V4 Fireblade?

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Honda is continually registering new patents for the V4, such as cylinder deactivation and a reverse rotating crankshaft – similar to Ducati’s.

Honda’s V4 with load-sensing cylinder deactivation may not be a new invention, having been patented as early as 2013 in Japan and the USA. Only recently in 2021, did it receive patent protection in Germany and the EU. While some might view this technology as old hat, it is still justifiably interesting. In fact, Ducati has a similar system running in its own V4, which works on two cylinders depending on the load – a feature mirrored by Honda with the added bonus of their crankshaft rotating backwards.

Honda V4 patent 3

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Ducati-style crankshaft

Honda’s March 2023 patent uncovered further details of the new V4, including its crankshaft direction of rotation that is opposite the direction of travel, as in the Duc-V4. This should decrease some of the gyroscopic forces on the front wheel and provide better handling. The crankshaft inertia may also add more load to the rear wheel, dampening any wheelie tendency. Two pistons are connected to a crank pin and lined up perpendicular to the other two pistons, which have a crank pin offset by 180 degrees – a standard configuration for Honda V4 engines.

Honda V4 patent 1

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Variable funnel intake

In June 2022, Honda submitted an invention to the German Patent Office as part of the V4 project. It was a variable intake system which is operated by an electric motor and works in tandem with the throttle-by-wire system. This differs from previous designs seen on MV Agusta’s F4 Tamburini, which were vacuum controlled. On the other hand, it can be compared to modern systems such as those employed in Yamaha’s R1 and R6, which are electromechanically regulated like Honda’s patented system. One particularly interesting element in the context of this project is the “motorcycle” included in the drawings, featuring noticeably higher ends similar to Honda’s RC213 MotoGP bike but with a headlight present. Kawasaki has a similar system installed in its ZX-10 RR model but doesn’t activate it when used on the road.

Honda V4 Patent

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Cylinder deactivation

Cylinder deactivation is a well-known trick used by cars to save fuel during low-load and stop-and-go operations. It is also used by some motorcycle manufacturers, such as Harley-Davidson, Indian, and Ducati, to regulate the temperature of the rear cylinder or the rear bank of cylinders on the Multistrada V4. This makes the Harley look like a single-cylinder engine when standing at a traffic light. The issue with this system is that oxygen is pumped into the exhaust tract, which can have an effect on exhaust gas cleaning in the long run. Therefore, Honda has developed a new V4 patent where the engine runs as a twin at lower loads and switches back to four cylinders only when needed. Ducati has already put this into practice in their Multistrada V4 Rally, where two cylinders fire up until certain speeds or loads are reached – helping to reduce consumption.

V4 with variable cylinder numbers

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Viewing from the side, it’s clear that this engine is a V4 with a 90-degree cylinder angle. Its relatively tall intake system is quite interesting because its front cylinders are further apart than the rear ones. Also, Honda has incorporated a flap and valve control to its engine ventilation, connecting both cylinder banks. This allows the Japanese manufacturer to deactivate some of the cylinders while in high load conditions above idle and higher engine speeds with minimal effect on exhaust gas cleaning (by not allowing unburned air into the pumping cylinders) or producing any harmful exhaust emissions such as nitrogen monoxide. Consequently, Honda redirects its so-called ‘blow-by’ gases from rotating cylinders to those which are igniting.

Final thoughts

What do we make of it? The patent has been worldwide since 2013, and then in 2021, a German version suddenly materialized. There has been silence since then, until recently when it was announced that the project is set to continue into 2022. Honda considers this V4 as an excellent opportunity for fuel savings and clean exhaust gas emissions; however, the cost of such an engine is incredibly high. It is interesting but also seems unrealistic. MoreBikes will keep you posted…

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