Fluid compressibility has a major influence on the efficiency of switch-mode hydraulic circuits due to the release of energy stored in fluid compression during each switching cycle and the increased flow rate through the high-speed valve during transition events. Multiple models existing in the literature for fluid bulk modulus, the inverse of the compressibility, are reviewed and compared with regards to their applicability to a switch-mode circuit. In this work, a computational model is constructed of the primary energy losses in a generic switch-mode hydraulic circuit with emphasis on losses created by fluid compressibility. The model is used in a computational experiment where the system pressure, switched volume, and fraction of air entrained in the hydraulic fluid are varied through multiple levels. The computational experiments resulted in switch-mode circuit volumetric efficiencies that ranged from 51% to 95%. The dominant energy loss is due to throttling through the ports of the high-speed valve during valve transition events. The throttling losses increase with the fraction of entrained air and the volume of fluid experiencing pressure fluctuations, with a smaller overall influence seen as a result of the system pressure. The results of the computational experiment indicate that to achieve high efficiency in switch-mode hydraulic circuits, it is critical to minimize both the entrained air in the hydraulic fluid and the fluid volume between the high-speed valve and the pump, motor, or actuator. These computational results are compared with experimental results in Part II of this two part paper series.

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