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Home Revolution of in-line engines: from the pioneering creation by Nikolaus August Otto to their dominance in modern vehicles

Revolution of in-line engines: from the pioneering creation by Nikolaus August Otto to their dominance in modern vehicles

22 April 2024 15 gies: 49
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Revolution of in-line engines: from the pioneering creation by Nikolaus August Otto to their dominance in modern vehicles
Discover how these engines not only increased power and efficiency, but also shaped automotive technology over the decades. Photo: Disclosure/MJ

Discover the fascinating evolution of in-line engines since their invention in the 19th century by Nikolaus August Otto. Learn how these engines have transformed the design and efficiency of modern vehicles, from motorcycles to light trucks, through innovations that continue to impact the automotive industry globally.

Since the creation of the modern internal combustion engine by Nikolaus August Otto in the 19th century, the search for improvements and innovations has not stopped. An important milestone in this journey was the development of in-line engines, which offer a series of advantages over older configurations.

The first engines created by Otto were horizontal models, but soon the industry saw the need for more compact and efficient designs. That was when Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, two former employees of Otto, designed the first vertical engine, nicknamed “grandfather's clock” for its peculiar appearance. This design was crucial to the development of the first internal combustion motorcycle in history.

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Two-cylinder in-line engine, as in the Fênix model in 1895, allowed vehicles to achieve greater power and efficiency

The introduction of the two-cylinder in-line engine, as in the Fênix model in 1895, allowed vehicles to achieve greater power and efficiency. This arrangement initially equipped cars from the French manufacturer Panhard and Levassor, demonstrating a significant evolution in relation to single-cylinder models. Over time, manufacturers expanded this configuration to three, four and even eight cylinders, seeking an ideal balance between power, efficiency and vibration reduction.

One of the biggest challenges in inline engine engineering is managing vibrations

One of the biggest challenges in inline engine engineering is managing vibrations. The primary and secondary balance need to be meticulously adjusted to avoid excessive wear and ensure engine longevity. Technologies such as counterweights are used to keep the engine balanced, even with the increase in the number of cylinders.

The different types of internal combustion engines, from 1 to 8 cylinders

1 Cylinder Engine

The single-cylinder engine is the simplest and is widely used in small motorcycles and machines such as lawn mowers. It is economical and easy to maintain, but it vibrates a lot, which can be uncomfortable and limits its use in larger vehicles.

2 Cylinder Engine

2-cylinder engines offer more power than single-cylinder engines and are a little smoother. They are popular on larger motorcycles and some compact cars. However, they still need mechanisms to control vibrations.

3 Cylinder Engine

With three cylinders, the engines are mainly used in small cars, providing a good mix of fuel economy and reasonable power. They are more efficient than 2-cylinder ones, but they also need technologies to reduce vibrations due to the odd number of cylinders.

4 Cylinder Engine

This is the most common type of engine in cars due to its balance between power, efficiency and costs. 4-cylinder engines are relatively simple to manufacture and maintain, offering good performance for most car users.

5 Cylinder Engine

5-cylinder engines are less common and are something of a compromise between 4- and 6-cylinder engines. They offer smoother operation than 4-cylinder engines, but without being as large or expensive as a 6-cylinder engine.

6 Cylinder Engine

6-cylinder engines are known for their smoothness and are often used in luxury and sports cars. They don't need much adjustment to control vibrations, making them ideal for those looking for performance and comfort.

7 Cylinder Engine

Very rare and almost never used in cars, 7-cylinder engines can be found in some special applications such as marine machines. They are complex and do not provide significant benefits over 6-cylinder engines for most automotive applications.

8 Cylinder Engine

8-cylinder engines are powerful and used in high-performance vehicles like sports cars and large trucks. They offer a lot of power and torque, but consume more fuel and are more expensive to maintain.

In-line engines are among the most popular

Today, inline engines are among the most popular for a variety of applications, from motorcycles to light trucks. They offer a configuration that allows for easy combustion balancing, resulting in smooth, efficient operation. Furthermore, with the evolution of emissions and fuel efficiency technologies, these engines continue to be a relevant choice for the modern automotive industry.

Inline engines represent an effective, long-lasting solution that continues to evolve with the automotive industry. Share your opinion in the comments: which inline engine configuration do you prefer and why?

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