Achates Power Cites “Huge” Improvement in Diesel Fuel Savings, Emissions

11/1/11Follow @bvbigelow

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four-stroke diesel engines,” Johnson says.

The type of four-stroke engine in an 18-wheel tractor-trailer “Class 8″ truck—the long-haul trucks that move most of the nation’s freight—typically uses about 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year, Johnson says. Achates says its 20 percent savings in fuel consumption is the result of ongoing enhancements, hardware upgrades, and more than 2,500 hours of testing at its San Diego facility. In today’s statement from the company, Johnson says, “As commercial and passenger vehicle manufacturers continue to seek improved fuel economy, our data speaks for itself and sets Achates Power apart in the market as a key player in the future of clean, efficient and cost-effective vehicle transportation.”

In a phone interview, Johnson says, “If you think about a 20 percent improvement, you’re saving about 4,000 gallons a year, and at $4 a gallon, that’s about $16,000 in operating cost savings each year. That’s huge. It’s a huge, huge change.”

If all trucks in the United States used Achates’ engine, Johnson adds, the cumulative fuel-cost savings would amount to $24 billion a year.

That’s wistful thinking, of course. Johnson concedes that Achates’ technology remains in early-stage development. The company has made only prototypes so far, and has a long drive to get to even limited-rate production. Still, Johnson says the company’s business plan calls for licensing its technology to industrial partners with the know-how to make heavy-duty diesel engines.

Since the company was founded in 2004, Acates has raised more than $50 million from its venture investors, Johnson says. They include Sequoia Capital Partners, RockPort Capital Partners, Madrone Capital Partners, InterWest Partners, and Triangle Peak Partners.

Founder James Lemke holds 89 U.S. patents and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Earlier in his career, Lemke was the research director at Bell and Howell Research and an adjunct professor at the University of California, San Diego. One of Achates’ initial investors was the late John Walton, son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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