EcoMotors raises $32.5M from Khosla, Bill Gates, Braemar

EcoMotors, a startup building an efficient engine, has raised a $32.5 million Series C round led by Braemar Energy Ventures, and including previous investors Khosla Ventures and Bill Gates. The four-year-old company’s engine design includes stackable modules, one of which can be shut off when it isn’t needed, and the startup has said its engine could deliver a 100 MPG for highway driving in a 5-passenger car.
EcoMotors said this morning that the funding will help it create diesel engines with customers, including Navistar and Zhongding Holding Group. The company will also use the funds to make a gas-version, in addition to its diesel-version. Eventually EcoMotors will also develop a compressed natural gas version, too.
In the emerging world of electric cars, and biofuels, EcoMotors is an example of a startup that is looking to remake the traditional transportation world of the internal combustion engine. Other companies building new technology for the internal combustion engine include Grail Engine Technologies, and its efficient two-stroke engine, Pinnacle Engines, which makes a four-stroke engine (video here), Achates Power, which is building a closed piston, 2-stroke engine, and Transonic Combustion, which is creating what’s called a “supercritical fuel injection system” for internal combustion engines that minimizes heat waste.
More efficient traditional engines could be a more low cost way to reduce carbon emissions from cars, before electric vehicles develop into any kind of market. Auto companies will also be looking for more efficient traditional technologies, because fuel standards in the U.S. are set to rise from 27 miles per gallon today to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, thanks to the Obama administration’s plan.
EcoMotors has also been targeting applications for the developing world, where car owners with less disposable income would be more concerned about using less diesel and gas and having a more efficient engine.
Moving from the prototype and development stage into mass commercialization and partnering with big auto makers will be the difficult hurdle for these startups. Auto makers move notoriously slowly (as slow as utilities and telcos) and won’t easily bet on risky startups.