China To Build EcoMotors' Efficient Opposed-Piston Engines

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EcoMotors OPOC engine diagram

EcoMotors OPOC engine diagram

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History makes fools of us all sometimes, none more so than when we dismiss certain ideas out of hand, only for them to come back years later and eat our words.

That's why we're always intrigued by companies claiming to reinvent the engine. One of them might well do so, given the right resources.

For EcoMotors, Detroit-based developers of an opposed-piston diesel engine, those resources are being provided in a $200 million deal to build its engines in China.

According to Automotive News, EcoMotors' partner Zhongding Power will build a new Chinese plant to build up to 150,000 of the turbodiesel engines per year. High-volume production is scheduled to begin in 2014.

EcoMotors' OPOC engine, standing for Opposed Piston Opposed Cylinder, is different from the Free Piston Linear Generator we recently featured.

While the Linear Generator ditches a crankshaft in favor of pistons mounted on air springs, each cylinder in the OPOC has two pistons, facing each other. The two-stroke design eliminates valvegear and cylinder heads and develops one power stroke, per crank revolution, per cylinder.

Its backers say the OPOC engine could prove up to 30 percent more efficient than a conventional design, as well as being lighter and more compact.

Ecomotors and Zhongding's initial market will be to the makers of electrical generators, and for off-road and commercial vehicles. Chinese companies are "aggressively" seeking new powertrain technology right now in a growing market, making the timing of EcoMotors' deal just about perfect.

Whether the engine will appear in regular automobiles or not is an unanswered question. Critics of the technology say it isn't clean enough for road cars, thanks to the two-stroke design--but EcoMotors says the engines will meet government regulations on emissions.

With strong Chinese investment, we're not writing this one off just yet--history is waiting right around the corner to make fools of the opposed-piston engine's doubters...

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