FreeValve's engineering feat explained.
We’ve discussed Koenigsegg a fair bit here on The New Measure of Performance series, and in this article we depart very slightly and look at its sister company, FreeValve AB. FreeValve has been developing a technology for 16 years that eliminates the need for a camshaft within an internal combustion engine, while improving performance. To fully understand the implications of this revolutionary advancement, let’s begin with a basic familiarization of camshafts.
The camshaft uses lobes to push open the intake and exhaust valves. The timing between the rotation of the camshaft with respect to the engine crankshaft is critical because it dictates the opening and closing pattern of the intake and exhaust valves; engine performance can be maximized by optimizing the duration of valve opening and overlap. Many automakers and third parties have attempted to develop camshaft-less internal combustion engines, but have struggled with technical and packaging problems. FreeValve has been successful at creating this technology through the use of electro-hydraulic pneumatic actuators.
This breaks down to air controlled actuators that use oil for hold and damping characteristics, all orchestrated by electronic connectors that live in the “camshaft cover.” The actuation system has been rigorously tested and proven reliable, precise, and can reach economies of scale in manufacturing such that they are cost effective in mass production. In making the valve opening and closing process electronic and actuated, rather than facilitated by a camshaft, FreeValve has made it possible to more exactly control and vary valve opening, closing and lift times.
Additionally, rather than having a few different valve timing behaviors (think Honda VTEC), FreeValve has enabled the ability to program a map of valve timing based on a variety of vehicle conditions, like engine load and RPM, enabling your engine to always be running optimally, whether for efficiency or to maximize power output. This technology has yet to make its way into a production vehicle; however, a partnership with Qoros, the same company Koenigsegg is working on the 1.6-liter engine with, has recently been penned, and was displayed in the Qoros Qamfree concept car. There are also plans to eventually include FreeValve technology on a Koenigsegg vehicle.
Overall, incorporation of this technology will result in reduced emissions, reduced fuel consumption of around 12-17% and increased low end torque and power delivery. Further, this opens up the possibility of additional modifications to a traditional ICE setup, such as divided exhaust ports, two stroke combustion cycles and other variations. With Koenigsegg and FreeValve, Sweden is pulling more than its weight in expanding the frontier of automotive tech.