This paper traces the historical development of the BICERI variable compression ratio piston and its use in a number of engines. In early petrol experiments a variable compression piston covering the range from 6.5:1 to 16.5:1 showed significant efficiency improvements on 70 octane petrol. In the diesel engine field, Teledyne Continental increased the power of a V12 direct injection tank engine from 550 hp (30 hp per litre) to 1475hp (80 hp per litre) retaining the original crankcase and structure. At BICERI the output of a supercharged research engine was increased to 40 bar bmep with a peak cylinder pressure of only 165 bar.
Military application lapsed with the preference for gas turbine engines, but the time is now right to explore the capabilities of variable compression within the wider automotive scene. Volkswagen have been working on a variable compression engine and have shown fuel consumption improvements up to 13% together with lower emissions. Mercedes have also been working with Mahle, and in a recent SAE paper showed 9% improvement in fuel consumption together with lower emissions particularly during the start-up phase.
The paper concludes by looking at the long-term potential and verbal presentation will be made of possible future development trends.