Khosla, Gates Are Betting On EcoMotors’ Engine Technology to Transform Autos Into Cleaner, Cheaper, and More Powerful Machines
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the car rolls at speeds of 1 or 2 miles per hour. All this would happen under the hood automatically, without any additional steps needed by the driver. “It will be seamless; that’s the breakthrough,” Runkle says.
The company says its technology can help make automobiles meet the new corporate average fuel economy (CAFÉ) standards put out by the government, by increasing automobile efficiency by 15 to 50 percent. The 15 percent increase comes in with a single opoc engine in a car, but stacking with another engine module, as described above, could add another 30 percent, Runkle says. “When you need half the power, we turn one engine off,” he says. “It’s true modular displacement, which is what the EPA always wanted.”
The engine can be configured to run on gasoline, diesel, or even hydrogen. On a grander scale, Runkle says the EcoMotors technology is ultimately cleaner than plug-in electric automobiles, because it produces more efficient power without having to tap grid electricity—much of which comes from burning coal. In fact, EcoMotors’ big focus overall is a smooth transition for the adoption of its technology, by using the same parts that go into today’s engine, and fewer of them at that, Runkle says. That makes the opoc engine cheaper than conventional engines, let alone today’s other cleantech auto parts. And the engines could hit the road immediately, with no need to build the network of battery charging stations electric plug-in vehicles would require.
The big focus now is to continue testing the engine to prove that it performs that way the company says it will in terms of horsepower, efficiency, and emissions—at any point of operation, Runkle says.
EcoMotors ultimately plans to license its engine architecture to automobile makers so they can develop the engine to work within their own products. At present, most automakers work off of the same, basic 4-stroke engine architecture. “What we’re saying is you should switch architectures,” Runkle says.
And while automobiles are the application that people typically think of when they hear engines, EcoMotors isn’t limiting itself to the auto space, Runkle says. So you might see EcoMotors engines turn up in generators, boats, airplanes, and tractors. “We’re looking to be an engine company, not an automotive engine company, just an engine company,” he says. “If it has an engine we should have you as a customer. Detroit is a great place to build an engine company.”