Tesla Files New Patent For Gas Engine With ‘Plasma Igniter’

8 months ago by Sebastian Blanco 43

Tesla engine april fools

We’re not quite sure what to make of this, but it appears that Tesla – famous for making electric vehicles cool and sexy – has been working on some sort of gas-powered range extender. We know this from a patent filing we found as part of our regular skimming of EV patents (see the first two entries in the series here and here). As we say every time when we write about patents, just because a company files an application for a particular technology doesn’t mean that it will end up in a production vehicle, but this one is undoubtedly interesting.

The language of patent applications is never really easy to understand, and this one is no different. Here’s one of pertinent segments:

A method of igniting a fuel within a combustion chamber defined by a cylinder block of an internal combustion engine includes injecting a first portion of a fuel into the combustion chamber, and energizing a first plasma igniter. The first plasma igniter is configured for generating a first plurality of free radicals, extends through a cylinder head mated to the cylinder block, and protrudes into an intake port defined by the cylinder head that is disposable in fluid communication with the combustion chamber. After injecting the first portion, the method includes activating a second igniter configured for initiating a flame within the combustion chamber to thereby ignite the fuel. The second igniter extends through the cylinder head and protrudes into the combustion chamber.

How this is dramatically different from the internal combustion engines we already have is not entirely clear, but if the U.S. Patent Office thinks it’s worth approving, then there must be something there. This patent, number 401APF, is buried deep in a group of patent applications that are otherwise uninteresting. This group mostly covers minor battery technology improvements, things that we would expect from an EV-centric company like Tesla. What’s strange is that this patent was directly authored by CEO Elon Musk, the man who came up with the hyperloop and is boring a tunnel between his office and LAX.

Reached for comment, a Tesla spokesperson gave a brief statement to InsideEVs: “Our CEO hasn’t been himself lately, especially after spending so much time at Trump Tower. We can only assume that Musk has heard something in those meetings that he has not yet told the rest of us, and that’s why he has come up with this unusual idea, to add a gasoline range extender to our electric vehicles.” We’d be foolish to not investigate further.

Source: USPTO

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43 responses to "Tesla Files New Patent For Gas Engine With ‘Plasma Igniter’"

  1. Krugerdave says:

    Wow! Elon must really be a fool πŸ˜‰

  2. Toni says:

    Keep in mind it is April Fools’ Day πŸ™‚

    1. Dave86 says:

      Thanks, I needed that!!!

      I was really baffled why a small auto maker like Tesla would waste valuable R&D money developing an ICE.

      1. james says:

        Perhaps the patent number 401APF or 4/01 April Fools is a nice give away too.

        1. SolarStorm says:

          Sounds about right. But given the cost of filing patents, is it really worth wasting money on this?

  3. alohart says:

    Many Swedish and Norwegian newspapers have decided not to publish April Fool’s Day stories because so many people now believe fake news. Sad, but true…

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      How sad. Just because people sometimes fail an intelligence test, doesn’t mean we should stop giving intelligence tests!

      You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. — Abraham Lincoln

      1. Samwise says:

        The US election clearly shows sometimes you can fool enough of the people, enough of the time.
        Well at least to get yourself elected president.

        1. Bill Howland says:

          Although Honest Abe got daily reports through Digital Communication systems, the internet had to wait to be invented by Al Gore.

          (1/2 of that statement is true.)

    2. Dan says:

      That’s one way to spin the fact that nobody reads Swedish and Norwegian newspapers anymore. ?

  4. Toby says:

    Interesting, an ICE with a Tesla logo. He really must have spent too much time in the Tower… πŸ˜‰

  5. DangerHV says:

    I am so gullible!.. Grrr!

  6. Anti-Lord Kelvin says:

    I was even been told that this engine will be in the first Tesla Mars Rover which should land at Mars in 1 APRIL of next year!

    1. MikeM says:

      I heard they’re still working on a revised oxygen sensor for that.

  7. Terawatt says:

    May this one be for Model Trump?

    1. hector says:

      XDDDD

  8. Mister G says:

    APRIL FOOL???

  9. David Murray says:

    While probably a joke… I do wish some manufacturer would invest in an engine specifically designed as a range extender, possibly eliminating the crankshaft and using the pistons to move magnets through coils.

    1. SparkEV says:

      Better yet, how about room temperature hydrocarbon fuel stock fuel-cell? If that fuel is gasoline and efficiency about 50%, that would be far better than burning it. Sadly, I doubt many will research into such things, or make investments even if such thing shows promise.

      1. Nick says:

        That sounds like Solid oxide fuel cell research.

        I think we’ve got some of that.

  10. Walt says:

    Musk I guess works for Hyundai now?

  11. Evz3 says:

    Model Trump coming up

  12. Totally plausible, that’s the Trump Administration Compromise.

    Clean Coal
    Clean Gas
    Clean Diesel

    Looks promising!

    LMAO

  13. Bill Howland says:

    Some other car company came up with a multi-note horn that you can signal with your change in personality moods.

    How that differed from the 70 year old multi horn junk that J.C. Whitney used to always sell is not clear either.

    Maybe this 4 cyl engine will power Musk’s Hyperloop compressor? Sucks coal out of the mine as it whizzes by, probably.

    1. TomArt says:

      πŸ˜€

  14. Tesla says:

    Happy April Thirst

  15. Birch Hansen says:

    April fools!

  16. instant tq says:

    hey this one really got me off guard

  17. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Thank goodness someone finally came up with a way to burn off all those free radicals! (They were marching and waving signs and chanting and the whole bit!)

    * * * * *

    M: Too many free radicals. That’s your problem.

    JAMES BOND: “Free radicals,” sir?

    M: Yes. They’re toxins that destroy the body and the brain, caused by eating too much red meat and white bread and too many dry martinis!

    JAMES BOND: Then I shall cut out the white bread, sir.

    — “Never Say Never Again”

  18. Carcus says:

    Funny,.. I thought founding Neuralink (when you’ve already got 3 futuristic companies running in the red) sounded more “Foolish” than a range extender.

  19. Anon says:

    Elon’s feelin’ pretty good after his last SpaceX Launch / Landing.

    Happy April Fools Day, everyone. πŸ™‚

  20. przemo_li says:

    “but if the U.S. Patent Office thinks it’s worth approving, then there must be something there.”

    Nope. Not by a long shot. USPO have obligatory monthly quotas for accepted applications, and no such thing for rejecting applications.

    USPO can also reject only select claims on the patent and then accept rest, and applicant can reapply as many times as necessary in case of rejections.

    Patenting thousands old business practice (by slapping “on a computer”), is not beyound USPO.

    Law mandate that granted patents are valid… but to be sure patent would have to be litigated…

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      1. It’s the USPTO, the United States Patent and Trade Office, not the USPO.

      2. The patent office in general certainly does not have any “quota”, whether or not individual patent examiners do. In fact, not so long ago the patent office changed the rules to make it harder to get a patent, because there are now far, far too many companies using patents as a business strategy of one type or another, which has gotten rather far away from the original purpose of patents: “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

      3. The quote you cited was a joke.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Ack! An error in my correction! 😯

        Make that: USPTO = the United States Patent and Trademark Office

  21. fasterthanonecanimagine says:

    Tesla should rather develop a miniature reverse heat pump that could turn thermal energy from the surrounding air into electricity. Would make a great range extender. Could this physically work?

    1. fasterthanonecanimagine says:

      Theoretically, this is possible (Sterling motor + heat pump), but could efficiency be sufficient?

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Any heat pump, including a Stirling engine, requires heat to flow “downhill” from a hotter place to a colder place to perform useful work. So the idea of getting useful energy from the surrounding air is problematic. That would require some of the surrounding air to be significantly cooler than the rest. Trying to use ambient heat to perform useful work would be attempting to build a perpetual motion machine.

        As far as efficiency goes, Stirling engines are very efficient indeed. The problem is they produce very little power, which is why there have been almost no attempts to use one to propel an automobile, even as a concept car.

    2. Bill Howland says:

      Nope – Violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

  22. paul smith says:

    It must be running on laughing gas.

  23. wavelet says:

    Nice April Fool’s piece (-:

    1. Martin T. says:

      Yes a dead give away, say ICE have had spark plugs for a while ha ha …

  24. Null says:

    Wow!
    3-d chess move!

    He now has patent on tech for most effective/ efficient ingnition tech! Smoky Yanuck would love this, coupled w/ curent ceramic cylinder coatings would really improve power, efficiency, and emissions.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smokey_Yunick