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Bill Gates Backs EcoMotors’ New OPOC Engine With $23.5 Million Investment

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EcoMotors OPOC engine diagram

EcoMotors OPOC engine diagram

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Throughout the history of the internal combustion engine there have been a multitude of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs shouting claims about revolutionary new engine designs promising greater efficiency, more power, fewer emissions and lower production and running costs.

However, to this day we are yet to see anything come up to replace the existing four-stroke engine design currently found in most cars (not including the newer generation of hybrids and all-electrics). Most of these ‘alternative’ designs usually vanish as quickly as they appear but one company, America’s own EcoMotors International, has gained the spotlight following the announcement it has received $23.5 million in funding from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investor Vinod Khosla.

The funding is to be used to further develop a new engine design called the Opposed Piston Opposed Cylinder, or OPOC for short. According to EcoMotors, based in suburban Detroit, the new OPOC engines feature 50 percent fewer parts than regular engines, while also being 50 percent more fuel efficient. Everyone knows that a lot of energy in internal combustion engines is wasted due to frictional losses, and having 50 percent fewer parts should go a long way to remedying this issue.

But that’s only part of the story--the OPOC engine also features a two-stroke design. The benefit here is that a two-stroke engine delivers a power pulse with every revolution of the crankshaft, as opposed to the four-stroke engine which fires each cylinder on every other revolution.

Previous two-stroke designs were quickly banished as emissions standards started to get tougher. The design is such that unburned fuel and lubricating oils are released through the exhaust, causing emissions to be much higher. However, EcoMotors believes its design has overcome this challenge.

Its engine also generates one power stroke per crank revolution per cylinder. It comprises two opposing cylinders per module, with a crankshaft between them, and each cylinder has two pistons moving in opposite directions. This innovative design configuration eliminates the cylinder-head and valve-train components of conventional engines, offering an efficient, compact and simple core engine structure. The design also allows for multiple modules to be linked for more powerful applications.

The company is now working on the sixth generation of the OPOC engine design and eventually hopes to see it commercialized for use in cars, light trucks, commercial vehicles, aerospace, marine, agriculture, auxiliary power units, generators, etc.--essentially, anywhere conventional gas or diesel power is currently utilized.

Interestingly, the OPOC engine design was conceived by Peter Hofbauer, the former Volkswagen powertrain engineer that designed the German automaker’s first high speed diesel engine. Additionally, EcoMotors’ CEO, Don Runkle, is a former employee of General Motors and one of the key men behind the EV1 all-electric car.

[EcoMotors]

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Comments (14)
  1. Can't wait for review of and comprehensive data from a vehicle powered by the OPOC engine. Could be a very important development and even moe exciting as multifuel diesel with critical fuel combustion eith funding from the same sources.
     
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  2. The opposed-piston engine is not a new concept, and naming it Opposed Piston Opposed Cylinder doesn't change a bit of the working principle!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opposed-piston_engine
     
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  3. The oil companies won't like this one bit. They'll fight it.
     
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  4. This engine is really nothing new. The opposed piston, opposed cylinder design has been tried before. It works fine but doesn't give you much, and adds mechanical complexity. The side valves they are using to eliminate the poppet valves/cams/etc have been around forever (in every two stroke) and are still an achilles heel for long term reliability and efficiency. The side valve causes ring and bore wear, which is one reason two strokes don't last as long as four strokes. It also is a leading cause of engine failure when the ring gets caught on the edge of the port.
    How are they planning on improving the emissions, efficiency and power density of this two stroke? Two strokes have a lot of problems in larger engines... there is no conspiracy as to why most engines over 10hp are based on the four stroke principle. The reasons are based on sound engineering.
     
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  5. Actually, reports say that the GM folks like Runkle worked to SABOTAGE the EV1, which was handed to them in 1989, using lead-acid batteries; GM refused to use better NiMH batteries, releasing the EV1 in Nov., 1996 using designed-to-fail defective GM-Delco batteries.
     
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  6. this just blows my mind. this engine design will never see production. I've seen far better snakeoil designs already proven to be... snakeoil.. and yet this piece of @#$@#$ gets bill gates backing? makes me want to uninstall my windows os, for bill being so gullible...
     
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  7. And this design doesnt even address the most important thing preventing efficiency in modern ICE engines- we must get variable compression ratio before any real improvement can occur.
    So ecomotors, detach your silly upper pistons from the crank, and put them on a servo actuated cam instead. Bam. variable CR. Now we're getting closer to something that doesnt suck.
     
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  8. This is in response to James comment. There's 500cc 2 stroke race bikes that puts out over 200 hp. It's only now that 4 strokes 800cc motors are able to beat that recently. Not sure if the 10hp comment holds true.
     
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  9. Do you really need vari compression over a diesel, that would be a waste of time. 4 stroke diesels I think are more efficient than any variable compression motor and this motor is a 2 stroke. A Cummins diesel passenger truck with a some mods gets 27 mpg and 22 mpg when its rigged up. That's way better than gas vehicle when compared to mpg and weight. And if you can get a lighter diesel motor into a light vehicle. If this thing is suppose to be better than i'd welcome it. I'm curious, why would you use vari compression on diesel or are taking about gas engine?
     
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  10. I can't imagine paintball is suggesting variable compression ratio for a diesel, as diesels are unthrottled and don't need it. I'm not sure what those "upper pistons" do except shorten stroke by, essentially, dynamically moving a "virtual cylinder head" down at TDC to let the thing operate on a shorter stroke. (?) Not entirely nuts, but I'm not sure I see the value. What it really seems to do is not use the under-piston area for scavenging, so it's not exposing the combustion chamber to lubricant running in through the transfer ports. Also not dumb. I like the "variable actuated cam" idea, though. That could really be worthwhile. Use a blower to scavenge, as I assume they do, And they might have something. No need for the opposed configuration, then.
     
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  11. The concept of this engine builds on a number of existing designs, but the clever way in which it combines them is novel. While side ports might be an issue if they were giant holes into the side of the chamber, that is not the case here. The ports are tiny holes situated around the entire circumference of the cylinder wall. If you understand the design as a whole, it is clear what a leap in ICE design it represents; it is the first simple, efficient, and clean two stroke design.
    There appears to be considerable misunderstanding regarding the opposed piston design in the OPOC configuration. The inside and outside pistons are arranged with a slightly asymmetrical timing, so that the exhaust and intake ports are never open simultaneously. The design is also perfectly balanced, and all of the forces on the crankshaft cancel, aside from the rotation. (In the past, they made a point of balancing a golf ball on a running engine.) The longer connecting rods are only under tension, and the shorter, only under compression. As such, the bearings and connecting rods may all be light weight, and the pistons need only travel half the distance.
    Anyway, a surprising and welcome investment by Mr. Gates.
     
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  12. As compared to the OPOC engine,
    the pattakon OPRE (another opposed piston engine) is:
    more compact,
    simpler,
    cheaper,
    has built-in scavenging pump,
    has wider rev-range,
    provides more time to the fuel to get prepared and burned in-time,
    is better balanced,
    is more fuel efficient.
    For more details (and videos of the working prototypes) http://www.pattakon.com/pattakonOPRE.htm
     
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  13. I really wonder if they solved the oil-shuffled-into-exhaust-gases-problem, and how.
    High efficiency means high power density - and this is a reliability problem for any engine, be it 4- or 2-stroke. But high mileage needs high power density, because thermodynamic and conduction losses are lower. So it is very much a material science problem.
    The OPOC-concept of using 2 independent units clutched together if high power is needed is very smart and boosts efficiency in low power regime. But of course this would be possible with 4-stroke too.
     
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  14. Right now the only engine that has a chance of success is the SPLIT CYCLE. All the other are way behind.
     
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