Photo: Frank Will
As a youngster with a passion for motorbikes, Frank Will’s first encounter with the world’s energy crisis came in his native Germany in the 1970’s when the government began looking at ways to cut down on oil culminating in a month-long ban on Sunday driving.For a teenage biker hoping to cruise down Germany’s legendary highways on the weekends this was obviously concerning, but Will’s response carried with it a surprising sense of personal responsibility. “I’m thirteen and we’re running out of oil,” Will told Business Insider, “I have to do something about it.”
And so he did. Flash forward a few decades and Will has created OVER7, an engine modification system that with only a couple of simple parts manages to increase a car’s fuel economy by seven per cent and reduce emissions by 30 per cent. Will has received recognition from across the world for his invention and is currently testing OVER7 with a major car manufacturer.
Business Insider had the opportunity to speak with Frank Will, a former engineer at Ford in Australia and a senior lecturer at Deakin University, about his motorbike days, what he thinks the car of the future will look like and how his little invention garners such big results.
Part of our conversation with Will is below. For those on the lookout for the technology of the future, Will is looking for investors for OVER7 as well as for another project to create an electric automobile that is half motorbike, half car. Intrigued? So are we.
Business Insider: What motivated you to look for a more efficient engine?
Frank Will: That’s a long story, it was in the years of the second oil crisis, I was just starting to ride motorbike races in Germany. At that time, Germany decided to enact a ban on driving on certain Sundays. I’m 13 and we’re running out of oil, I have to do something about it.
BI: So that background of motorbikes piqued your interest in engines?
FW: Absolutely, my dad used to ride dirt bike races, and through that I got inspired to understand internal combustion engines. When I got my first dirt bike, it was a pretty old one and I would always have to fix something. It got me fascinated in all the different aspects and the performance you can get out of an engine with just a little bit of energy.
BI: OVER7 increases fuel economy mainly by heating up the oil. What inspired you to look at oil?
FW: Already 80 per cent of energy [in a car engine] is wasted as heat and the amount of friction in an engine is quite significant. Most of the friction comes through the oil. First of all I got interested in warming up engines faster when I was working at Ford. People were trying to warm up the coolant, but they couldn’t find any improvements by more than half a per cent and I couldn’t really understand that. If you warm up the oil faster, the pressure decreases so the oil pump has to work less hard.
BI: Right now, OVER7 increases fuel economy by seven per cent and reduces emissions by 30 per cent. Do you think these numbers will improve?
FW: That’s a good question, it always depends on the engine you’re testing. There could be some engines where the improvement is higher and some where the improvement is lower, its really hard to say.
BI: Where are you at now with OVER7?
FW: I got a contract with one of the world’s largest car manufacturers, so we’re doing tests. If it all goes well, hopefully they’ll put it into production. Two other car manufacturers are also interested, but they want to see the numbers that will work with their engines. Then the next step will be to develop some off-market conversion kits, but I would need some partners because it’s a much higher investment.
BI: I saw estimates that you were looking to have the OVER7 kit sell for $200 to $300, what motivated you to make a cheap kit version of OVER7 that people can install on their cars at home?
FW: Well that’s very simple. I mean obviously it’s much easier to implement such a technology in a new car because when you design it with it already then it’s much cheaper. But I think it still makes sense to convert an existing engine, because all the people that normally can’t afford to buy a new car also can benefit from that technology. For example if you look at hybrid technology, its very expensive and the average person can’t really afford it, because it takes so long to pay back if it does at all.
BI: Have you encountered any roadblocks or problems along the way with OVER7?
FW: Well, obviously it consumes a lot of my time, so if I had more time available or more resources, then obviously the project would go ahead faster. Additionally, if you talk to some car manufacturers as well as some oil manufacturers, they don’t like OVER7 because the invention also helps keep the oil warmer so you can use it longer and you don’t need to change the oil as often. Some car manufacturers—not all but some—are quite happy if the customer comes to the dealership every half a year.
BI: What’s your time frame goal for getting OVER7 on the street?
FW: Certainly the sooner the better, the components I’m using are all already in mass production so I’m not using one completely new component. So from that point of view it’s not too hard to implement it. It’s more the normal development processes, the integration processes of the car manufacturer. If one of the manufacturers decided now to put it into production I think it could be possible to see it on the road in two years, but realistically I think more between three and five years.
BI: What’s your ultimate goal to see this engine and this technology do?
FW: So the ultimate goal is to obviously help the consumers reduce their fuel bill and to reduce the emissions of the car. Typically the governments look at all the technologies that are currently available and they decide on their targets for emissions and fuel consumption and if there is more technology available then they can implement more stringent targets and that will help everyone. If there is less pollution, better fuel economy then there is less fuss for everyone involved in driving a car and I think that’s a good thing for society, isn’t it?
BI: Where do you see the automobile in 20 years?
FW: Yea well that’s a good question. Obviously there are all sorts of different technologies and I can probably talk about that for an hour, but in terms of emissions that seems to be going downwards and that’s driven heavily by global warming.
But in general, I’m working on a project called Tomorrow’s Car, which is a crossover between a motorbike and a car and combines the best of both. It’s very efficient, easy to park, small and fun like a motorbike and on the other hand safe and comfortable like a car, because it’s about the size of a motorbike but completely enclosed. That’s what I’m seeing as a trend certainly for the second vehicle in the home. And certainly if you think about electrification it doesn’t really make sense to build a large car like a truck or an SUV or something, because then the battery is going to be really big, expensive and heavy. If you want to start with electrification than you have to start as small as possible and this is why you see electric push-bikes becoming really popular.
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