While Tesla wins Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year with their battery-powered Model S, there’s (still) work being done to improve the combustion chamber by a six-year-old startup called Transonic Combustion:

Transonic Combustion is creating an efficient fuel injection system for an internal combustion engine that minimizes heat waste. The system involves heating fuel to a “supercritical” state before injecting it into the combustion chamber, allowing it to combust without the need for a spark. The company uses software to precisely adjust the injection based on the engine load.

The system can run an engine that uses both gas and diesel as well as biofuels, and it is supposed to create an engine that is 50 percent more efficient than standard engines. About two years ago Transonic Combustion showed off a demo vehicle with its engine tech that got 64 miles per gallon in highway driving.

Breakthrough innovations are amazing. They captivate us. They push technology forward. But I also find love when people push existing technologies to their limits, to find out what’s possible with what we’re already using.

There’s no way around that fact that we’re going to run out of oil on Earth, but while we are still using it, why not continue to strive to perfect our use of it, while we search for replacements?