Dr. Andrew Reading is currently President of Sensors, Inc., arguably the preeminent manufa
Editor's Note: Dr. Andrew Reading is currently President of Sensors, Inc., the manufacturer and distributor of PEMS (Portable Emissions Measuring Systems). It was because of these robust instruments from Sensors that Circle Track elected to include the technology in our current G.R.E.E.N. project. Recently, we were able to capture some of Dr. Reading's time to comment on several issues pertinent to Circle Track's Project G.R.E.E.N. We believe you will be interested in his perspectives.
What are your thoughts about including on-track emissions measurements as part of evaluating the environmental impact of contemporary and future race cars?
Well, obviously we're in the emissions measuring business but in this particular instance we're looking for more than just data. The feedback we expect to get will tie into what we believe is an increase in the interest pertaining to an entire range of topics that affect our environment. Let me elaborate on that for a moment.
For example, when we test an engine's exhaust components, we're actually looking at the efficiency of the combustion process. If we're talking about a hydrocarbon fuel, in a perfect world, we don't expect to see anything but carbon dioxide and water in the exhaust. Anything other than this indicates there is inefficiency in the combustion process. Given the fact that with a typical gasoline fuel only about 25 percent of its energy content will be converted into torque, you've got to be really careful about where the losses occur. Analyzing combustion byproducts can be a key to optimizing engine output, which is something we believe, should be of interest to racers seeking to obtain the most power from their engines. It's not just about emissions as they relate to environmental concerns. The overriding issue deals with optimizing combustion efficiency.
What about the environmental aspect of evaluating combustion byproducts?
Actually, if we're not seeing only carbon dioxide and water in the exhaust, what are we seeing and what is the environmental impact on what's coming out the back? This depends upon a host of things that obviously includes engine technologies, the after-treatment systems being used and the fuels being burned. It's very interesting to see how the interplay of these three elements influences overall emissions.
Certainly, if you're going to alternative fuels, there's going to be a change in the emissions spectrum. So in addition to CO2 and water, you may get some other oxygenated residues coming from the engine that can range all the way from different odors to those compounds that are carcinogenic. Therefore, from an environmental perspective, as we explore alternative and different engine and powertrain packages that's where we consider what is actually going on with chemistry in the combustion space.
This approach gives you an indication of what can be done to tune the engine, transmission, and after-treatment system to optimize vehicle performance while concurrently diminishing harmful pollutants.
Is there a value to using a high-profile venue like motorsports to showcase new technologies and the speed with which they can be developed in a racing environment?
Perhaps I'm more knowledgeable about new and evolving engine technologies than racing per se, but I do understand that there may be some antiquated rules that seem to hold back the industry from using the latest technologies that you might see on the street. I think it's a shame because with the audience you have and their interest in motorsports, why not "dress that shop window" with the best technologies available when engineers are given a free reign to bring those technologies into performance? For example, direct fuel injection is only one of many options.
Do you have a sense for the potential value in collaborating with the regulatory agencies that are historically looking for ways to control the environment? Are there risks or benefits that could be derived from this?
I don't see any risks whatsoever, at least from our perspective. In fact, I really believe that getting them involved in programs and projects like this one as being beneficial.
One of the big programs that kick-started Sensors into our efforts to develop on-board emissions measuring equipment was in conjunction with the EPA and its desire to have a way to test outside a laboratory setting. I think the racing project has caused us to really consider packaging the product in a way that streamlines it to accommodate smaller on-board spaces for such equipment.
In particular, as engine builders become convinced that we're not just about emissions and offer an opportunity to evaluate the on-board combustion efficiency of engines for the sake of improved performance, the emissions side of the equation will essentially take care of itself.
To what extent do you believe your (Sensors') participation in this project will benefit both your company and the Circle Track readership?
It's a bit difficult to gauge our participation in this particular project but there's always beneficial feedback. Simply put, we learn so much about specific application needs, how we should streamline the product to meet certain demands, and, in the case at hand, what we can do to help make the project as meaningful and successful as possible. But once again, a specific benefit to everyone involved, including the magazine's readership, is the opportunity to learn more about new technologies and how our equipment can be configured to meet new objectives.
The motorsports industry is ripe for ways they can use exhaust measuring equipment to help optimize a race engine's combustion efficiency, perhaps by methods they'd not previously considered. I can't overemphasize the importance of recognizing that measuring exhaust emissions is only one byproduct of evaluating the combustion process.
To really focus on determining how a given engine package or type of fuel can be optimized for superior performance requires a more precise study of what is going on in the combustion space. We believe our Sensors technology is a clear path to enabling that approach to achieving maximum power that's not at the expense of emissions control. We view challenges of this type as opportunities for everyone involved.