ka turned out to become a failed attempt to a introduce a modern spiritual successor for the Ford Model T?

With a production run that took place only in Brazil and India from 2014 to 2021, the third generation of the Ford Ka departed from its essentially urban profile to become a more versatile model aiming to the general public looking out for a simple runabout. The engine selection varied according to the markets and the production site, so while the Brazilian model available only in left-hand drive with either a 1.0L flexfuel exclusive for Brazil with a manual transmission or some 1.5L engine in a flexfuel for Brazil and only gasoline-powered for regional exports with the option for manual and automatic transmission, its Indian counterpart also had right-hand drive variants and got a broader engine selection going from 1.2L and 1.5L gassers to the 1.5L turbodiesel, yet again the 1.5L gasser would be the only one available with an optional automatic transmission. The broader engine selection reflected a much more complex market worldwide, in contrast to how the Ford Model T got away with only the 2.9L gasser (also capable to operate on ethanol and kerosene under some circumstances) from 1908 to 1927 and even outliving the Ford Model T itself until 1941 for special purposes.
Sure the harsh road conditions dictating the need for a reasonable off-road capability on the Ford Model T were at least supposed to have been improved considerably on most markets, yet there was also a trim of the Ford Ka with an off-road theme despite the lack of any real improvement to the cross-country capability over more conventional trims. A contrast with how the Ford Model T ultimately had to be closer conceptually to 4WD SUVs, because it often reached some regions before actual roads were opened, is still noteworthy even though a Ford Model T was only rear-wheel drive and the Ford Ka was front-wheel drive, both actually following what would end up as a more conservative layout according to which prevailed at the respective production run of each. On the other hand, while the Ford Model T had a much different layout of its cockpit with a manual throttle eventually being the least of its odd features, the fact that its 2-speed sequential transmission with pedals for shifting instead of a lever could be shifted without the need to control a clutch pedal may render some versions of the Ford Ka comparably less novice-friendly once the manual transmission is specified, and that was the only one available in Europe where the 1.2L gasser was the only engine available and so the automatic transmission had never been offered.
Eventually the trim with an off-road theme could've been an excuse to sell the Ford Ka in a more favorable condition as if it would qualify to the same "light truck" loophole that benefits SUVs, had Ford ever bothered to make it comply with NHTSA and DOT regulations which actually seemed to be less of a challenge than anybody would suppose, as the 3rd generation of the Ford Ka shared pretty much the same underpinnings with other models more appealing to both the European and North American markets, even though a concept of manufacturability quite similar to the one applied to the Ford Model T dictated a simpler approach to most of the features such as design and finishings. Maybe even more serious than the structural integrity and crashworthyness, other aspect which could make it less appealing for Ford to sell the Ka within the United States was the FMVSS 108 regarding the lighting system, as it requires symmetrical headlights for any motor vehicle to fully comply, even though in one way or another Mexico where it was sourced from India tends to follow much of the American regulations on vehicles made locally (as Mexico ended up becoming one of the most important production and export hubs for the motor industry, highlighting the location near the United States, Mexico also having two coastlines, the high value added to trucks and SUVs which are the vehicles usually exported from Mexico, and the trade agreements giving Mexican vehicles a much more competitive pricing abroad), yet more lenient when it comes to imported vehicles as part of some trade agreements signed by Mexico. As there would be such low economics of scale for very specific US-spec headlights, to a model in a segment with a rather small sales volume within the United States, it's quite easy to understand why Ford never even bothered to try it...
An internal competition between the Ford Ka and the EcoSport could seem too risky for the off-road themed version named Ka Trail in Brazil prior to the facelift, or Ka Freestyle after such facelift in order to get alligned with the Ford Freestyle name used in India, where the regular Ka was named Ford Figo, while in Europe the Ka+ name was applied to the hatchback and the off-road themed trim became the Ka+ Active. While both the Ka and the EcoSport relied on pretty much the same underpinnings, the perception of a higher value added tended quite predictably to favor much more the EcoSport, not only in developed markets such as Western Europe or the United States and Canada, or Japan where versions sourced from India went as far as having a slightly narrower bodyshell in order to keep within the compact car class and save on taxation, all while having only a turbocharged 1.0L and a naturally-aspirated 1.5L gasoline-powered engines for the same purpose of lower taxation. Besides being made alongside the Ka/Figo in Brazil and India, the EcoSport was also made in China, Thailand, Vietnam and at a later stage also in Romania where production of the model is already scheduled to be phased out in 2023, even though Ford developed a quite effective replacement to the EcoSport meant for sale only in Europe and Australia, concentrating strictly on larger models within the SUV class in other regions such as Latin America and China.
The production hub of the Euro-spec models of the EcoSport from India to Romania may also lead to a reflection regarding a strategy applied by Renault expanding its Romanian budget-oriented companion brand Dacia to the mainstream Western European markets, which Ford could've tried with the Ka, and the sedan bodystyle which in Brazil became named Ka+ and in India had a shorter trunk in order to keep total lenght around 4-metre for a lower taxation and was named Ford Figo Aspire. Sure an absence from China and other markets in Asia where a budget model could boost the sales volume of Ford cars, even if it would be quite difficult to keep up to competition from Toyota or its companion brands Daihatsu still taken very seriously in Indonesia or Perodua in Malaysia, also being worth to mention Indonesia as a quite large manufacturing hub in Southeast Asia for the motor industry even though it's to a smaller extent than Thailand. Considering taxation which is often displacement-biased on most Southeast Asian countries, eventually the same engine selection of the Brazilian Ford Ka and Ka+ would be better suited to match regional criteria, while the Brazilian longer bodyshell of the Ka+ which in India was only made for export could be replaced by the same shorter one from the Figo Aspire as it would be easier to maneuver and to find a parking spot in some of those huge cities in the ASEAN region such as Jakarta, Manila or Kuala Lumpur for instance.
While it could be seen as quite pathetic by an American redneck, or too unsophisticated by Western European modern standards, Ford really missed some opportunities to at least keep one foothold within the "people's car" segment which led to its former leadership of so much of the global car market if the Ford Ka had a chance in the context of the failed One Ford policy. Maybe not to the same iconic extent of the Ford Model T, yet still keeping up to its heritage by providing at least one model effectively suitable to a much broader worldwide market in the middle of all those expensive trucks and SUVs which became a status symbol more than a tool to improve people's lives like the Ford Model T ended up to become back in the day. Sure it might just seem easier to shoehorn a small SUV at each household, with a larger profit margin even though the underpinnings are basically the same of a basic runabout, but Ford chose to lose its focus (no pun intended) from being a world-class automaker by letting go from its own history and what had turned it into one of the most important automakers in the whole world, and neglecting what could've been the last chance to make amends with its own past.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

What makes the Honda Cub-type motorcycles so successful worldwide?

Among the best-selling motorcycles, the Honda Cub in its many different iterations and variants is one of the easiest examples to be remembered. Successful in so many countries with differences pertaining to the economical and social conditions, even in Brazil derivatives such as the Honda C100 Dream can be found. There are good reasons for the Honda Cub and its derivatives to be so appreciated worldwide.

The underbone frame for instance, made it attractive for East Asian and Southeast Asian women, as it was much easier for them to ride it while wearing traditional attires which often include long skirts. Not to the same extent of modern scooters with an usually flat floor, yet easier than in a regular motorcycle with its conventional frame. For many women, in Western countries too, the Honda Cub turned out to be their first experience with motorcycles.

With an automatic clutch, novice riders in general tended to be more at ease, and it also became favored by motorcycle couriers in Japan and even in other countries as it allowed the rider to eventually handle some materials with the vehicle still moving. It was also possible to keep the 1st gear engaged with the motorcycle stopped during a delivery, so the courier would be able to depart faster to the next stop. Odd enough, in Brazil the C100 Dream and its replacemens were never favored by motorcycle couriers, yet a similar engine with a manual clutch is now used in a bare-bones motorcycle which is now quite usual among motorcycle couriers due to its (competitively) low price.

With bigger wheels than a scooter, the Honda Cub also tended to cope better with rugged terrain, which makes it an easy choice in 3rd-world countries, both in urban areas and rural regions. Among the many derivatives of the Honda Cub, there are trail models too, which are actually more favored by recreative riders than those who use a small motorcycle for daily commuting. Easy to ride, fuel-efficient and able to cope with some of the harshest environmental conditions, no wonder the Cub is a best-seller.


Friday, September 01, 2023

Why would a soft-top convertible car be most likely out of question for a daily-driver?

It's undeniable that a convertible car might be cool and have some extra fun factor, and the distinctively classic look of a canvas soft top made it once again become more widespread in convertibles instead of a retractible metal top. Even though some people can actually make good use of one as a daily-driver, it may not be the same for everyone, and some aspects render a convertible car out of question, such as a security concern as a soft top may be easier for vandals and burglars to damage. Not to mention the fire hazard which used to be more of an issue when some random a**holes used to throw lit cigarette butts while the vehicle was stopped at a traffic light, before fire-retarding materials became more usual, and smoking inside urban transit buses became outlawed. I have already seen some unruly teens littering on convertible cars with the top down when I lived in Florianópolis, and not only it's disrespectful but also may pose a safety threat in case some rubbish around the pedals may affect their proper function. Other aspect more specific to Brazil is the unsuitability to add armor legally, which may be deemed desirable by most luxury car owners, and nowadays there is absolutely no convertible version of any entry-level car in Brazil. It may sound dumb to even think about armoring a convertible car, but it's not unheard of, because it's Brazil so expect the unexpected... And even for a normal usage, the inherently lesser torsion rigidity of a convertible would be a greater matter of concern than for a regular hardtop equivalent, so it may render a convertible better suited for occasional usage, preferably in places with the pavement in a better condition than most places in Brazil where speedbumps and potholes are almost everywhere.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

1982 Honda Turuna adapted with a CG 125 pushrod engine

From '79 to '86, the Brazilian equivalent of the Honda CB 125 was the Honda Turuna, resorting to the OHC engine previously used in the imported CB 125S before new vehicle imports to Brazil ceased in '76, with few exceptions granted mostly in the Manaus Free Port Zone. While the Honda CG 125 was a best-seller, released in Brazil in '76 and with its OHV engine being more competitive than the OHC as an utilitarian motorcycle engine towards the 2-stroke competitors, the Turuna was supposed to be more upscale and sporty. But nowadays, with CG 125 parts being easier to find, seeing a Turuna adapted with a CG engine in order to remain in use doesn't really surprise me, at least not as much as the stock front disc brake also replaced by a drum brake which used to be a stock feature of the Honda CG 125.
Seemingly the entire front fork, headlight and instrument cluster were sourced from a late Brazilian version of the OHV-engined CG 125, which ran from late-'99 to early 2004 when the OHC-engined CG 150 was meant to become a replacement for the OHV CG 125 regular versions, and from 2006 to 2009 the CG 125 was reintroduced in the stripped-down Fan version, until a new OHC engine was fitted to the 125 starting in 2009. The extremely basic cluster, which missed the tachometer, was adapted from the OHV Honda CG 125 Fan, later also fitted to its carburettor-fed OHC replacement which soldiered on until 2016 when the OHC engine received EFI until it was phased out in 2019. Sure it would've been more appealing if this Turuna had retained the stock instrument cluster, a front disc brake, and maybe an OHC engine which would be more "accurate", but it's already better than if it had been scrapped...

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Volkswagen and some attempts to get rid of naturally-aspirated engines since 2003: why the Virtus is an example of turbocharging being far from one-size-fits-all?

The introduction of a facelift for the Volkswagen Virtus in Brazil for the 2023 model-year, along with the phaseout of the 1.6 MSI engine in a gasoline-powered trim for regional exports and flexfuel for the local Brazilian market, could fool some people to believe a turbocharged 1.0 or 1.4 TSI to be suitable for every customer. Odd enough, in India where the facelift was avant-premiered worldwide at the local introduction of the Virtus which was more recent compared to Brazil, the Virtus was always fitted with either the 1.0 or 1.5 TSI engines, yet the 1.6 MSI remains available as an export-only option. Countries such as Mexico, which switched from the Brazilian Virtus to its Indian counterpart, are more favorable to naturally-aspirated engines with a larger displacement, even though the turbocharger could be seen as a good addition because it may also provide some compensation to the effects of a quite extremely high altitude in Mexico City for instance. Other aspects which may be also worth to remind are the resort to port-injection in the naturally-aspirated 1.6 MSI engine, simpler than the direct injection fitted to TSI engines and easier to convert to some alternate fuels such as compressed natural gas (CNG) which is quite popular in Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil.

The presence of a turbocharger might not be a maintenance nightmare at all, yet it does have its fair share of complexity due to the high temperatures a turbocharger tends to operate and how it may require a stricter observance of the minimum specifications for motor oil. Sure using a lower-grade oil in a modern naturally-aspirated engine may not be a good recommendation at all, and neither adapting a carburettor instead of the electronic fuel injection like it often happens in Argentina as the do-it-yourself culture is still quite common there and inviting to some makeshift, even though it may lead to other electronic systems to fail considering the greater integration between the engine management system, some accessories, and safety devices such as ABS brakes and traction and stability controls. It's also worth to notice in some countries the Virtus was introduced only with manual transmission and the 1.6 MSI engine, such as South Africa where it's sourced from India and named Polo Sedan instead, and its powertrain contrasts with the all-turbo lineup and the availability of the DSG transmission for the South African Polo hatchback.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

What would be the most challenging aspect to modernize a 2-stroke engine?

The most highlighted 2-stroke gasoline-powered car engines in Brazil were fitted to the DKW-Vemag range, made under a license from the same Auto Union which would later be reorganized as the modern iteration of Audi, with the brand changing from DKW to Audi reflecting exactly a switch from ancient 2-stroke to 4-stroke engines which were perceived as state-of-the-art in mid to late-'60s. Littie could'be been tried in order to make the DKW 3-cylinder 2-stroke 1.0L engine better suited to a more prestigious aspiration such as in the DKW-Vemag Fissore, even though the Lubrimat system resorting to a separate oil reservoir instead of requiring a fuel and oil premix noticeably decreased both smoke and spark-plug fouling under certain engine loads, and could be effectively more practical than having to change the oil in a 4-stroke engine periodically, even though the total-loss oiling would not be much suitable to forced induction through a turbocharger, and even if a belt-driven supercharger could be implemented it would need its separate splash-lube oil system. Back in a day when electronic fuel injection sounded more like sci-fi, and mechanical fuel injection was much easier to justify for Diesel engines due to a much higher complexity compared to carburettors, the fate of 2-stroke engines in cars was sealed...
Besides the automatic lubricating system through oil injection, which would later also become popular in 2-stroke motorcycles, other developments started to emerge in the '70s when an "outdated" 2-stroke car was turned more into a technical curiosity in Western countries and more efforts were directed to the evolution of 4-stroke engines. Just like intake reed-valves and exhaust power-valve systems which were fitted to some 2-stroke motorcycles eventually provides an effect comparable to what a 4-stroke engine would get with a variable valve timing, it's worth to notice the differences between the intake flows in a 2-stroke engine posed additional challenges for electronic fuel injections to become effective regarding fuel economy, with both direct injection at some earlier stages and more recently transfer-port injection being implemented to certain 2-stroke motorcycles, all while the economics of scale are more difficult than a port-injection setup in a 4-stroke. So, besides cost and economics of scale favoring 4-strokes, an increased hardship to adjust either a direct injection or a transfer-port injection to inject a fuel in liquid phase such as gasoline or ethanol as well as certain alternate fuels such as CNG or Hydrogen in vapour phase might have become the most challenging aspect for any attempt to rehab 2-stroke engines in cars.

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

The Fiat Pulse makes downsizing seem rather pointless

One of those Fiats developed more specifically to the Brazilian market, the Pulse was released with the GSE/Firefly engine, always in flexfuel trim for Brazil and gasoline-powered for regional export, with a 4-cyl naturally-aspirated 1.3L version as the entry-level engine (and only one available in Mexico) with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a CVT automatic and the 3-cyl turbocharged 1.0L MultiAir III only with a CVT. Later a sporty Abarth trim with a MultiAir III version of the 4-cyl 1.3L was added, with a more conventional 6-speed automatic, but the rather specific profile of a sporty model might not be so unjustifiable for turbocharging. However, for the regular trims, the naturally-aspirated 1.3L ended up with a better fuel-efficiency, even though the 1.0L turbocharged was supposed to be much better and technically superior, with its direct injection rendering unnecessary as a knock-suppression measure an excessive enrichment of the air-fuel ratio under boost which used to be more usual when port-injection was the rule even for turbocharged engines. Sure the 56.25% higher torque rating for the 1.0L MultiAir III might be appealing, not to mention the turbocharged provides some altitude compensation once the turbo-lag is over while the naturally-aspirated engines suffer from a more acute performance decrease on extreme altitudes, and considering FIA racing homologation rules the turbocharged engine with a 25% lower displacement would actually be supposed to equate to a naturally-aspirated engine 27.6% larger in displacement than the one fitted to the Pulse, which technically is quite impressive, but the turbocharged engine ends up not only having a higher fuel consumption but also costs more to make and mantain. It's also worth to notice that some operators such as taxi drivers may also consider to upfit the vehicles with a Compressed Natural Gas alternate fuel setup, to which the port-injection of the 1.3L naturally-aspirated engine is still better suited.