The cleantech investor that’s been spreading his chips across a dozen or so biofuel startups over the past year, Vinod Khosla, has lately been focused on those aimed at making traditional engines more efficient — with or without alternative fuels. Earlier this week it was efficient diesel engine makers EcoMotors, and today Khosla Ventures says it has made an additional investment in Transonic Combustion, a startup working on high-efficiency combustion engines.
Vinod Khosla himself will take a seat on the board of directors. The increase in his firm’s investment makes it Transonic’s largest preferred shareholder. The financials for the investment increase were not disclosed and the details of its rounds in 2007 were also not disclosed. (Gee, thanks for being so transparent.) But the move represents Khosla’s continuing need to diversify its alternative transportation portfolio beyond biofuels.
While Khosla could find the Exxon of the biofuel world one day, making today’s engines more efficient could be a much safer bet. Compared with biofuels, it doesn’t require nearly as much change in either infrastructure or the actions of consumers, and is far less dependent on subsidies. The new engine tech can also work in conjunction with alt fuels, so it makes for good synergy. And with the recent raising of the CAFE standards, automakers will be looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their entire fleets, gasoline guzzlers and all.