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Summary:

EcoMotors, a 2-year-old developer of highly efficient engine technology backed by Khosla Ventures, has struck an $18 million deal with automotive supplier Zhongding Holding (Group) Co. and engineering services firm Global Optima.

EcoMotors, a 2-year-old developer of highly efficient engine technology backed by Khosla Ventures, has struck an $18 million deal with automotive supplier Zhongding Holding (Group) Co. and engineering services firm Global Optima. Under an agreement signed Monday in Michigan, China-based Zhongding and its international commercial partner Global Optima, based in Michigan, will invest up to $18 million to develop EcoMotors engines and work toward commercialization. According to EcoMotors’ release, Global Optima is also considering a direct equity investment in the Troy, Mich.-based startup.

The trio’s technology development program will focus on “refinement” of an existing EcoMotors diesel engine called the EM100D, as well as development of a smaller gasoline version of the technology. Eventually, the startup hopes to see its engines deployed in cars, light trucks, marine and agricultural applications, and in stationary generators — “essentially anywhere conventional gas or diesel power is utilized,” EcoMotors explains.

EcoMotors’ engine design includes stackable modules, one of which can be shut off when it isn’t needed. Focusing on developing markets, the company has been working to demonstrate a diesel engine in 2010 that can deliver 100 MPG for highway driving in a 5-passenger car.

Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla sees big opportunities for innovation in this space. He commented at a recent event that technology designed to make internal combustion engine vehicles more efficient can be implemented with much less cost compared to developing an all-electric vehicle — for just “hundreds of dollars” in some cases, he said.

Improving the systems and components in gas and diesel-powered cars can have a significant impact on fuel consumption and emissions, Khosla said, boosting mileage by as much as 30-50 percent. According to EcoMotors, its so-called OPOC engine delivers up to 60 percent greater fuel efficiency and uses half as many part as conventional engines.

The startup faces plenty of competition, however. It remains to be seen whether, and how many, car companies will bet on young ventures for MPG-boosting tech. A slew of startups have emerged in recent years hoping to provide technology that could help boost the fuel efficiency and reduce the emissions of the world’s vehicle fleet — long before electric cars go mainstream (here’s 7 Startups Building Green Car Tech for a Pre-Electric World).

Image courtesy of EcoMotors

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  1. Regarding the last point: the big companies probably wont’ take the chance.

    Startups are always up to “making a home run” because they don’t have anything to lose and, probably, not too much money. :) Not that it’s something bad, of course. It’s just that I don’t see the big fish chasing the big breakthrough in green energy

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  2. [...] footprint than electric cars. Our first paying customer is in China, Zhongding Holding (Group) Co. (see story here). We’ll have another announcement in June, and hopefully commercialize this technology in 2 [...]

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  3. [...] who has invested in not only Transonic Combustion but also EcoMotors (a 2-year-old developer of efficient engines with stackable modules), said last month that technology designed to make internal combustion engine vehicles more [...]

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  4. [...] one from Transonic Combustion (which welcomed former GM exec Bob Lutz to its board recently), or efficient motors from EcoMotors. Investing in advanced battery technologies could potentially lower the cost of plug-in cars like [...]

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  5. [...] This past spring EcoMotors struck a deal with automotive supplier Zhongding Holding (Group) Co. and engineering services firm Global Optima, with China-based Zhongding and its Michigan-based commercial partner Global Optima agreeing to invest up to $18 million to develop EcoMotors engines and work toward commercialization. [...]

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