And the proposed "200 mpg engine"....

First posted on web, 1998


(Penned and posted, 1998)

In 1979, a group of Alaska businessmen, including an engine specialist and a former
aerospace engineer, joined together to develop a "revolutionary" gasoline engine. The
engine, based on experiments in Britain in the early 1950's, could have produced mileages
and power increases that would revolutionize the transportation industry, given the
exponential increase in the availability of materials and computer science.

In fact, given existing experimental results these changes in engines would have allowed
the United States to survive on its own oil and fossil fuel reserves for many years to come.

The men were:

  • Robert Toskey - engine specialist. Deceased 29 Sept. 1997
  • Mike Pickett - research engineer
  • Doug Hanson - CPA
  • "Robby" Robinson - Anchorage businessman Deceased July 21, 2009
  • Chuck Gratrix - Grant Writer

The company they formed:

"INNOVARE CORPORATON." Name protection was obtained, and shares assigned internally.

The Engine:

One has to be conversant with the Otto Cycle and its use by Rudolph Diesel to understand the concept INNOVARE was about to propose, via the knowledge of Bob Toskey and British experimental results.

Rudolph Diesel was able to burn fuel in a reciprocating engine using detonation from compression in a way that produced very efficient energy. Energy produced from combustion of petroleum fuels was found to increase as compression increased. More than that, efficiency of energy release increased considerably as compression of the air/fuel mixture increased.

There was a limitation, though, to the type of fuel, because gasoline, due in part to it's "volatility," detonated under pressure at lower compression than diesel fuel. In mechanical and physical science, the pre-detonation is referred to, as "knock." It is this very "knock" that gives the "diesel" engine it's characteristic "knocking" sound. Actually the diesel engine and gasoline engine are both applications of the "Otto Cycle," and use the same structural components. Knock is so significant that it is experimentally determined for engine designs of all types.

Detonation of gasoline or methanol occurs at such low compression that the "knock" actually drives the piston assembly backwards. It occurs so far ahead of "top-dead-center" that there is no easy way, other than lowering the compression, to keep the "knock" from destroying the piston/rod/crank assembly, or the cylinder that encloses the explosion.

In the early 1950s, the British experimented with the concept of dieseling gasoline. The problem is very simple. If one could detonate gasoline, "dieseling it" (really a nickname for the process), say at compression ratios of 22:1 (22 times atmospheric pressure), the increase in efficiency would be dramatic. As it is, the burning efficiency of gasoline is very poor. I'll produce some comparisons later as examples.

So, the British used a military tank engine...I don't remember which, but my mind seems to think it may have actually been a Cadillac product they used at the time. BUT - I MAY BE INCORRECT. Nevertheless, they used an engine they commonly used in one of their tank models.

They then designed a piston that could temporarily absorb the energy of the detonation. Now, realize this: The detonation occurs before top-dead-center in diesel, gasoline, and all the other combustible aromatics. Fortunately, diesel detonates very CLOSE to "TDC," allowing the energy of the explosion to be transferred to the crankshaft of the engine.

Gasoline, due to its volatility, detonates far too soon, so the compression has to be kept very LOW, usually not exceeding 10-12:1 in the standard gasoline engine. That pressure is far too low for detonation, so it must be artificially ignited, at a time where the piston is at the proper position (very close to TDC). That allows the energy to be safely transferred to the crank shaft. As I said before, when attempts were made to diesel gasoline, it would detonate so far before TDC that it broke the crankshaft, the block, the head, or the piston assembly.

Artificially igniting the gasoline at low pressures only partially burns the gasoline. The artificial ignition is such a problem that esoteric spark plugs were sold having multiple or broad spark capability. Engines were experimented with having two plugs. No matter what was used, the ignition was EXTREMELY inefficient.

The Caterpillar 3406 was rated for 355-475 HP in 1994. The engine weights 2,900 pounds, giving it (using 400 HP) about .14 HP per pound of engine. I'm using this figure because it is the easiest to use, comparing the results of the British experiment.

The British engine, according to my memory, actually got slightly over 1 HP per pound of engine weight, detonating gasoline at over 20:1 compression. Until the era of drag racing and light engines, such production was unheard of, and the dragsters were phenomenally inefficient, because they still artificially ignited their fuels.

Originally, being an aerospace engineer, I did quite a few figures using the notion of "specific impulse." The computations were enlightening, because the final results of engine production, usually measured in pound-feet of torque, are quite similar to Specific Impulse, which determines in "seconds," how much fuel pushes how much mass in a specific time.

In this instance, I will just share with the reader the basic notion. Suppose the British engine weighed 2000 pounds, being a tank engine. If, "dieseling" gasoline, it obtained 2000 HP, that would be a 5 fold increase in efficiency, assuming the same amount of fuel was used in both instances.

Ergo, if one could take the ordinary engine, and detonate gasoline as a fuel, even though the gasoline has less BTU's per gallon (gasoline at 115,000 BTUs as compared to Diesel at about 130,00 BTU/gal), one would either increase the horsepower by 5 fold, or INCREASE THE MILEAGE 5 fold, regardless of heat-friction-sound losses that accompany the physical power plant.

How did the British do it????

With a "cushion piston." They created a piston with a sleeve over it, resting on springs. Simple as that. Imagine the pogo stick. A spring under the thruster to transfer the weight of the child to the ground. If there were no spring, the child would be impacting the unforgiving ground. When gasoline detonates, the piston and rod assembly impact the unforgiving crankshaft, causing it to fail.

There was a simple problem with their piston. If I remember correctly, it weighed something over 4 pounds. When it comes to reciprocating pistons, that is a real problem, because as the piston picks up velocity, the momentum of the sleeve and springs is increased, until the rod can no longer absorb the energy when the piston comes to a stop and reverses direction. As the assembly suddenly reverses direction, the piston assembly just keeps going through the head. The British had to keep the RPMS very low, on the order of 400 RPM, to keep the assemblies from disintegrating.

But, their experiment was successful for rather slow RPMs in their engine.

Innovare's Notion:

As an aerospace engineer, and still having contacts with materials sources, I determined that there were cushioning materials that would absorb the spike of energy just long enough for the piston to reach a point before Top-Dead-Center that could be useful in transferring the energy to the main body of the piston and rod.

Bob Toskey had already designed an oiling system that would keep the bottom portion of the piston cooler by spraying cooled oil up into the cavity of the piston as it did its work.

Initially we were going to design the pistons, and apply them in a Napier Deltic Marine Engine. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Napier Deltic, its pistons OPPOSE each other, getting their compression from each other. The engine has 3 crank shafts, arranged at the vertices of a triangle. The engine is a 2 cycle engine, eliminating the need for valves. The Napier Deltic is NOT an engine given to constant "revving," the curse of the original British "sprung" piston assembly. When it accelerated dramatically, it generally flew apart.

Our first application was going to be in the Marine Industry, so we sought grants for space in the new Homer Alaska harbor, where we could change Napiers, and, later Detroit's and Cats over to what INNOVARE still called, "the cushioned piston."

True, the carrying of gasoline on ships was not as exciting as bunker fuel, but, with an increase of 5 fold in fuel efficiency, one would only need 20% of the tankage to accomplish the same tasks for which they now used full bunkers. Fuel venting can be controlled to keep vapors from becoming dangerous. If it can be done on floating gas-stations in harbors, it can be done on ships.

Our engine was also going to be valveless for the larger engines. Later we proposed to go to valved engines, but use injectors. More later.

Innovare's application for grant:

We wanted to apply for federal grants that were available to inventors. There was a grant process available that guaranteed patent protection for one year while the grant was examined.

We had to write the grant for the initial cushion piston design. We included in that grant my specifications for the use of solenoid controlled fuel injectors. We provided data for solenoids, and for the materials of the cushion.

For those who aren't familiar with fuel injectors, they are much like a mechanical syringe. They are small, and so efficient that more than one mechanic has squeezed one between their fingers and injected themselves with fuel. By the time we wrote our grant, the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) for the better mechanical solenoids was sufficiently high to guarantee thousands of hours of failure free operation. They could easily be changed out during regular engine inspections, much like the common spark plug. Our letter, regarding the design of the solenoid is at the end of this article.

{ 2001: Author's note: It has been reported that solenoid controlled injectors are being considered for the engine market as this story is being made public. Frankly I feel that this notion of solenoid controlled valves was taken from our submittal 20 years ago.}

  • 5/21/06

    The following announcement was recently posted on the internet by Valeo Management Services" (a French Company):

    Smart Valve Actuation technology:
    the camless engine becomes a reality

    Click on this article picture if you want to go to the Valeo web site and read the rest of their announcement
    Ours, a Solenoid
    Injector, Valeo uses
    The "Themis" Valve

    That is so much like our design it is rather spooky. Naturally genius and impeccably derived innovation is going to appear the same. The only difference is that our device, which I'd drawn up, had for an core, an injector needle.

    Meanwhile, though, I decided to write Valeo Corporation the following message:
    Message to Valeo Management Services, 5/21/06

    Your solenoid operated valve is not new. Our group, myself specifically, designed a solenoid operated injector for use in an engine that diesels gasoline. The application for patent was taken from us by our government back in 1979. I had shown at that time that the very small mass of an injector needle could be readily controlled with solenoids, on the shelf, whose cyclic MTBF was already in the multiple millions of cycles.

    I am, though, glad someone is finally using the technology.
    (this site was stored on Geocities at that time)

    Since your company is on a "roll," so-to-speak, you might want to consider switching from valves to injectors. The mass of your valves is still a significant deterrant to the life of the unit.

    Mike Pickett

    We shall see if there is any response. I requested they acknowledge me or our group on their web site. We shall see (wishful thinking). There was no response

    This news was sent world-wide by my former student Bob Hettinga. Bob forwarded MY note to one of our group, Doug Hanson, to his whole "Philodox" mailing list, bringing it to the attention of a huge body of intellectuals across the internet. (Then Bob forwarded my web site to his same correspondents):
    Thu, 23 Feb 2006 17:16:55 -0500
    To: "Philodox Clips List"
    From: "R. A. Hettinga"
    Subject: Re: [Clips] The Camless Engine Becomes A Reality

    --- begin forwarded text

    Date: Thu, 23 Feb 2006 14:06:36 -0800 (PST)
    From: "G. Gruff"
    Subject: Re: [Clips] The Camless Engine Becomes A Reality
    Cc: Mike , The Great Number Cruncher

    Hey Doug...remember?:

    Bob Toskey and I invented that concept years ago ('79) for our variable ignition dieseling of they finally decided to use it...another of our inventions/drawings that we submitted to the NBS for patent protection that year, gone to the public...the only difference is that we proposed the solenoid control of injectors, while these people think it is better to use valves....they should consider the energy needed to move a valve, as opposed to opening an injector pin....they probably are holding off on that one for a little while yet...

    ffurgy_gruffy, reporting from the Mad Hatter's Symposium on Stolen Designs

    (Thanking Bob, who then forwarded our whole web page to a huge philodox mailing list):
    R. A. Hettinga
    The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation
    44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
    "... however it may deserve respect for its useful ness and antiquity, [predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
    Clips mailing list

  • 1998, continued

    We also included, in the proposal, the prospect of using magnets on the flywheel of the machine to provide timing indication and power to operate the solenoid. Capacitive storage was adequate to store and delay pulse power.

    Our proposal included the possibility of stacking Deltic engines to get pre-calculated power packages.

    The grant proposal discussed planned use of computers to actuate the solenoids, because, at this point, we were proposing to change the cyclic rate of the engine from 2 cycle, to 4 cycle, to 6 cycle, and eight cycle, depending upon the power requirements at the time. When the solenoid didn't function, the 2 cycle engine has no compression.

    {Author's note: It has been reported that cyclic rate change is being considered in production engines as this article is written. I feel this, too, was the seed we planted with our Grant}

    What happened to the grant???

    We submitted the grant to the National Bureau of Standards for grant approval. They guaranteed a year of protection while the grant was studied for its value.

    We received a letter in a few months saying we had passed the first stage of examination. At that point we were working on more application concepts for the cushion piston in the automotive realm. Then, a second letter, arrived a few months later saying that our grant concept was viable, had merit, and the whole package had been sent to the University of Chicago for study for final approval. (This is from memory).

    While we waited for grant approval:

    Meanwhile, as I said, we were expanding our studies and plans, because they had indicated that the concept had "merit."

    We had designed a simple package to remove from the average gasoline engine 4 of its 8 pistons, and insert a cushion piston and head assembly. The engine would be specially sleeved to protect the block walls from the detonation.

    Our considerations included removing the cam and distributor timing system from a standard V-8. We would install a computer, load detection sensors, flywheel magnets and what we called in our grant application our VCPU or VCP (Variable Cycle Phasing Unit). The engine would, on 4 cylinders produce MUCH more energy than it did in 8, at enormous efficiency. We ignored friction, and called it our "200 MPG engine."

    Bob Toskey was an expert on aircraft engines, as well. He was still able to recite part numbers for various Pratt and Whitney power plants used in WWII aircraft for which he was line chief in the Air Corps. At that point, we set out with plans for another grant to study the feasibility of installing our cushion piston, VCPU, injectors, etc., into a Pratt-Whitney engine. Once it worked, we calculated that we could take a Convair 4 engine passenger plane, and fly it around the world on one fuel load. In fact, that was a definite plan. The merit lay in the fact that, once again, these massive engines are counted on for their steady production of power, not their acceleration properties. This would protect our cushion piston from the possibility of failure until we found the proper materials for pistons and cushions that would endure acceleration, as well as the other physical stresses.

    By the time the second letter arrived, I had given thought to the notion of burning coal in our cushion piston engine. Our study group ran with the idea. Coal is every bit as messy as diesel, but far more abundant. We envisioned a car pulling into a service station and having a 100 pound block of prepared coal put in a "tank" that consisted of a grinding assembly. Electric scrubbers MIGHT be developed to clean the soot from the exhaust, but, for some power applications, the use of coal in a diesel engine was truly fascinating.

    The calculations were pretty impressive. Coal has 13,000 BTU's per pound. A gallon of gasoline has about 21,900 BTU's per pound (ambient). So, the use of coal in small engines, using the cushion piston (coal also detonates, but we had no figures on it because detonation is directly variable with volatility, and we didn't know just how volatile we could make coal). Our goal here, naturally, was to obtain a grant for study based on the success of our initial grant for the Cushion Piston/VCPU/solenoid injector system.

    As an aside, here in the year 2000, there is a group running around in a Volkswagen, using used vegetable oil, obtained FREE from fast food and other restaurant facilities. Considering that possibility, and the POSSIBILITY OF "DIESELING" METHANOL, the cushion piston and attendant hardware would certainly change the economic picture with the mid-east "interests."

    The Grant proposal "died:" (ran out of time)

    We received, toward the end of the year of "protection," a letter from the Agency studying our grant. They said, in essence, that our grant had merit, but they decided we were incompetent to perform the work, so the grant was closed out....and...our paper work given to

    "Detroit Diesel"

    No, I am not joking. I don't have that letter. Toskey has left us, and the materials are, as far as I know, gone.

    So, INNOVARE closed down. We went our ways. Toskey was so angry he never talked about it again, but in his later years, he devoted almost full time to the design of a more efficient delta style engine. Other business groups specializing in innovation were encouraging him, and he was attending meetings of a group that hoped to invest in his work.

    Now, let me reproduce for you some of the plans I still have in my possession:

    This first document was sent to various agencies. In fact, I still have the responses to studies of the numbers of boats in the Alaska fishing industry to which our engine might apply, provided by Dawn Fraly of Chilcoot Drilling Services (She was doing the study for Robby Robinson).

    An Overview 1979
    Maritime Metals-------Nova Communications
    R.L. Toskey...... M.F. Pickett

    INNOVARE Corporation is an organization specializing in Research and Development in energy saving concepts for use in transportation and energy supply. INNOVARE has four major grants pending and has received patentability go-ahead on one major concept [The Cushion Piston/VCPU/solenoid injector concept in the Deltic Engine].

    INNOVARE also uses its management services in consultation with other marketing areas. The main motivation is to generate diversified income sources in areas related to energy research so monies can be used to develop working systems for license resale wile further support grants are pending.

    INNOVARE specializes in electronics, space technology applications and the improvement of fuel management systems. A great deal of work is spent in the marine stationary power systems area, so INNOVARE has felt the need to establish itself in a marine environment.

    The INNOVARE management consists of Robert Toskey, Engine Systems Specialist, Michael Pickett, chief scientist, Doug Hanson, financial systems management.

    INNOVARE will develop 'inventions" for people on a royalty basis up to 20 where the marketing analysis for the invention shows its viability and future usefulness. Contacts are maintained with financial markets all over the Northern Hemisphere to locate license sale markets and investors.

    Page 2

    INNOVARE Grant and Research Programs:

    1. VCP (Variable Cycle Phasing Unit) -- a method of varying the cycle of an engine depending on the load.
    2. Cushion Piston - A piston that will increase combustion efficiency.
    3. Three-valve Engine - An improved fuel management system.
    4. Non-expanding Piston -Piston which does NOT vary in size when heat is applied.
    5. Computed Combustion Control - Concept description included as example.
    6. Hybrid Building Heat System - A system which uses ambient temperature to add heat and cold to the building.
    7. Floating Power Source - Small high efficiency power source.
    8. Slant 4 Modification - The elimination of cylinders on V-8, maintaining present power and increasing economy simultaneously.
    9. Soot Control - removal and storage of diesel and other combustion by-products.
    10. Cube-Engine - Hybrid engine configuration to maximize bore and stroke and minimize engine size.
    11. Coal Fuel Engine - Engines to run on coal.

    Here are some few of Toskey's notes, shared with the staff, still in my possession:

    "Concept of Computed Combustion Control for Internal Combustion Engine"

    Computed operation of engine valves and injectors is not a brand new innovation. Patents are pending in England, the USA, and Alaska.

    To save fuel, the optimum valve timing, and dwell (duration) is most important. The same is true of ignition or injection timing for engine load changes.

    Parameters at the flywheel, exhaust pressure, governor movements and throttle settings or changes will give complete control of required engine load. These parameters will also cause the correct metering of the fuel charge and timing.

    Some interesting notes: The compression is variable as computer varies intake valve closing. Compression can change from zero to maximum intended ratio, allowing NO compression for the first turn of the crank shaft while starting, then sensor to a more suitable compression.

    Another option is a programmed chip to convert engine to automatically switch cycle to a fuel saving 2, 3, 4, 6, or 8 cycle operation. The operation can also cause variable cubic inch displacement, i.e., some cylinders not firing but all cylinders firing in a complete cycle of four revolutions of the crankshaft.

    Also, the computer can instantly convert the engine to a full air compressor, saving brake life.

    The cam shaft becomes a useless article and is not used.

    Recall the fact that the Ford Model "T" had manual ignition control (very effective), and when the engine was hot, but stopped, there were times when one could actually step violently on the running board with the ignition advanced, and the last charge in the cylinder would start the engine. Based on that, there is NO reason why a VCPU controlled engine, with injectors, could not start from a standstill, and RUN BACKWARDS. There is the viable possibility that we could eliminate the need for forward and reverse gears in a drive train, particularly with the advances in centrifugal clutches.

    October 27, 2007
    One of our innovations, based on this concept, was to have an engine stop running at a stop sign, then, depending upon the driver, start running in reverse should the shift indicator be put in reverse, or run forward if left in "forward." We had every intention of removing the transmission from the car with the exception of engine RPM gearing to axle rotation speed.

    We find this announcement in: Mazda pioneer in starter technology
    The technology is called SISS, for Smart Idle Stop System the ISS referring to a vehicle's ability to automatically shut off its engine when it stops moving, and instantly restart it when the brake is released or the accelerator pressed.
    I know, this matter had been discussed by Valeo as well. This whole concept was also contained in our proposal (sent Detroit Diesel, "who was far better equipped to handle our meritorious concepts." It is interesting that Mazda even uses some of our words about "kickback" and running engines backwards. Imagine that. Would guess Detroit Diesel wasn't able to keep a secret, where they?

    I have a notarized copy of the figures for the grant applications. Here is a summary of those I have:

    1) Variable Cycle Phasing Unit Project I: ......$264,560.00

    6 months

    2) Cushion Piston Project II:.........................$289,060.00

    6 months
    3) Variable Cycle Phasing Unit.....................$433,965.00
    and Cushion Piston Project
    9 months
    These included shop space, tool and die work, insurance, and myriad other figures, including management and labor costs.

    Regarding the need for functioning solenoids, we sent the following query:
    Nova Associates
    2919 Wiley Post Ave.
    Anchorage, Alaska, 99501
    17 April, 1979

    Marketing Department.
    Ledex, Inc.
    123 Webster ST.
    Dayton, Ohio, 45401


    I am working on an electro-mechanical control system for my client which involves the use of solenoids. I am looking for an off the shelf item which can exert at least 50 pounds of pressure as often as 5 times per second.

    The solenoid will be using a core of one half inch diameter and will have to move as far as 0.4 inches. We really need a solenoid of fairly standard design, heat resistant, vibration resistant, and resistant to the corrosive environment presented by machine tools.

    My rough calculations show we can probably use a solenoid of about 2000 turns of wire and a length of about 2 inches. We will be operating the device with DC signals of 28 volts, so we are looking at a current of about 0.1 amps.

    If such a unit is not possible, i would appreciate a short explanation of the limiting conditions. If it is not a shelf item, I need to know what it would cost to build such items for our R & D effort.

    We are developing a grant proposal and have indications we will be working with several hundred thousands of dollars to develop the devices we are proposing. The actual production of the item will be opening the door to the use of some 60 million solenoids in just the first market we intend to enter.

    I am writing you because I was, at one time, a program engineer for the North American Aviation Hound Dog missile system and I remember well the Ledex rotary solenoids which were used for many of the missile functions, and their reliability.

    I would really appreciate any information you might have concerning MTBF for any units you might have to propose, since our device will also have to be very reliable on long term operation, say for a year at a time.

    Thank you for your time.

    Mike Pickett

    What is the reason for this article?
    • It is time for the cushion piston to go into production. It is time for this nation to quit paying $2+ a gallon for gasoline, and switch back to its own reserves of fuel.
    • Will it happen? Let's consider the coal reserves that were recently removed from the market to protect Asian coal supplies.
    • Let's consider Marlin Brando's comment in the film "The Formula:"
      "We ARE the Arabs."

      Frankly, I think NOT.

    • Someone will take issue with my/our work. That is OK. The cushion piston is a fact. Making a LIGHT one (as opposed to the steel pistons of the early 50's), is already a matter of custom. Making a sleeve to sit over a piston assembly, and putting a cushion in it that can resist the temperatures we are talking about "HAS MERIT."
    • If an engine is ever produced using these techniques, I think it should be called the "Toskey Engine."
    • As some of these concepts we originally put in our proposals show up on the market, always wonder, were these from INNOVARE? And "why aren't they putting them with the Cushion and VCPU?"

    MIKE PICKETT, FOR BOB TOSKEY (1924 - 1997) and ROBBY ROBINSON (1926-2009)