Physical chemistry: efficiency of internal combustion engine in hot vs cold weather

The tutor examines the idea that internal combustion engines are more efficient in cold weather.

An upper limit for efficiency of an internal combustion engine is

eff = (Tcombust – Tsurrounding)/Tcombust


Tcombust is the temp of the combustion cylinder

Tcombust, Tsurrounding both in degrees Kelvin (Celsius + 273).

Let’s imagine a diesel engine, whose average internal cylinder temperature might be around 1600°C. Then at outdoor temp of 25°C (293K) we have

eff = (1873 – 298)/1873 = 84.1%

Likewise, at outdoor temp -25°C we have

eff = (1873 – 248)/1873 = 86.8%

The 2.7% increase in efficiency at -25°C vs 25°C may be noticeable to an operator.


White, J. Edmund. Physical Chemistry: College Outline Series. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

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