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Diamond Diesel Service, Inc., Auto Repair & Service - Diesel, Oakland, CA

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Back To Diesel Products>Livonia: New engine developer looks at old GM plant

By Ken Abramczyk • OBSERVER STAFF WRITER • July 18, 2010

The developer of a new energy-efficient engine is looking at using an old GM plant in Livonia.


While EcoMotors, headquartered in Troy, may be years away on deciding whether to build its Opoc engine here, the company announced Monday that it had secured a $23.5 million investment from Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla.

The company is developing its Opoc engine in Livonia with Roush. Opoc stands for opposed pistons and opposed cylinders, used in the engine to achieve anywhere between 15 and 50 percent more efficiency. The engine runs on unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel.

“It is half the weight and half the size,” said Don Runkle, CEO of EcoMotors.

He expects the engine is at least two to three years from development. The company is on its sixth generation or version of the engine, first initiated in 2003.

“It's not imminent because the engine is still in development,” Runkle said. Opoc was conceived by Peter Hofbauer, who formerly as head of powertrain development at Volkswagen designed the original VW high-speed diesel engine that became the foundation for the Jetta Clean Diesel. That car won 2009 Green Car of the Year honors. Runkle, as former vice president of North American Engineering at General Motors, spearheaded the GM EV1 electric car, along with other innovations.

Customers may decide to build their own version of the engine after paying EcoMotors licensing fees, or companies may want EcoMotors to build it, in which case the company would need a manufacturing plant, Runkle said.

“If we see a number of opportunities of customers who want the engines, we'll look at sites,” Runkle said. “There's a lot of competition for those sites. We're always looking at the best cities to do business, to find employees and locations. We look at things like labor rates and taxation, and tax breaks.”

Runkle confirmed the company was looking at a site in Livonia. He would not discuss whether it was the former trim plant on Plymouth Road. He said the company has a “great relationship” with the city of Livonia. The company is waiting to hear from the U.S. Department of Energy on a loan.

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