Newsletter 09.11.2012

A quantum leap for the CraftEngine

Efficiency targets increased from 10% to 20%; cost per kwh further reduced
We’re ecstatic. Recent testing of CraftEngine Prototype B shows an increase in efficiency levels to about 15 percent in Sweden and around 13 percent in Denmark. This means that for every kilowatt of thermal energy that goes into the machine, 15 percent of electricity is produced. And the test results show that it is possible to improve the efficiency level even further.


“We had hoped to produce 10 percent electricity at 200 degrees Celsius (°C) but instead we produced as much as 15 percent electricity at as little as 190 degrees in Sweden and 13 percent electricity at 145 degrees in Denmark,” says Tore Hansen-Tangen, Executive Chairman at Viking Development Group (VDG) in Kristiansand, Norway. “That's more than we had ever dreamed of. In the last couple of weeks, the result has improved by two to three percent, and we believe we can increase that level even further.”


Picture from testing in Sweden, from the left: Fredrik Werner (AVL), Tor

Hodne (Viking), Erik Klingborg (AVL), Sten Hovmark (AVL), Lasse Leirfall

(Innovation Norway). In front: Bjørn Zachrisson (AVL)

The CraftEngine is a mini power plant that produces electricity and waterborne heating and cooling with the help of solar, biomass combustion, geothermal and industrial waste heat. The results from the testing at IPU at the Technical University of Denmark in Copenhagen and AVL's engine testing center outside of Stockholm, Sweden, have been characterized as sensational. The latest test results are also good news for potential buyers since the kWh-rate has been greatly reduced, thereby increasing profitability. This means that the investments can be amortized over an even shorter time than anticipated.


Two prototypes now - commercial production next year

There are currently two prototypes of the Craftengine. The goal is to produce a larger number of commercial machines (minimum 100) towards the end of next year. All machines will be tested individually when it comes to functionality and performance so the quality can be checked before leaving the production line. The machines will then be tested in the field before a larger, commercial production can be implemented.


"Now that all the major R&D challenges have been resolved, we can proceed to the design and engineering phase,” says Project Manager Andreas Muck and Technical Director Thomas Harr in their report commission by AVL in Germany. “We consider this as a standard automotive engineering process, which is an area where we have more than 50 years of experience. The process should not involve any significant technical or performance-related risks, but it is required that we achieve certain goals relating to production, maintenance, durability and longevity, and develop a full-scale commercial production line. "


Enthusiastic IPU 

One of the reasons for CraftEngine's impressive improvement is a new, patent-pending valve.

The valve was developed by CraftEngine inventor Harald Nes Rislå in close cooperation with IPU.


From the left: Nikolas A. Paldan, Kristian F. Jensen
“It's a completely new type of valve, which was very demanding and incredibly fascinating to develop, and, of course, it’s extremely satisfying to see that it’s working as intended,” says Engineer Nikolas A. Paldan who has been testing the machine for eighteen months at IPU. 


“It is pretty amazing that we have achieved such good results in such a short time,” he continues. “Thirteen percent is an impressive number and, when we mounted a little extra heat-exchanger equipment on top of the engine, we reached as high as 17 percent. There’s no doubt that it’s possible to improve the performance even further and, I do not rule out, that a fully developed Craftengine can have the potential of reaching 20 percent. And we will do that with a cheap system - and that makes the project even more exciting to work on.”


His colleague, Morten Juel Skovrup, who is a senior engineer at IPU with a specialty in thermodynamics and energy technology, adds: “I have followed the CraftEngine since its very modest beginnings nearly two years ago and know that it has an impressive performance. But the efficiency level we obtained during the recent testing of prototype B in September is very impressive.”


AVL in Germany is increasingly taking over the project, but before Paldan and Skovrup hand over the CraftEngine completely, they will run some additional tests using low temperatures.


Ecstatic Swedes and Germans

Experts in Germany and Sweden are also impressed with what the little mini power plant can do. 


Andreas Mück is a project manager at the German AVL factory that built the two prototypes and he has followed the CraftEngine's progress at a close range.


“Our initial efficiency target was 10 percent, even though some of us had hoped for up to 12 percent,” he says. “Theoretically, we believed we could reach 15 percent but it’s rare that theory and practice matches as well as it has in this case. Based on that, we now believe it’s possible to reach 20 percent in certain applications. In the last few days, we have carried out long and demanding tests, and so far everything seems to work perfectly.”


The testing in Sweden is expected to continue until the end of the year. The design of the next generation CraftEngine will focus on mass production. The findings from the thermodynamic tests will be incorporated. The machine's architecture will be simplified and the number of parts reduced.


“We have been working on simplifying the machine without compromising on performance,” says Mück. The next-generation CraftEngine will be cheaper, better and more robust than we had previously envisioned. My assessment is that the market potential is huge and that the optimism at Viking Heat Engine is well-founded.”


Big improvement potential

VDG's Managing Director Tor Hodne says that, while the CraftEngine's performance results are encouraging, they also show that there's a big potential for improvements.


“The above-expectation test results don't mean the machine has reached its full potential,” he says. “On the contrary, the tests in Copenhagen show that we can easily make improvements that will boost efficiency further. 


“We can, for example, increase the temperature, install recuperators and optimize the working fluid inside the machine. We also believe the tests show that it's possible to reduce the dead volume and thereby optimize the efficiency level even further. The results so far are more than sufficient for us to optimistically continue the commercialization process. Once our inventor Harald Nes Rislå has examined the test results and made the technical adjustments I mentioned, we believe we can increase electrical efficiency levels to 20 percent. That's far above our most optimistic estimates.”


Cheaper than expected

Calculations based on the recent test results indicate that the CraftEngine can produce electricity and heat at a significantly lower cost per kWh than previously anticipated. And this cost is already significantly lower than the price of energy from traditional energy suppliers.  The energy produced by a CraftEngine can consequently also work without any subsidies. 


Two versions produced in Germany

Viking Heat Engines Ltd has two versions of Prototype B. The machine tested in Copenhagen is a single-cylinder version. The other is a two-cylinder machine. Both prototypes have been produced by AVL Schrick GmbH in Germany, a company in the AVL Group - the world's largest privately-owned engine design company. The factory in Germany, which houses 300 engineers, develops engines for many of the large car manufacturers, and they design engines for Formula 1 cars, lawn mowers, chain saws and planes. The Schrick factory specializes in designing and constructing engines, but they are also an integral part of the worldwide AVL Group with more than 5,000 employees and annual sales of approximately € 830 million.


“Our inventor Harald Nes Rislå became an even bigger hero among us colleagues after we discovered that his mathematical models match those developed by ALV in Sweden, and, what’s more, that his theory is consistent in practice. Harald stands for conformity between theory and practice, something we all strive for at Viking Heat Engine," says Hodne.


Bernander joins the team

In October, former NHO (The Norwegian Confederation of Enterprises) CEO John G. Bernander joined the team at VDG as co-owner and CEO of Viking Heat Engines AS, 
his role being a bridge to the financial and industrial markets. 


It started with an advisory role one and a half years ago before Bernander decided to leave NHO for good and become part of Viking Heat Engines. He made that decision because he was fascinated by the company’s mix of curious people, risk-willing capital and a creative environment with technical expertise.


“The test results indicate that we will be able to commercially launch a successful product in countries that want to make themselves less dependent on fossil fuels or in areas that do not have access to electricity,” Bernander says. “The CraftEngine represents a new, environmentally-friendly technology that can become key to a new and better life for many people and that also has the potential to be good business. It's an irresistible cocktail. 


“If we can partner with a major industrial player with international distribution capabilities, we will be able to shorten the path to market significantly. We are open and looking for the best ways to reach our goal, which is to recycle capital so that most of the funds invested will be returned to VDG's think-tank where new thoughts can be engineered and exciting inventions made,” Bernander adds.



Great interest from industry professionals

The CraftEngine received a lot of attention at The World Bioenergy 2012 - the world's largest bio energy conference - in Jönköping, Sweden, in May. 


Delegations from multinational companies in Japan and the United States have visited the test facility in Sweden to find out whether the CraftEngine fits into their portfolio - and that was before the recent, remarkable test results were made public.


VDG expects the first CraftEngine to be on the market next year but in a fairly modest number. Already in 2014, the company hopes to expand into the mass market provided it can find the right partner(s). The CraftEngine will cost between EUR 5,000 and EUR 15,000, depending on size. Buyers are estimated to recoup their investment within just a few years.


Low price on green energy
The production cost for the electricity produced by the CraftEngine will vary somewhat from application to application, it will also depend on various factors such as temperature levels, the number of operating hours per year and other operation-specific parameters.

The table below gives some examples of production costs based on the current test results:

Heat source                                      Prod.cost per KWH (low)             Prod.cost per KWH (high)
Biomass                                              € 0.06                                                   € 0.08
Solar energy                                     € 0.06                                                   € 0.09

Geothermal heat                            € 0.04                                                   € 0.07
Industrial waste heat                    € 0.02                                                   € 0.03


Viking Development Group | Østre Strandgate 40, Pb. 22, NO-4661 Kristiansand, Norway | Tel: +47 38 10 41 00 Fax: +47 38 02 08 40 |