Landmaschinen auf Feld


Driven by the spirit of research

The engineer Ludwig Elsbett started a minor revolution in the automobile industry in the 1970s: he launched the first direct-injection diesel engine for passenger cars – the Elsbett engine.

What do you do when you grow up on a farm? You become interested in agricultural machinery. At least that was the case for Ludwig Elsbett, who grew up with his parents and eight siblings on a farm in Lower Franconia. He initially trained to be a farm machinery mechanic. Later, he attended the engineering schools in Bad Frankenhausen and Neustrelitz and studied mechanical and aircraft engineering. He was fascinated by the principle of combustion engines and so in 1937, at the age of 23, he became a department head at aircraft company Junkers-Flugzeugwerke in Dessau. After the Second World War, Elsbett went into business for himself: in Salzgitter, he began producing a two-stroke diesel engine from war scrap.

Sensation for the automobile industry: the Elsbett engine

“Water jacket and cooling fins are not essential”: under this title, the engineer published an article in the journal “Motorentechnische Zeitung” in 1956 – providing a taste of his developments to come: portable, single-cylinder engines with 8kW power that did not require a water jacket or cooling fins. In 1964, he started his own company in Hilpoltstein in Central Franconia. Here, he continued to tinker with engine technology. He soon made a very important step forward: a diesel engine using direct injection, which he unveiled in 1973. The really clever thing about the Elsbett engine named after him: the fuel is injected into the chamber in such a way that it does not come into contact with the chamber walls. This reduces heat loss and prevents the engine from coking. The principle can be applied regardless of the design and working method of the engine. What’s more, vegetable oil can also be used as fuel.

Elsbett’s invention caused quite a stir – many car companies and scientists were amazed that the principle worked. In 1984, Ludwig Elsbett won the Rudolf-Diesel- Medaille award in gold and five years later the Phillip Morris Research Award together with his sons.

(Header: powerstock – AdobeStock, detail: Fabiofra – Wikimedia, in the public domain)

Elsbett engine

Place of invention

Industriestraße, 91161 Hipoldtstein