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, Volume 73, Issue 5, pp 28–32 | Cite as

Variable Compression Ratio for Gasoline Engines

  • Rolf Weinowski
  • Karsten Wittek
  • Carsten Dieterich
  • Jörg Seibel
Development Compression

Downsizing in combination with turbocharging enables a sustainable CO2 emission reduction. In order to mitigate knock at higher engine loads the compression ratio has to be diminished with increasing boost pressure levels. To alleviate disadvantages of reduced efficiency at part load FEV developed a two-stage variable compression ratio mechanism.


In order to meet the CO2 fleet threshold value of 130 g/km in the vehicle inertia class of 1372 kg introduced by the European Commission, manufacturers already started offering boosted engines with reduced displacement. Lower throttle and friction losses of these smaller turbocharged engines enable a CO2 reduction between 10 and 20 % — depending on vehicle mass and downsizing level.

The application of downsizing in context with boosting presents a disadvantage because of the higher knock sensitivity at higher engine loads, thus the compression ratio (CR) has to be reduced. Despite the fact that the majority of the turbocharged engines are equipped with direct fuel injection, today’s boosted engines are designed for RON 95 gasoline with a compression ratio lowered by 1 to 1.5 units in comparison to naturally aspirated engines. Decreased pressures and temperatures at the end of compression shift the knock border line to higher loads. Hence, the more beneficial location of the center of combustion offers improved efficiency at full load. However, this full load benefit is at the cost of reduced thermal efficiency at low engine loads.

Besides downsizing in combination with boosting, several other means to reduce fuel consumption of gasoline engines can be considered. The modular application of a variable compression ratio mechanism lends itself to resolve this conflict.


The VCR systems with variable kinetic connecting rod lengths entail variable powertrain components which can be used instead of the conventional components and thus only require minor modifications to existing engine architectures.

The presented connecting rod belongs to the group of VCR systems with variable kinematic lengths and has been developed over the past few years. (left) shows a cross section of the actual connecting rod. The small end is equipped with an eccentric sleeve which houses the wrist pin. By rotating the eccentric sleeve the effective connecting rod length and thus compression ratio can be varied. Further details about the working principle can be found in [1, 2].

Functionality of the two-stage VCR system

To adapt the system to existing engine architecture requires only relatively small changes to existing parts as compared to the requirements of other VCR systems at acceptable additional manufacturing costs. The influence on the lubrication circuit of the engine is so small that the oil pump capacity does not need to be increased.

The reduction of moving masses is part of current development activities. For engines with a cylinder displacement of approximately 0.4 l the oscillating mass increases by 30 to 50 % depending on stroke-to-bore ratio. Simulation results have shown that optimising the design and utilising high-strength steel significantly reduces the mass of the conrod.


In order to clarify the feasible two-stage VCR response time will satisfy the thermodynamic requirements a CR switching as part of a load step was simulated. In this particular case the full load acceleration in 6th gear at 2000 rpm was investigated. The boost pressure trace is based on measurements taken from a two-stage turbocharged DI gasoline engine. shows the trace of the boost pressure and the derived trace of an efficiency optimised compression (ideal C.R.) as a function of time.

CR actuation and boost pressure build-up after positive load step

In the case shown, the switching point from high to low compression ratio is located exactly at the beginning of the load step. The switch-over is completed after 0.6 s as illustrated in the simulated actual compression trace (actual C.R). The CR switch-over takes place much faster than boost can be generated by the highly dynamic and optimised boosting system. Therefore, further reduction in response time would not result in further improvement. In fact, faster switch-over efficiency may lead to unintended torque reductions. The influence of the oil temperature on the response time is relative small. At an oil temperature of 0 °C the response time going from high to low CR increases only by a small amount compared to the response time at warm engine.


Investigations so far have shown that the fuel consumption improvement potential for a continuous compression ratio adjustment over the European NEDC Cycle is between 6 and 8 % [3]. With a two-step VCR, due to knock limitation occurring now at part load, the CR needs to be switched back to the lower value as designed for full load operation earlier in the upper area of the load map. Thus, the fuel efficiency is slightly reduced.

In order to assess the fuel consumption reduction potential of the two-step system, a cycle simulation using the currently valid NEDC Cycle and the WLTP Cycle which is under discussion was performed. The WLTP is marked by a longer test cycle time and higher dynamics with more pronounced accelerations. A future mid-size vehicle equipped with a 2.0-l four-cylinder engine was targeted and defined as follows:
  • : inertia class of 1372 kg

  • : turbocharged DI-Engine

  • : 180 kW/350 Nm (RON 95)

  • : manual transmission, start/stop system.

For this targeted vehicle powertrain configuration, shows a possible CR map for a continuously working VCR system (left) and for the two-step VCR system using a minimum CR of 8 and a maximum CR of 12 (right). The transition from 12 to 8 was defined for minimum fuel consumption during part load and offers operation with beneficial high compression ratio over the entire NEDC. It can be seen that using current downsizing concepts with longer gear ratios the engine speed can be kept below 2000 rpm across almost the entire test cycle. The de-throttling effect due to displacement reduction is complemented with lowered parasitic friction losses by the downspeeding. The NEDC fuel consumption simulation shows an advantage for the two-stage VCR system in comparison to the base engine with a 9.6 CR of about 6 %, ).

Possible CR map with a continuous and a two-stage VCR system

CO2 potential of the two-stage VCR system in NEDC and WLTP

The adjustment of the CR range results in changes regarding the transition function in the engine map. With an increased maximum CR the knock limit is reached at lower part load. With an increase in minimum CR an efficiency benefit can be achieved in the areas not relevant to knocking. However, at full load the increased minimum CR leads to a reduced achievable BMEP level due to knock limitation.

The potential fuel consumption improvement in the WLTP requiring higher engine loads is still at 5%. For both cycles the combination of 8/13 has the greatest fuel consumption benefit. This is caused by the higher loads during the WLTP; a switch-over to the lower CR is required. Therefore the selection of the maximum CR regarding the fuel consumption result has a greater impact on the WLTP than on the NEDC.

Overall, it can be stated that for the two-step VCR system there is a low sensitivity regarding the selection of the compression ratio range as well as the influence of the driving profile.


Further investigations were conducted to assess the CO2 emissions benefit of the two-stage VCR system in combination with other future engine technologies:
  • : extreme downsizing concept with further reduced displacement of 1.5 l while full load torque is kept constant

  • : Gasoline Controlled Auto Ignition (GCAI)

  • : alternative fuels with high knock resistance.


The example of further downsizing (1.5 l) results in 120 kW/l specific power to offer identical drive power. While the fuel consumption benefit of the extreme downsizing without VCR over the NEDC still reaches about 3 to 4 %, it has to be stated that with the two-step VCR fuel efficiency can be increased between 6 and 7 % for both investigated driving profiles. In comparison to the base variant with 2.0 l displacement the further potential of a two-step VCR will be higher for the extremely downsized engine with operation at higher engine load. Minimum as well as maximum CR has to be analysed and a reduction of the upper compression ratio value by one unit from 13 to 12 represents the best trade-off while a CR of 8 is still the optimum for the lower stage.


The GCAI combustion system is based on the recirculation of large, hot residual gas fraction in the combustion chamber. During lean engine operation a de-throttling effect can be achieved while significantly minimising the NOx formation due to the relatively cold combustion. The GCAI operation is limited at low engine loads caused by misfiring due to the unstable self-ignition. At higher loads, steep cylinder pressure gradients and high NOx emissions narrow the GCAI operation area. This leads to a reduced fuel consumption advantage. The main reason for that finding is the short time during which the GCAI mode can be successfully applied, . If the GCAI combustion system is combined with a two-step VCR system, then the fuel consumption benefit over the NEDC increases from 4 to 12 %. This increase is caused by the much longer time period of the GCAI operation in combination with the higher compression ratio as well as the thermodynamic advantage of the higher CR at lower loads.

Combination of GCAI and two-stage VCR system


Achieving a drastic reduction in CO2 emissions make alternative fuels a suitable option. Besides CNG, Ethanol represents a meaningful alternative to conventional gasoline fuel combining the CO2 reduction potential gained from a partially closed carbon cycle with high knock resistance. This provides the opportunity to select a higher compression ratio and significantly enhance the efficiency over the entire engine map particularly for boosted applications [4].

However, this is only possible for mono-fuel applications. Since Ethanol is not consistently available over the entire existing infrastructure, the compression ratio for dual-fuel applications is designed for the lower gasoline octane number. As a result, the fuel consumption improvement potential is not being fully taken advantage of while using these knock resistant fuels. The utilisation of the two-stage VCR system would help to further optimise the CO2 emissions for these bi-fuel applications by simply recognising the Ethanol content and adjusting the optimum compression ratio, , accordingly. In addition, a similar ECU functionality is possible for markets offering a wider variety of octane ratings (for instance Japan and China) or regarding variation of boundary conditions (e.g. high intake air temperature).

Possible variation of the two-stage VCR system transition depending on fuel quality


In order to comply with the strict CO2 emission worldwide, manufacturers will have to introduce technologies other than downsizing concepts involving boosting and direct injection. Further increase of compression ratio to enhance the thermodynamic efficiency of the engine at part load is limited due to knock sensitivity. One possibility to resolve this conflict is the introduction of a variable compression ratio (VCR) mechanism.

The presented two-stage VCR system can be integrated into existing engine families with competitive additional costs. The transition duration is sufficiently short especially for boosted engines and almost independent from boundary conditions.

The VCR system can be used to allow for fuels with different octane ratings by shifting the compression ratio transition strategy accordingly. The presented system expands the CO2 reduction potential of other future technologies such as multi-stage boosting and controlled auto-ignition and thus offers an important contribution to reduce fuel consumption on gasoline powertrains.


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Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rolf Weinowski
    • 1
  • Karsten Wittek
    • 1
  • Carsten Dieterich
    • 1
  • Jörg Seibel
    • 1
  1. 1.FEV GmbHAachenGermany

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