Although hybrid and all electric vehicles have grabbed the lion’s share of headlines in recent years, a few forward-thinking, upstart companies are looking to improve on more traditional methods of automotive propulsion. EcoMotors International of Allen Park, Michigan is one such company.
The company, which was founded in 2008 and has the financial backing of Khosla Ventures and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, is developing “clean, efficient and lightweight propulsion systems” that do not rely on electrification. The company recently received additional funding for the development of its opoc (opposed piston opposed cylinder) engine which it says will be capable of being used “essentially anywhere conventional gas or diesel power is utilized.”
Among its many accolades, EcoMotors was selected by AlwaysOn as one of its GoingGreen Global 200 winners in September 2011.
According to EcoMotors, the “holy grail” of powertrain development is achieving higher levels of power density. The company says its opoc engine is 30 percent lighter, 75 percent smaller and delivers 50 percent better fuel economy than current “state-of-the-art” conventional turbo-diesel engines.
Additional benefits of the opoc technology include lower emissions, lower heat rejection and reduced friction, and lower material costs.
Although still in development, EcoMotors says its opposed piston opposed cylinder engines can theoretically use a wide variety of fuels, including gasoline, diesel, ethanol and natural gas as well as the “emissions benefit of 4-cylinder engines and the simplicity of 2-cycle engines.”
The opoc engine currently in development is composed of two opposing cylinders per module, separated by a crankshaft. The engine does not require cylinder head or valve-train components.
In the latest round of Series C funding, the company received $32.5 million from Braemar Energy Ventures. Braemar Managing Director William D. Lese will also serve on EcoMotors’ board of directors. Lese said, “EcoMotors’ remarkable opoc engine is exactly the type of cost-competitive, sustainable and environmentally responsible technology needed to propel growth in industrialized and developing nations as we move through the second decade of the 21st century.”
Khosla Ventures and Bill Gates have also increased their investments in the EcoMotors as part of the Series C funding.
The new funding will allow the company to expand its R&D capacity as it moves into the next stage of its development agreements with China’s Zhongding Holding Group and Navistar (formerly International Harvester Company).