* Westport to hire more people for its facilities
* Westport to open a new technical center in Michigan
* Westport shares up 13 pct (Adds details on demand for natural gas fuel, context, share movement)
June 28 (Reuters) - Westport Innovations and General Motors plan to develop a natural gas engine technology for light motor vehicles, in a move to reduce dependence on conventional fuel, sending the Canadian company’s shares up 13 percent.
Vancouver-based Westport, which supplies alternative fuel and low-emission transportation technologies, plans to hire more people, and open a technical center in Michigan to meet growing demand for natural gas fuel alternatives.
Major automakers, including GM, Toyota Motor Corp , and Chrysler, which recently said natural gas could be a near-term substitute to gasoline, have ramped up efforts to present the most cost-effective solution to reduce U.S. reliance on oil.
Natural gas, as a vehicle fuel, produces lower emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and greenhouse gases than petrol or diesel. Demand for the fuel is picking up
“This technology offers the promises of a cleaner, lower cost fuel and reduced carbon footprint, while advancing the use of domestic energy,” said Ian Scott, president of Westport’s light-duty division.
In May, Westport joined hands with Caterpillar Inc to evaluate natural gas fuel system technologies for possible use on Caterpillar’s large engines.
Shares of Westport, which recently said it would buy Italian fuel system-maker Emer S.P.A for about $39.6 million, rose 13 percent to touch a high of $24.25 on Nasdaq in morning trade on Tuesday. They touched a high of C$23.84 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Gowri Jayakumar in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D‘Souza and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)