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Discussion Starter #1
by John McElroy - Autoblog

When oil prices shot over $100 a barrel a year ago, I was inundated with press releases from inventors claiming they had an engine that would solve the energy crisis. In most cases, I simply deleted each release and went on with my work. You see, I've seen this all before.

The same thing happened after the oil shocks of the 1970s. All kinds of inventors came up with all kinds of engine designs, promising to solve the country's energy problem. But not one of those engines ever made it into production.

In most cases these new designs only existed on paper. In other cases, the efforts were led by people who had no clue what it takes to break into the automotive industry. Think about it. In the last 100 years only three engines have made it into mass production: the gasoline engine, the diesel engine, and the rotary. And only Mazda has stuck with the rotary.

But recently I got to see a new type of engine that makes me think it might have a chance. Part of that has to do with the design of the engine. The other part has to do with who is behind the project.

Eco Motors is the name of a new company that has come up with a radically new type of engine. It has two opposing pistons in two contiguous cylinders, connected to a common crankshaft in the middle of the engine. An electric supercharger provides boost on demand. It's a two-stroke engine with no valves, yet still achieves 90% scavenging efficiency with less oil consumption than a four-stroke engine. In other words, it's a two-stroke engine that can meet the strictest emissions standards. It can be made as a spark-ignited or compression-ignition engine, and the diesel version can meet emission standards without using urea.

Believe me, my description does not do this engine justice.

Eco Motors calls this the OPOC engine, which stands for opposed piston, opposed cylinder. The most intriguing part is that it's a design which is half the size and uses half the parts of a conventional piston engine. Eco claims it can be built for 20% lower cost and 30% lower investment than traditional internal combustion engines (ICE's). And it claims it can provide a 15% improvement in fuel economy.

But Eco also says that by pairing two of these engines together you can get a 50% improvement in fuel economy. In this arrangement, one engine shuts off in light throttle applications, then instantly fires up for full throttle acceleration. This would boost fuel economy 50% over a conventional ICE, since there are no pumping loses when the second engine shuts down.

So, for example, instead of building one 150-hp OPOC engine for a compact car, you'd build two 75-hp OPOC engines and connect them together. Even though this dual-engine arrangement would erase the advantage of having fewer parts, it would still result in an engine that's half the height of a current ICE. Eco Motors showed me engineering schematics where a dual-engine layout would easily fit in the engine compartment of any of today's compact front-wheel-drive cars.

What makes Eco Motors worth paying attention to is that this engine is more than just a design study, or a CAD simulation. Eco invited me over to Roush Industries to watch one of their working prototypes running on a dynamometer, where it's already racked up over 500 hours of test time.

Just as importantly, the OPOC engine was designed by Peter Hofbauer, who spent 20 years at Volkswagen designing diesel engines and the VR6, that narrow 15-degree engine. The CEO is Don Runkle who was the chief technology officer at Delphi and played key roles in the original Corvette ZR-1, Buick Racing and the Chevrolet Indy effort. The COO is John Coletti who used to run the SVT engineering operations at Ford. In other words, these are people with a proven track record who know how to get things done in the auto industry.

Sure, it may turn out that this is just another one of those engines that ends up on the ash heap of automotive industry. But of all the alternatives I've seen so far, this one intrigues me the most.

The original article also includes a couple of computer-animated videos of how the engine would work: Autoline on Autoblog with John McElroy — Autoblog

16,623 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
John McElroy of Autoline Detroit isn't the only one enthused by this engine, as a good amount of Internet buzz was generated by the announcement yesterday that Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla and, most notably, Bill Gates have invested $23.5 million in EcoMotors. Here's Autoblog's article, followed by the official press release:

EcoMotors gets $23.5m boost from Bill Gates, Vinod Khosla
by Jeremy Korzeniewski

Don't count out the good old internal combustion engine just yet. A number of companies are working on new engine designs that can help pick up the slack until other alternatives, like electric motors, better batteries and a hydrogen infrastructure, are ready for mass consumption. One such venture is EcoMotors International, which just got a rather large investment from none other than Bill Gates.

A total of $23.5 million was invested by the aforementioned Chairman of Microsoft along with Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla, who's Khosla Ventures firm reportedly owns 47 percent of EcoMotors. According to the company, its opposed piston and cylinder Opoc engine technology was developed by Peter Hofbauer, who previously headed powertrain development at Volkswagen and designed the German automaker's clean diesel technology.

EcoMotors claims that its new mill weighs 50 percent less than other internal combustion engines while using 50 percent less fuel. Planned for applications include cars, trucks and any other machine utilizing an engine. Get all the details in the press release after the break.

Khosla Ventures and Bill Gates Invest in EcoMotors' Revolutionary opoc® Engine
Securing "Series B" funding from two prominent investors represents a major advance in the global commercialization of the opoc® technology.

TROY, Michigan, July 12, 2010 -- EcoMotors International CEO Don Runkle announced today that the Company has secured substantial Series B funding – sufficient to complete engineering and testing of the opoc® engine.

The two exclusive investors in EcoMotors' Series B are Khosla Ventures of Menlo Park, California and Bill Gates. The two principals, Vinod Khosla and Bill Gates, indicate their stakes in EcoMotors reflect a shared belief in the global potential of the opoc® technology and the impact it can have on transportation emissions because of its cost effectiveness.

"opoc® is precisely the kind of game-changing innovation that we at Khosla Ventures are passionate about," said Khosla. "The only truly disruptive technologies are those that can provide not only payback in months but also economic and carbon benefits to large segments of the world's population without the need for subsidies or massive infrastructure investments. Among next-generation propulsion systems, the opoc® engine is broadly applicable and can provide lower carbon emissions than almost any other technology."

"The opoc® engine can be an important step in providing affordable, low-emission transportation for the developing world," said Gates. "EcoMotors has developed a promising technology that could help reduce levels of greenhouse gas emissions in a low-cost, globally relevant way."

The revolutionary opoc® architecture of opposed pistons and opposed cylinders provides unparalleled benefits:

High Efficiency: The unique enginearchitecture – which offers true modular displacement capability - delivers up to 50% greater fuel efficiency compared with conventional engines of similar output, along with a corresponding reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Half the weight and half the size of conventional engines: Theopoc® engine provides unparalleled power density and flexibility in automobile and truck design as well as other engine applications.

Low Cost: With 50% fewer parts than a conventional engine, the opoc® is less expensive to manufacture, to purchase, to operate and to tool up.

Established in early 2008, EcoMotors is quickly achieving critical mass in terms of changing the landscape of internal combustion power. Based in Troy, Mich., EcoMotors is commercializing the unique opoc® engine for use in cars, light trucks, commercial vehicles, aerospace, marine, agriculture, auxiliary power units, generators, etc. Anywhere conventional gas or diesel power is currently utilized, opoc® represents a better propulsion solution.

EcoMotors is led by Don Runkle (Chief Executive Officer) and Prof. Peter Hofbauer (Chairman and Chief Technical Officer).

opoc® was conceived by Prof. Peter Hofbauer – who formerly as Head of Powertrain Development at VW designed the original VW high speed diesel engine that became the foundation for the Jetta Clean Diesel that won 2009 Green Car of the Year honors. Don Runkle, as former VP of N.A. Engineering at GM, spearheaded the GM EV1 electric car along with countless other innovations.

EcoMotors is a Khosla Ventures portfolio company. Khosla Ventures offers venture assistance, strategic advice and capital to entrepreneurs. The firm helps entrepreneurs extend the potential of their ideas in breakthrough scientific work in clean technology areas such as solar, battery, high efficiency engines, lighting, greener materials like cement, glass and bio-refineries for energy and bioplastics, and other environmentally friendly technologies as well as traditional venture areas like the Internet, computing, mobile and silicon technology arenas. Vinod Khosla founded the firm in 2004 and was formerly a General Partner at Kleiner Perkins and founder of Sun Microsystems. Khosla Ventures is based in Menlo Park, California.

EcoMotors gets $23.5m boost from Bill Gates, Vinod Khosla — Autoblog

Technical Poseur
23,313 Posts
Have they actually built one of these yet? I would like to see one run (I've seen the animations) and would be curious as to what kind of RPMs it could pull. One short connecting rod and one long means half the engine is vulnerable to high RPM and half is not....
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