Koenigsegg camless engine wins PopSci award

Pneumatic-Hydraulic-Electric-Actuator technology replaces camshafts

Published: October 29, 2016, 6:30 PM
Updated: October 11, 2021, 10:02 AM

FreeValve technology

Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg has received the Popular Science Grand Award for its ingenious cam-free internal combustion engine.

That’s right, the Koenigsegg FreeValve engine has no camshafts — those rods that traditionally sit atop each bank of cylinders and force open intake and exhaust valves to get the air/fuel mixture into the combustion chamber and then draw the burned gasses out, respectively.

The engine is actually produced by FreeValve AB, a sister company to Koenigsegg Automotive AB, at its lab fully contained in the Koenigsegg headquarters in Ängelholm, Sweden. The company struck up a deal with China’s Qoros Auto to use the FreeValve Pneumatic-Hydraulic-Electric-Actuator (PHEA) technology in an engine, renamed Qamfree, for a Qoros concept debuting at the 2016 Beijing Motor Show.

The change is facilitated through the use of electronic technology, as are most advancements in today’s vehicles. The camshaft and associated hardware (such as belts and gears) have been removed, replaced by an electric pulse that forces air to pneumatically open and close a valve whose movement is restricted hydraulically.

The benefits are many — more precise control over valve actuation, reduced weight from replacing robust metal parts with wires and fluid lines, and compactness due the elimination of head covers and the space needed for turning cam lobes.

The valve actuation is also not dependent on the actuation of the other valves, granting more control over intake and exhaust operations, meaning valves can remain open longer or even open and close at an interval completely free from what other cylinders are doing in the engine. Better control means flexible power and more complete combustion, which would in turn result in reduced emissions.

Fewer moving parts also means fewer things to potentially break down and less energy being spent, which also improves efficiency. And the system provides better control over cylinder deactivation, with the ability to remove cylinders from the combustion process at will, depending on engine loads, throttle positions, vehicle speeds, and even in conjunction with electrification.

The improvements over traditional engines, according to FreeValve, is a 50% reduction in size, 30% reduction in weight, 30% improvement in power and torque, 30% improvement in fuel economy, and a 50% reduction in emissions.

The annual Best of What’s New Awards look at inventions that are poised to have a significant impact on future designs or processes, and the FreeValve PHEA technology was presented with the Grand Award for 2016.