Chinese firm earmarks $200 million to build EcoMotors engine
DETROIT, April 9 (Reuters) - One of China's largest auto parts makers said it will construct a $200-million factory to build a radical new engine developed by a suburban Detroit startup. Zhongding Power would be the first manufacturer to produce EcoMotors' OPOC engine, whose features are said to include smaller size, lower cost, higher fuel economy and fewer emissions. The privately held Chinese firm, which plans to ramp up production in Xuangcheng in 2014, said it will supply engines to a range of customers for use in commercial and off road vehicles, as well as stationary generator sets. The plant, about 150 miles west of Shanghai in Anhui province, will have an annual capacity of 150,000 and will also supply engines to EcoMotors for sale to its own customers. OPOC, which stands for "opposed piston, opposed cylinder," is a unique engine designed by Peter Hofbauer, a former Volkswagen engineer who is chairman of EcoMotors in Allen Park, Michigan. The basic OPOC design features two cylinders and four pistons. It has far fewer parts than a conventional engine and produces more power for its size. Versions of the OPOC engine can run on diesel fuel, gasoline or compressed natural gas. The initial design to be produced by Zhongding is a diesel that will be built in different versions, from 180 to 2 40 horsepower, according to EcoMotors CEO Don Runkle. Zhongding also is discussing an option to build a second OPOC engine plant with similar capacity, Runkle said. If approved, the second plant might build smaller versions of the engine, producing 80-100 horsepower, he said. The smaller engines would be more suitable for passenger cars. EcoMotors is backed by several investors, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures and Braemar Energy Ventures. So far, the company, which was founded in 2008, has raised more than $66 million in venture funding. (Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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