Dec. 28, 2000
A diesel engine producer in the state of Washington is developing powerplants that should prove to be an ideal fit in the trucking industry.

They turn out big power when the job is tough, such as when moving a full load to a muddy job site.

A diesel engine producer in the state of Washington is developing powerplants that should prove to be an ideal fit in the trucking industry.

They turn out big power when the job is tough, such as when moving a full load to a muddy job site. And when the going is easy, such as going back for another load in a dump or block truck, their power can be cut back to reduce consumption of costly fuel and ease wear and tear on the engine.

The initial breakthrough of the effort could come later this year when certified versions of the firm’s initial engine, the HT1-450, a two-cycle, V-4, 450-hp model, emerges from facilities of RODI Power Systems Inc. To date, Kent, Wash., has been the home of the development effort.

If all goes well, the first production models will come out of a new 500,000-sq ft factory RODI built in Abbeville, La. Future plans call for the firm to develop a full line of engines with horsepower ratings ranging from 80 to as much as 1,000.

The new diesel line is, to a large extent, the brain child of Byron Spain, who put in a successful 23-year career as a mechanical systems engineer for The Boeing Co. before moving on to diesel engines. Spain is currently chief executive officer and board chairman of the company.

Model HT1-450 engines turn out 450 hp, and the producers said the HT1-450 is expected to sell for “significantly less” than competing diesel engines.

Spain doesn’t make light of his engine competition. “They build very, very good engines,” he declared, adding that he is rejoicing in the fact that engine design efforts at his company started from “a clean sheet of paper.”

He also said the competition has been making incremental improvements on established engines for years.

Shedding pounds

Spain said RODI diesels will not only be lighter than the competition, but also will use less fuel and be capable of being serviced in a minimum of time.

An unusual feature of RODI is the two-cycle design which, among other things, allows for a lighter 185-lb crankshaft, compared with a 450-lb crankshaft in competitive four-cycle, in-line 6-cylinder engines.

Spain said RODI’s novel two-cycle design works around worries about burned out valves and costly repairs by getting air into the combustion chambers and exhausts out in virtually the opposite way those functions are handled in other two-cycle engines.

In the RODI setup, air is drawn in through the head and exhaust is expelled through ports in the block. RODI solved the problem of controlling heat in exhaust ports by lining them with tiles of the type used to protect space craft during re-entry from orbit.

Novel part designs have been installed and special materials have been used to deliver a big weight saving in the prime RODI HT1-450, the producer said. That engine has a dry weight of 1,722 lb, well below 2,600 to 2,800 lb for 4-cylinder engines of comparable power, according to Spain.

The 450’s design reduced the sheer number of parts used by 40% Extensive use of lightweight alloys are other notes in the weight-saving story.

Since the HT1-450 turns on just three bearings, internal friction is reduced a full 500(compared to engines of similar horsepower) providing the operator an additional usable 28 hp (when the engine is producing 400 hp).

Other special features of RODI powerplants include:
1. Engine cooling and lubrication are handled by synthetic oil, with the absence of a water and glycol mix cutting engine weight;
2. Under the hood, the power head can be separated from the accessory drives without breaking any vital connections. The company said this can turn a repair that often takes several days into a swap of the faulty head for a replacement that takes as little as 20 minutes; and
3. In another maintenance time saver, some engine troubles can be diagnosed from a distance while the truck is on the move. Some can be corrected from a remote location, or a cell phone call to a RODI location can start planning ahead for speedy repairs when the truck completes its run.

Another way the RODI diesel can save fuel is it can be run with one bank of two cylinders shut down when idling or when hauling little or no payload, such as a ready-mix truck does when returning to the batch plant for another load.

Parts of a plan

The developer predicted that RODI’s on-fly diagnostics plan will play a critical role in successful truck operation in the future. Under this plan, operation of wearing parts can be monitored on the move. A service technician can adjust fuel injectors and other wearing parts to offset any maladjustments that occur.

Spain said a good number of producers of truck chassis have taken a look at RODI diesels, adding that a couple of them could be offering the powerplants this year.