GM to explore advanced natural gas engine technology

General Motors tapped alternative fuel leader Westport Innovations, Inc., of Vancouver, BC, to develop advanced natural gas engine technology.
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"Hybridization, lower-displacement with turbo charging, direct injection and other fuel-saving technologies now being applied to gasoline and diesel engines, can also be applied to natural gas fueled engines for even greater improvements in efficiency and fuel cost savings," said John Lapetz, Westport’s light-duty division managing director, North American Vehicle Programs.

Under the agreement announced Tuesday between the two companies, Westport and GM will blend their expertise to develop controls, emissions and performance strategies for light-duty vehicles.

“We are excited to work with GM and invest in advanced natural gas technology for the automotive market,” said Ian Scott, president of Westport’s light-duty division. “This technology offers the promises of a cleaner, lower cost fuel and reduced carbon footprint, while advancing the use of domestic energy.”

The supply of natural gas is abundant in North America.

“Natural gas is 97% North American sourced and much less expensive than gasoline or diesel fuels,” said Lapetz. “It also produces about 15 – 20 percent less CO2 than those fuels.”
Westport’s planned acquisition of Emer S.p.A. of Italy is an integral part of our strategy to provide partners, such as GM, with the most advanced integrated solutions,” Scott said.

To support OEM programs, Westport plans to add research and development facilities to develop technologies that enable vehicles to run on natural gas for business and government fleets, and personal use. Utilization of domestic energy, the creation of jobs and protection of the environment, are part of Westport’s business objectives.

Westport also will open a technology center in Michigan. The company currently employs 15 people in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and Westport plans to add more people and invest in facilities as demand for natural gas-powered, alternative-fuel vehicles.

“While this is a ground-breaking move for a North American auto manufacturer – particularly GM, with their strong light-duty focus – we believe this is the first step in a long development process that will need to see significant incremental advances in efficiencies and investment in fueling infrastructure before the R&D will translate into sales,” said analyst Rupert Merer at National Bank Financial.

The agreement with GM, Scott said, demonstrates Westport’s success as an advanced technology partner to global automotive manufacturers.

Westport Innovations Inc. is a global leader in alternative fuel, low-emissions technologies that allow engines to operate on clean-burning fuels such as compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), hydrogen, and biofuels such as landfill gas.

Westport’s Light-Duty Division is focused on light-duty automotive systems, components and engines, including 2.4L engines for industrial applications such as forklifts and oilfield service. Cummins Westport (CWI), a joint venture with Cummins, sells the world's broadest range of low-emissions alternative fuel engines for commercial urban fleets such as buses, refuse trucks and vocational vehicles.


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