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Here's How Koenigsegg's Camless Engine Of The Future Works

Illustration for article titled Heres How Koenigseggs Camless Engine Of The Future Works

Camshafts are great because they’re simple and mechanical and well-proven after many, many, many, many, many, many years of engine production. But there’s a better, newer way that runs an engine without them, and here’s how it works.

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This is how a camless engine works, something we’ve seen over the past four years from Swedish supercar builders Koenigsegg and the imaginatively-named FreeValve.

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Put simply, instead of a metal camshaft physically pressing a valve down and open, an actuator forces the valve open with air pressure. Check out Engineering Explained’s simplified diagram to get a sense of what that looks like:

We explained a lot of this ourselves when we visited Koenigsegg back in 2014, and saw how much more efficient an engine can be operating on a much more digital/binary scale than a physical one. A valve in an engine using a camshaft gradually opens and then gradually closes, thanks to the physical design of a camshaft. A valve in a camless engine can open just about all the way instantly, and close just a well. You can change how this all looks at any RPM, you can easily cut off any cylinders individually, and you get a lot more freedom to run an engine how it would like to be run.

At the moment the system is very new, and likely quite expensive, but hopefully its cost and complexity will go down as the tech matures.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

They aren’t the only company that has messed with this, it’s been around longer than you’d think. The problem with this system is that in the real world you can’t actually open and close the valves much faster than a mechanical system (camshaft) except at very low engine speeds. In fact, at very high engine speeds this system is inferior.

The big benefit is getting rid of the throttle, but that has already been done (BMW) without the unreliability of a camless system. To make a camless system reliable for real world use you’d have to use a camshaft as a backup for when the pressure or control system failed. It would be expensive and heavy and very complicated.