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Summary:

Much of the innovation around next-gen cars focuses on electric vehicles and biofuels, but there’s a massive need for tech that can make our current cars more fuel efficient. Pinnacle Engines just emerged with just such a technology and a round of VC funding.

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A lot of the innovation around next-gen car technology has focused on electric cars and biofuels, but there’s a massive need for technology that can make our current cars more fuel-efficient. On Thursday, a startup called Pinnacle Engines emerged with just such a technology and a round of venture capital backing, and the company says it can deliver an engine with 30 to 50 percent better fuel economy.

Pinnacle says it has created an entirely new four-stroke engine with a design that uses opposed-pistons and can operate in different modes depending on operating conditions, making it more efficient. The engine also has efficiencies via variable valve timing, direct injection, and turbocharging. Pinnacle says it plans to commercialize its engine by 2013.

Pinnacle is just one of a handful of startups working on more efficient engine technology. I caught up with Achates Power CEO David Johnson yesterday, and he said Achates is building a closed piston, 2-stroke engine that is 10 to 15 percent better than state of art diesel engines that exist today. EcoMotors is building a diesel engine with stackable modules, and where one of the engine modules can be shut off when it isn’t needed. (Here’s 7 startups building green car tech for a pre-electric world).

Achates and EcoMotors both have high-profile investors, as does Pinnacle, which has investors that include NEA, Bessemer Venture Partners and Infield Capital; it has raised $13.5 million from this group. Pinnacle also announced that Ron Hoge has taken over as Pinnacle’s new chairman and CEO.

Building new engines, getting them manufactured and convincing auto makers to put the engines in their cars is a long road. Achates says it could take three to six year depending on the project. Pinnacle’s engine is two years away from the market, and the company says it has a joint development and licensing agreement with an Asian vehicle maker.

  1. The PatOP opposed piston engine at http://www.pattakon.com/pattakonPatOP.htm is a single-crankshaft vibration-free direct injection Diesel.
    By nature it is a crosshead engine (like the giant Sulzer marine engines) yet a short one: the height of the first PatOP prototype is 500mm (635cc capacity, 79.5mm bore, 64+64=128mm stroke).
    The crosshead architecture is vital for engines like the EcoMotors’ OPOC because it frees the piston skirts from the thrust loads, allowing four-stroke-like lubrication and lubricant consumption.
    The crosshead is also important for engines like the Pinnacle, because it frees the reciprocating cylinder liner from additional loads, deformation, friction and weight.

    The full balanced PatOP engine is short and compact because it doesn’t need an opposed cylinder (case of the OPOC of EcoMotors) to get vibration-free, as shown in the videos wherein the PatOP is running on Diesel fuel, standing free on a desk.

    The variable capacity (stackable modules) technology of EcoMotors has some weaknesses, as explained at http://www.pattakon.com/pattakonPatPOC.htm .

    For divided load applications, like a range extender with two counter-rotating electric generators, the two-crankshaft OPRE opposed piston engine at http://www.pattakon.com/pattakonOPRE.htm is simpler, lighter, cheaper and more compact than the two-crankshaft opposed piston Achates and Pinnacle engines.

    Both, the PatOP and the OPRE engines, are characterized by a substantially longer piston dwell near the combustion dead center: they provide some 35% additional time as compared to the Pinnacle, and some 20% additional time as compared to the EcoMotors’ OPOC, for the injection, penetration, vaporization and combustion of the Diesel fuel, improving the fuel efficiency at medium low revs and increasing the power concentration by providing the peak power at higher revs.

    It would be nice EcoMotors, Achates-power and Pinnacle to comment on the above.

    Thanks
    Manousos Pattakos

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  2. Pattakon is not getting attention as its not in US. You know its very difficult to get funding from venture capital or government grants in other nations for such innovations.

    Also there’s a company called Achates power which has similar opposed piston engine in development.

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    1. What counts more than who invests and how much on a new engine design, is the design itself.
      Some 50 years ago the invested (and lost) billions proved inadequate to solve the technical problems of the Wankel Rotary engine.

      It would be interesting to write down the strictly technical advantages of the Pinnacle opposed piston engine, of the EcoMotors’ OPOC, and of the Achates opposed piston engine over the PatOP and the OPRE engines of pattakon.

      Thanks
      Manousos Pattakos

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