I don't think any of us saw this one coming. Microsoft founder Bill Gates appears among a list of ten inventors filing a patent for what is being referred to as an Electromagnetic Engine and a Plasma Injector.
In a traditional electromagnet setup, the movement of the magnet is driven externally. In the system described in ol' Bill's patent application, everything is handled 'in house', so to speak.
The basic premise of the patent application to use the mechanical motion of a piston to drive the magnet's movement through the coil, which in turn generates electricity. There are two proposed ways to achieve this, so be sure to hit the patent link below for more info.
The team has also filed a patent for a 'Plasma Injector', which would replace the spark plug as a means of kick starting the traditional combustion engine into life.
The precision afforded by such a device would improve combustion efficiency immensely, but does pose some interesting questions as to what happens in the event of failure.
At present there are no plans to build either device, but it's likely that prototypes exist and the existence of the patent means there's cause to protect the idea.
For further information on the patent, click here (and put aside a decent chunk of time).