EcoMotors Closes $32.5 Million Series C Round—Eyes China Expansion

7/13/12Follow @XconomyDET

Allen Park, MI-based EcoMotors, maker of energy efficient engines, this week announced that it had raised $32.5 million in a Series C round of financing led by New York-based Braemar Energy Ventures. Also participating in the round were Bill Gates and Menlo Park, CA-based Khosla Ventures, who previously invested $23 million in an earlier round of financing. To date, EcoMotors has raised more than $66 million.

I caught up with Don Runkle, CEO of EcoMotors, by phone after the announcement. He says the company will use the money from the Series C primarily to continue to develop a diesel version of its opposed cylinder, opposed piston (opoc) engine, which the company says is cheaper to manufacture and will deliver up to 60 percent greater fuel efficiency than conventional engines at half the size and weight. Runkle says most of that work is being done for two of EcoMotors customers: Navistar and Chinese auto parts manufacturer Zhongding. The company also plans to use to the funds to build its IP portfolio and accelerate the creation of gasoline versions of its engine.

“We’re delighted to have Braemer on board, and to have Gates and Khosla investing again,” Runkle says. “Everyone is interested in increased fuel efficiency for a lower cost. There’s a lot of technology out there. Electrification leads to lower fuel consumption, but it’s enormously expensive, and I think they’ll continue to struggle as long as the cost is high.”

By contrast, the opoc engine uses energy-dense liquid fuel, which Runkle says delivers more fuel economy without having to pay a premium. “I believe successful technologies are the ones that save more than they cost,” he adds. “The internal combustion engine is a perfect example of that, which is why it became a dominant force for 100 years.”

Runkle says that EcoMotors has 40 full-time employees in Michigan and 40 more contract employees scattered as far away as Egypt and China. Speaking of China, Runkle says that although there are no firm plans in place at the moment, the company expects to open an office in that country soon. “We’re putting it together now,” he says.

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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