5 New Engine Design Companies
Retail investors seem to like the idea of a “new engine”. In a recent article, we highlighted the controversial Scuderi Group and their Scuderi engine that never seems to materialize into a commercially viable product. While the Scuderi Group is throwing off red flags left and right as an investment to be avoided, they still managed to raise $80 million from 400 investors (90 of which were unaccredited). This shows that people really want to believe that the technology to build a more efficient internal combustion engine exists and it’s only a matter of time before it is discovered and the 1.2 billion vehicles on our small planet will eventually be displaced by this new type of engine. Scuderi isn’t the only company pursuing a new and disruptive engine technology. Here are five more companies developing “new engines”.
Founded in 2003, Connecticut based LiquidPiston has taken in $21.5 million to develop advanced rotary engines based on the company’s patented thermodynamic cycle and engine architecture. Remember the old high-RPM RX-7 rotary engines that never really took off but were fun as hell to drive? LiquidPiston has managed to create a small profile rotary engine for use in lawnmowers, chainsaws, and weed whackers.
Gasoline engines are expected to be 30% smaller and lighter while diesel engines are expected to be 70% smaller and lighter. This comes with a 20% increase in fuel efficiency for gas and 50% for diesel. While the engine can be scaled from 1 to 1000 horsepower, LiquidPistons expects that we’ll first see their engines in products offered at Home Depot or Lowes in 2 years time. Last year they also signed a contract with DARPA to develop their engine technology for use in various military applications.
Kansas-based Grail Engine Technologies has developed an engine which they say “has the potential to be the first two stroke engine that does not exhibit cross contamination of fuel and oil which results in lower emissions yet produces more power and torque using less fuel than larger engines“. Here is what that engine would look like:
Their website is chock full of technical documentation if you’re interested, but the question we always ask when we see these groundbreaking inventions is just how much progress have you made towards commercializing this technology? While the website talks about how they’ve been working with engineers at both Delphi and Honda, they haven’t provided an update since 2013. This recent article by EngineLabs implies that Grail isn’t doing much anymore to proactively move towards the commercialization of this technology. Given that both Honda and Delphi had a look and nothing came out of it, we’d have to conclude that this engine is going nowhere fast.
While Grail may be floundering, Achates Power seems to be making great progress towards commercializing their engine technology. Founded in 2004, this San Diego startup has taken in $65.6 million in funding to develop an internal combustion, opposed-piston engine that increases fuel efficiency by up to 50%, reduces emissions and does so at lower cost. They recently received a $9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy which they will use to work with Argonne National Laboratory and Delphi Automotive to build a 50 percent more efficient three-liter three-cylinder engine that will be suitable for passenger cars and trucks by 2018. Here’s a teaser:
The Company claims that their customers “comprise 40% of the global car and truck markets” and that “multiple major OEM customers have retained them to design engines for various applications and geographies“. Last year, Achates Power announced a $14 million military engine project through which they will work with Cummins to develop a single cylinder engine that will power next-generation tactical and combat vehicles.
Founded in 2007, this California based startup has taken in $13.5 million in funding to develop (you guessed it) an “ultra-efficient engine with up to 50% improvements in fuel economy without the typical cost penalty“. In 2011 they began developing a single cylinder opposed piston engine for scooters in conjunction with an Asian OEM partner which based on some of the hints they drop would seem to be of Indian origins. The scooter is expected to be 36% more efficient and should be released around the end of this year.
Given that they are already 4 years behind schedule for the release of this scooter engine, don’t hold your breath that they’ll have the car engine they expect to by 2019.
Founded in 2008, Ecomotors has attracted $79.3 million in funding from high profile investors like Bill Gates and Khosla Ventures to develop their opposed-piston opposed-cylinder (OPOC) engines. The last bit of news out of EcoMotors was that their first and largest customer, Zhongding Power, had invested in the Company during a Series D funding round with an investment by Zhongding of more than $200 million. That money is said to be used to build a factory that can produce 100,000 engines like the one seen below:
When we first wrote about EcoMotors back in October 2014, they had expected to be selling their diesel powered engines by 2015 with an estimated annual production capacity of 100,000 to 150,000 after breaking ground on a $200 million plant that year in China that was expected to be in high volume production with the potential of generating $1 billion a year. So is that plant up and running and now they’re building another one or it didn’t work out and now we’re on try number 2? If you believe what Wikipedia says, they’ve run into delays and were expected to begin production around the middle of 2015. With their Series D funding round coming in towards the end of 2015, we can only assume they are producing away and that these engines will start appearing in Chinese vehicles.
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