As this project continues to materialize, observations and related comments from its participants are helpful in understanding its short- and long-term goals. This month, we invited Rob Fisher, Forrest Jehlik, Horace Mast, and Dave Kalen to respond to four questions linked to the project. You know them from prior introductions. Their commentary is interesting, applicable, and thought-provoking.
Forrest Jehlik, Engineer, Argonne National Laboratory
Did you observe any test results that were not expected?
"For me, the most interesting aspect of the testing was the emissions results. Understanding that catalysts require close stoichiometric mixtures for proper function, I was extremely curious both in the quantities of criteria emissions formed and the conversion efficiency in rich A/F mixtures.
Secondly, our entire group had questions concerning the durability of the catalytic converter substrate after a full day of heavily loaded engine testing. In short, would the substrate melt? Would there be a thermal event due to a rich exhaust stream? Would the location of the catalyst at the header collector be too close, thus too hot, from the exhaust stream? Since I'd not seen any of these type of data from a race engine, the entire group was most curious about the results.
Some preliminary observations noted there was significant NOx reduction potential with the catalysts. However, we observed a very modest change in CO/HC concentrations in the exhaust. Knowing that the chemistry of the catalyst and the kinetics that dictate the oxidation reactions require a significant concentration of O2, the results were not entirely unexpected.
More significant, the very slight loss in power relative to the non-catalytic converter configuration was eye opening. Basically, this means you can run a configuration that not only generates more power than the current technology offers (carburetors, racing gasoline, and open exhaust), but emits less emissions with EFI, catalytic converters, and a sustainable fuel. The relative pumping losses don't need to be prohibitive to performance. That's significant.
After all the tests, we removed the catalysts and examined the substrate. There were no signs of substrate melting although one of the substrates had begun to unroll due to high exhaust pressure. However, this issue could readily be addressed and one the team will follow and manage throughout the remainder of the project."
Based on the dyno tests thus far conducted, what conclusions can you draw about the impact of this project on the circle track community, both short- and longterm?
"I've always been a proponent of data. As I jokingly tell my friends, 'In God we trust. Everyone else brings data.' Prior to joining this project, I was unaware of any published data comparing the power results from using renewable fuels against today's standard benchmark (carburetors, racing gasoline, and so on) that included catalysts and electronic fuel injection. Before we could understand the impact that such a project could have short- and longterm, we needed to understand the potential benefits from and detriments to the new technologies. From the first round of dynamometer testing, it is my honest opinion that the racing community could be on the cusp of not only sustainability toward increasing overall performance but a chance to establish a standard of sustainability and responsibility by setting an example for our country as a whole.
Over the short-term, it's obvious that getting this type of information out and into the racing community's hands is of the utmost importance. There has been so much speculation and 'guesstimations' in certain forms of racing, including myths and traditions, that progress seems to be a bad word. Yet the history and roots of racing are filled with characters and visionaries who passionately worked for advancement by pushing all the envelopes.