Diesel Engine Blog – Achates Power

Achates Power Under the Hood is designed for automotive enthusiasts interested in the development of a clean, fuel-efficient and low-cost engine. The blog provides commentary on the latest Achates Power clean diesel engine developments, along with our perspective on industry news and legislation impacting the global automotive industry. Contact us at 858.535.9920.

AUSA 2015

John S. Major Jr., Regional Vice President, Mid-West Operations, Achates Power, Inc.by John S. Major Jr.
Regional Vice President, Mid-West Operations
Achates Power, Inc.


Heading into the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) Global Force Symposium and Exposition last week in Huntsville, Alabama, I had no idea what to really expect from the event this year.  This was my seventh AUSA, spread amongst three different locales, and I still have several stacks of business cards in my office from these events from years past, and the days of MRAP.


While normally at conferences such as this, I am prepared to offer published data to answer questions regarding Achates Power technology, but this time we were able to offer additional validation – the announcement of our $14 million dollar military engine project.


Becoming public knowledge just that day, I was finally able to talk about how Achates’ class-leading technology, coupled with Cummins manufacturing strength and design expertise had been chosen by NAMC (National Advanced Mobility Consortium) and TARDEC to develop a Single Cylinder Advanced Combat Engine Technology Demonstrator – something that is an integral part of the Army’s 30 year strategy to modernize tactical and combat vehicles.  After a full day walking the floor and reconnecting with folks that now have business card stacks similar to mine, there was a palpable buzz about the Achates Engine leading into day two.
Day two culminated for Achates Power with our CEO, David Johnson, presenting to an auditorium of over 200 people in a “Tech Ten” talk right before the Honorable Heidi Shyu took the stage.  This audience was technically savvy enough to understand the “holy grail” of Army powertrain needs, including how the importance of overall power pack volumetric density drive requirements for low heat rejection to coolant, high fuel efficiency, and high volumetric power density for the engine. David Johnson also explained more about technical achievements of these key points including benchmark comparisons to other military engines and how a combat engine family strategy can drive a cost and logistics advantage.


The gravity of the potential impact of the Achates Engine opposed piston design, paired with the production know-how of Cummins, could be physically felt in the room.  GEN Sullivan, USA ret, even commented on the excitement that the presentation and technology had generated.  And those who know GEN Sullivan know that when he talks, people listen.


Heading to the airport with a new stack of cards and a solidified sense of purpose, it was hard to lament the two months’ worth of contact follow-ups that I had helped make for myself.  It was nice to know, and see first-hand, that an organization with a mission as important as the US Army’s, that even they recognized the value and the potential of Achates Power’s technology.  All of us at API have believed in the value and potential for some time, but as we progress in our development and share our findings, it is becoming very clear to us and others, that this technology is going the change the world.


Achates Power Wins $14 Million Military Engine Project


Achates Power is pleased to announce today that we have been awarded a $14 million project by the National Advanced Mobility Consortium to support research and development work of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). The project, the Single Cylinder Advanced Combat Engine Technology Demonstrator, is part of the Army’s 30 year strategy to modernize tactical and combat vehicles. This new project builds upon the technological advancements and proven results we delivered during our previous TARDEC project in 2012 for the design and construction of the Next-Generation Combat Engine.
We are also excited to announce that we have partnered with Cummins Inc. for this new chapter of modernizing the Army’s combat vehicles. The end goal is to deliver a product that improves the mobility and performance of combat vehicles.
Please see below for more details.

Achates Power Wins $14 Million Military Engine Project

Single Cylinder Advanced Combat Engine Technology Demonstrator Project

Company partners with Cummins Inc. to power next generation tactical and combat vehicles


SAN DIEGO – March 31, 2015Achates Power, Inc., the developer of radically improved internal combustion engines that increase fuel efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cost less than conventional engines, today announced it has been awarded a $14 million project by the National Advanced Mobility Consortium to support research and development work of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). The project is the Single Cylinder Advanced Combat Engine Technology Demonstrator, part of the Army’s 30 year strategy to modernize tactical and combat vehicles.


“This award builds upon 10 years of extensive development by Achates Power to modernize and optimize the opposed-piston engine,” said David Johnson, CEO, Achates Power. “With Cummins as our partner on the Single Cylinder Advanced Combat Engine Technology Demonstrator program, we have the opportunity to combine Cummins’ strengths in diesel engine leadership with our strengths in opposed-piston engine technology to deliver a superior engine for combat and tactical vehicles for the U.S. Army.”


Achates has partnered with Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI) for this new chapter of modernizing the Army’s combat vehicles. Together, their technologies will be used to further refine the opposed-piston engine for lower heat rejection, greater fuel efficiency, increased power density and the ability to operate on various fuels. The end goal is to deliver a product that improves the mobility and performance of combat vehicles.


“Achates Power has realized the potential for impressive efficiency in their development of the opposed piston architecture. We have worked with Achates Power for a number of years now and applaud their engineers and engineering rigor, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration,” said Dr. John Wall, chief technical officer, Cummins Inc. “This contract acknowledges the U.S. Army recognizes the special value of this engine design in their application and Achates Power’s ability to optimize it.”


In order to create a technology foundation for the Future Fighting Vehicle, the U.S. Army has been focused on the development of a modular and scalable advanced combat engine capable of very low heat rejection, increased fuel economy, excellent durability, and outstanding overall propulsion system power and density.


When speaking about the Single Cylinder Advanced Combat Engine Technology Demonstrator, professor of Mechanical Engineering at Wayne State University College of Engineering, Dr. Walter Bryzik, notes, “Three features are critically important for combat vehicles: low heat rejection to coolant, high power density, and high efficiency. The opposed-piston engine architecture – particularly with the advances from Achates Power – has strengths in all three areas.”
With this new contract, Achates has six concurrent customers whose contracts encompass five different engine applications: passenger vehicle, light commercial vehicle, heavy commercial vehicle, military and marine/stationary power. Achates Power’s engine allows OEMs to achieve the world’s most stringent current and future fuel efficiency and emissions standards, which include EPA 2010, Euro 6 and Tier 3/LEV 3, among others, without additional cost or complexity.


About Achates Power, Inc.

Achates Power, Inc. has developed radically improved internal combustion engines that increase fuel efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are lower cost. Founded in 2004 with the mission to build cleaner, more efficient engines, the San Diego-based company has an experienced staff of engineers and scientists focused on applying their proven technical know-how and expertise, coupled with the industry’s leading-edge testing, simulation and analysis tools. It is backed by top private equity firms Sequoia Capital Partners, RockPort Capital Partners, Madrone Capital Partners, InterWest Partners and Triangle Peak Partners. For more information, visit www.achatespower.com, www.facebook.com/AcahtesPowerInc, www.twitter.com/achatespower and www.youtube.com/achatespowerinc.


About Cummins Inc.
Cummins Inc., a global power leader, is a corporation of complementary business units that design, manufacture, distribute and service diesel and natural gas engines and related technologies, including fuel systems, controls, air handling, filtration, emission solutions and electrical power generation systems. Headquartered in Columbus, Indiana, (USA) Cummins currently employs approximately 54,600 people worldwide and serves customers in approximately 190 countries and territories through a network of approximately 600 company-owned and independent distributor locations and approximately 7,200 dealer locations. Cummins earned $1.65 billion on sales of $19.2 billion in 2014. Press releases can be found on the Web at www.cummins.com. Follow Cummins on Twitter at @Cummins and on YouTube at Cummins Inc.

The Problem With Batteries

Larry Fromm, Vice President, Business and Strategy Development, Achates Powerby Larry Fromm
Vice President, Business and Strategy Development
Achates Power, Inc.



Our recent blog post compared the environment, economic, and convenience benefits of a very clean, very efficient internal combustion engine with an electric vehicle.  This post dives into more detail about the problems of using battery to store energy, particularly for transportation.
In short, batteries are very big, heavy, and expensive compared to gasoline (or diesel, or methanol or biodiesel, or ethanol or other liquid hydrocarbons ) stored in a typical automotive fuel tank.
The article, Has the Battery Bubble Burst, by Fred Schlachter of the American Physical Society sums up the problem:

  • Gravimetric power density: Batteries weigh more than 150 times as much gasoline for the same amount of stored energy, 0.3 MJ / kg to 47.5 MJ / kg.  Weight is the enemy of vehicle efficiency, and a heavy battery compounds weight gain as the size of motors, supports, and suspension grow as well.
  • Volumetric power density:  Batteries take up more than 80 times as much space as gasoline, 04 MJ / L to 34.6 MJ / L.

In other words, because batteries have about 100 times less energy density than gasoline, EV vehicles all face severe weight and range disadvantages.
Another problem referred to by Dr. Schlachter is the very high cost of batteries.  It is difficult to nail down precise numbers, but this article cites an industry insider and expert as saying it unlikely battery costs will drop below $200/kWh before the end of the decade.  If this is the case, the $17,000+ cost of the 85 kWh battery in the Tesla S would, by itself, buy a nice, brand new car.
Moore’s Law for Battery? 

We are used to seeing rapid improvements in the price and performance of electronic devices.  Why isn’t that happening in batteries?  Quoting from the IEEE article:
The essential answer is that electrons do not take up space in a processor, so their size does not limit processing capacity; limits are given by lithographic constraints. Ions in a battery, however, do take up space, and potentials are dictated by the thermodynamics of the relevant chemical reactions, so there only can be significant improvements in battery capacity by changing to a different chemistry.
The challenge of creating a better battery chemistry is very difficult.  A battery must be: safe, light, small, cost-effective, disposable (or recyclable), and able to withstand thousands of recharging events while maintaining utility.
Yet another problem for batteries

The resources required to manufacture batteries may not be sustainable.  This IEEE article points out that given the world reserves of lithium (28 million tons), the amount of lithium per electric vehicle (20 kg), and the number of car sold each year (60 million) we have enough lithium for only 23 years of an all-electric fleet.  The authors note, “Even taking into account the possibility of lithium recycling, the competition for lithium in other applications would escalate price.”
This article in Environmental Science & Technology notes that the high demand electric vehicles place on rare earth elements dysprosium (Dy) and neodymium (Nd) “may result in large and disproportionate increases in demand for these two elements.”
Modern marvel:

I do not want to sound like a technology skeptic.  Perhaps all these problems will be solved, and batteries will become small, light, cost-effective, and sustainable.  It is important to note, though, that there is no solution in sight that solves even one of those problems.  Meanwhile, we have a practical alternative that has already been largely proven and can achieve our goals of affordable, sustainable, clean transportation.
We are so familiar and comfortable with the internal combustion engine we sometimes lose sight of what amazing machines they are.  The gasoline in a fully fueled car has about the same energy content as a thousand sticks of dynamite.  The internal combustion engine safely uses this fuel, creating 50 controlled explosions per second, operating reliably for years and hundreds of thousands of miles.  They operate at extremes of hot and cold temperature and at high elevation.  They are so clean that emissions are now hard to distinguish from ambient air.  They are made out of common materials, and therefore are so affordable that over 60,000,000 families each year buy a new one.
Perhaps most remarkable of all is that the Achates Power engine is much more efficient than the highly evolved conventional engines we take for granted today.

2015: A Look Ahead

David Johnson, President & CEO, Achates Power, Inc.by David Johnson
President & CEO
Achates Power, Inc.


2014 was a phenomenal year for Achates Power.  To support the increased market demand for our technology, as evidenced by a 300% increase in revenue and customer base that grew by 3x, we hired more great new team members and added office space.  Within last year we accumulated more than 1,000 dyno hours of testing, now surpassing 6,000 hours total, and presented our test  results at 11 industry-specific conferences around the globe, including SAE World Congress, SAE Commercial Vehicle Engineering Congress and the International Engine Congress.  We also secured six new U.S. patents and 13 new foreign patents, bringing our patent portfolio to over 1,800 unique innovations, 71 global patents and an additional 103 pending applications.


But we’re not stopping, nor slowing down.  We’re accelerating.  We remain steadfast in our goal of bringing to market the world’s most efficient engines, engines  that enable a cost-effective and sustainable future.  As we jump into 2015 we are already continuing to build on our strong growth results from 2014. Just twenty days into the new year and we’ve expanded our customer base by another step and our revenues continue to increase.


So why the sudden burst of growth? We’ve reached a tipping point in proving the viability of our engine technology.  With multicylinder results from two different engines that validate our performance and emission predictions that were previously based on single cylinder results, there is no longer any question that our engine technology can meet the most stringent emissions standards while delivering significant fuel economy advantages compared to state of the art conventional engines.  And based on our customers’ plans, we know our engines will reach the market and dramatically change the competitive landscape for vehicle manufacturers.  Each OEM around the globe, then, is considering whether to be among the early adopters or late adopters.  Given the high cost and intense effort required of a new engine program, I can understand why this seems like a difficult decision.  But the asymmetric risk/reward is causing OEM after OEM to embrace our technology sooner rather than later.


It takes roughly $10M to create and test a prototype engine of a new design, including the cost to design, analyze, fabricate, build, and test the engine.  For that $10M, an OEM can measure the performance and emissions of an engine based on our technology but specifically designed for their application and their customers.   A simplified decision matrix looks like this:


Technology Works

Technology Fails

Early Adopter

Gains billions in market cap

Loses $10M

Late Adopter

Threatens viability of company

Avoids loss of $10M


In the commercial vehicle space, even a 5% fuel economy advance is a complete game changer – customers will switch suppliers for a fraction of that given the economic value[1].  For passenger vehicles, increasingly stringent MPG and CO2 regulations around the world provide increasing benefits for efficiency-improving technology.


In the limit, the viability of an entire company is threatened if they miss an important technology shift.  In the heavy duty truck engine segment alone, two major competitors have exited the market since 2008 because the technical solution to tougher emissions standards did not work as well as their competitors.


Engine companies face a constant stream of decisions about which new technologies to embrace and all have asymmetric risk/rewards.  The opposed-piston engine is different in many important respects:

  • The magnitude of the improvement is so large as to represent existential threats to laggards.  An OEM may withstand a 1% fuel economy disadvantage for a period of time, using pricing and other tactics.  But with our OP engine technology, we can offer 20-30% improvements in efficiency, at no extra cost.
  • Evaluation of the technology does not require any research.  We’ve already done the research, over the last 10 years with an investment of $100M.  The technology evaluation requires a straight-forward, time-limited and budget-capped development program.


Early embrace of our technology is more than just a financial winner for our customers.  It also helps:


  • Reduce our reliance on fossil fuels


  • Reduce our production of harmful pollutants (HC, CO, NOx, PM, etc.)


  • Reduce our production of greenhouse gases, mainly CO2 but also methane, CFCs, etc.



As our momentum continues to grow in 2015 it will be increasingly difficult for executives to make the decision to be technology laggards.  This is good for them, good for us, and good for our planet.


The time is now, and we are ready. So here’s to 2015 and all the advances to be made!



David Johnson


[1]The average heavy duty truck in the U.S. travels 125,000 miles per year and gets around 7 miles per gallon.  Depending on the price of fuel, fuel costs are either the largest or second largest cost for truck operators.

Are Electric Vehicles the next bubble?

Larry Fromm, Vice President, Business and Strategy Development, Achates Powerby Larry Fromm
Vice President, Business and Strategy Development
Achates Power, Inc.


The 1841 book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay, describes a variety manias and bubbles throughout history and is still considered by many to be important in the study of social psychology and psychopathology.  Will a future edition include a chapter on electric cars? Will Telsa’s peak market capitalization of over $37 billion (as of 9/12/2014) be compared to the peak of the Dutch tulip mania, where a single tulip bulb sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled carpenter

“We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.” – Charles Mackay


In a recent speech at the North American International Auto Show, Tesla CEO Elon Musk defended electric cars, saying, “electric motors were ‘fundamentally’ better than gasoline engines in terms of efficiency.” I am not sure what Mr. Musk meant, but let’s look at some figures.
Do electric motors have less loss converting electricity to mechanical power?
Perhaps Mr. Musk means that electric motors have less loss converting electricity to mechanical power than gasoline engines have converting gasoline into mechanical power?  Surely Mr. Musk knows that is a facile argument – electricity is a way to store energy, but it’s not the source of energy. The electricity has to be generated first. To calculate the total impact of a vehicle, one must consider both the source of the energy and the impact of manufacturing (and later disposing of) the vehicle. When one considers the total life cycle impact of a vehicle, the picture is murkier.


Are EVs more economically efficient?
Maybe Mr. Musk means an EV is more economically efficient? Tesla’s website offers a calculator that is supposed to help determine this. Their base case uses a cost of electricity of $0.12 per kWh and a cost of gasoline of $3.90 per gallon, with the gasoline vehicle getting 22 mpg. Using these figures, the Tesla is indeed more cost effective to operate than a gasoline vehicle. But, the price of gasoline has plummeted since their August 12, 2014 benchmark – the national average is now $2.14 per gallon. And, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average fuel economy of cars in the U.S. is 36 miles per gallon.  Using these figures, the Telsa Model S is still more economically efficient to operate than a gasoline car, $.035 per mile vs. $0.059 per mile.
But we also have to look at the source of the electricity. Across the U.S., 39% of electricity comes from coal. Perhaps the case Mr. Musk is making is that a coal-power car is more economically efficient than a gasoline powered car?  That is not something to brag about, is it?
A coal-powered car?
Coal-powered cars are worse for the planet than gasoline powered cars, according to a recent study published by the National Academy of Science.  When one considers both air quality and carbon dioxide emissions, the authors actually conclude:
 “EVs powered by grid-average electricity … have greater negative impacts than do vehicles powered by gasoline.” 
Wait, what? A Tesla Model S usually sells for more than $100,000 or more than three times the average price of a new car in the U.S. and are subsidized by federal and state governments up to $10,000 and they are worse for the planet than a gasoline car? (Related question:  Why we are subsidizing expensive cars for rich individuals that save them operating expense while causing more environmental damage?)
Changing the Grid
Well, one might argue, it will all make sense once we change the grid. What if the electricity comes from less carbon-intense sources? California’s electricity comes from 60% natural gas, 12% hydroelectric, 9% nuclear, 7% wind, 7% geothermal, 3% biomass and 2% solar. According to the National Academy study, a EV powered from a grid that has 60% of its electricity from natural gas and 40% from “WWS” (wind, water, and solar) has about 61% less harmful impact to the planet than a gasoline car.  That’s good, right?
Yes, but there is a major problem. It is very expensive to move to a less carbon intense electrical grid. I live in California, so I know. Our electricity at home has a marginal cost of$ 0.36 per kWh (not the $0.12 Tesla uses in their calculator base case). The Tesla Model S can go 265 miles on 85 kWh, according to Tesla, or $0.115 per mile. A $50,000 BMW 5 series gets 34 miles per gallon, according to BMW. Premium gasoline at my local gas station this morning was $2.49 per gallon so the BMW costs $0.073 per mile to operate. A California Tesla S owner paid twice as much for his car, and pays 58% more to operate it. (In case you are wondering, at $3.92 per gallon, the Tesla S owner breaks even on fuel cost). And the BMW has a range of 629 miles vs. the Tesla’s 265 miles and can be refueled in 5 minutes at any of the 168,000 gas stations in the U.S.
The Facts
The fact is that in most places in the U.S., EVs cause more harm to the planet than gasoline cars. If we invest enormous amounts to move to a less carbon intense electric grid (as California has done) AND spend 2x to 3x as much for our vehicles AND spend 58% more to operate those vehicles, than we can significantly reduce the harmful impact of automobile use (for the few that can afford to buy and use them).
Fortunately, there is a better way to reduce the harmful impact of automobiles while maintaining affordability and utility. In a paper we published at the SAE World Congress in April 2014, we reported test results that show we can already meet the fully phased-in 2025 LEV III / Tier 3 emissions standard while improving efficiency vs. a gasoline engine by 86%. Using the data from the National Academy study, this engine will reduce harmful impact of emissions and carbon dioxide by 42% – at about the same costs as today’s engines and vehicles, using the same gasoline, and now in a vehicle with a range of over 1000 miles (San Diego to Boston with just two stops!)
If we put this new and better engine into a hybrid vehicle, we can reduce harmful impact of the car by 60% compared to today’s gasoline car – virtually the same benefit as the expensive low carbon grid with an expensive EV with expensive electricity. But because of its much greater affordability and utility, this is a vehicle customers will want to buy and drive, without subsidy.
The Future
Petroleum based fuels are a finite resource.  At least EVs prepare for a post-petroleum future, don’t they? Not so fast.
In a paper recently published by IEEE, Dr. Sebastian Verhelst makes the argument that the ultimate solution for transportation is using solar power to formulate methanol or DME[1] from H20 and CO2 for use in an efficient, clean internal combustion engine. Because methanol and DME have no carbon-carbon bonds, it does not generate particulate matter – the main contributor to health impacts cited by the National Academy in their recent study. Because the fuels are formed from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, their net carbon contribution is zero. In other words, rather than electricity carrying energy from where it is produced to where it is used in our vehicles, methanol is better suited to be the energy carrier because of the better cost and utility of creating, carrying, and using the energy.
Mass Impact Requires Mass Adoption
So maybe the hundreds of billions of dollars being invested in electric vehicles and infrastructure are misdirected and ill-fated. If an Achates Power engine, running on gasoline initially and methanol eventually, can deliver the same or better benefits at much lower cost and much higher utility…well economic gravity takes over. A better solution that costs about the same as today’s engines and vehicles, delivers much better efficiency and much lower environmental impact is a solution that consumers will want to buy and use. To have mass impact, we have to have mass adoption. To have mass adoption, a solution has to be both environmentally sustainable and economically sustainable. It has to be cost effective for consumers on its own because it is impossible to subsidize at scale. Despite massive subsidies and despite historically high fuel prices until just recently, EVs have had virtually zero impact because they have had virtually zero adoption – according to the Wall Street Journal, just 0.3% of new vehicles registered in the U.S. since the start of 2012 are fully electric powered.
We must do better.  And we can – with the right solution. Achates Power is that solution.


Update:  After this blog entry was posted, Bjorn Lomborg expressed a similar point of view in USA Today.

[1] Dr. Verhelst prefers methanol but a strong case can be made for the related DME

The Achates Power Engine: A Game Changer for the Truck Industry?

Roland Martin, Business Development Director, Achates Powerby Roland Martin
Business Development Director
Achates Power, Inc.


As Americans are finding out that modern diesel engines are among the cleanest and most sustainable propulsion systems available in the market today, diesel engines are gaining momentum in the US.  In Europe more than 50% of passenger cars and almost 100% of light commercial vehicles are powered by state-of-the-art clean, diesel engines.  As the US press and customers start to understand the diesel engine’s advantage of delivering a great driving experience combined with outstanding fuel economy, automakers are expecting a significant rise in sales for diesel powered vehicles.


Gasoline and diesel engines have undergone tremendous improvements during the past 20 years, but the potential to further improve the fuel efficiency of traditional 4-stroke engines is reaching the point of diminishing returns… even small improvements in efficiency come with a steep price tag.


Achates Power re-discovered the already record setting fuel efficiency of the opposed-piston engine. With its inherent thermodynamic advantages, and Achates Power’s proprietary state-of-the-art design and engineering, Achates Power has built and demonstrated clean, dramatically more efficient, and low cost engines that we need for decades to come.


The fuel economy comparison of pickup trucks under real-life driving conditions published by AUTOLINE DAILY in episode #1479 dated October 15th is impressive, and the growing diesel take rate for the RAM trucks is encouraging.  But compare this to the fuel economy of Achates Power’s opposed-piston engine in a full-size pick-up truck, and you are looking at the automotive and truck industry’s big game changer in the years to come.


For more information, please refer to the Achates Power website and our published Technical Papers, or in particular to Achates Power’s Light-duty Engine Technical Paper from the 2014 SAE World Congress.


What Makes A “Best Competitor” in the Green Car Space?

David Johnson, President & CEO, Achates Power, Inc.by David Johnson
President & CEO
Achates Power, Inc.


Yesterday, The Green Car Reports, published an article called “Plug-In Hybrids Are The Best Competitors To Fuel-Cell Vehicles: Here’s Why.” This immediately grabbed my attention and the article made some interesting points, but also got me thinking. What is the true definition of  “Best Competitors” in this space?

The Green Car Reports article seems to focus on vehicles that are easier to use (long driving range between refueling stops and short refueling stops at refueling stations that are already available), so it takes a functional view of the products on offer or that will be offered, but it doesn’t take into account cost, price or any other financial/economic measure.  That’s missing the mark (at least in the real world).


I think “Best Competitors” are those that best meet or exceed all the real world needs of all customers.  And we usually judge these in the marketplace by sales volume and profitability in the long run (anyone can boost sales volume for some period of time by giving away their product. IE: see price cuts on the Ford Focus EV of ~$10,000 since it was first launched and let’s see what it does to their sales volume in the coming months and years).


What are all the real world needs of customers?  Well that is indeed a trillion dollar question (about 80 million vehicles sold per year worldwide at let’s say about $15,000 per vehicle = $1.2 Trillion annually, if I’m keeping track of my zeros and commas successfully) that every vehicle manufacturer is striving to answer every day.  Well, I won’t be the one to make “the list” and declare that my list is “the correct and definitive list” but I will argue that if this list excludes the cost for the average consumer to purchase the vehicle, it is missing a HUGE part of the real world customer needs.

Most customers cannot afford EVs, PHEVs, Natural Gas vehicles nor FCEV’s- they just cost too much. Even with price cuts and government incentives, they are not an affordable option for the majority of consumers. Additionally, current prices are already too low for manufacturers to make money on these products, not making them a real viable option for manufactures. Therefore, none of these technologies are the “best competitors.” None of these sell in high volumes… none of these will sell in high volumes unless and/or until costs are reduced.


The world needs, we need, clean, efficient, durable, reliable, safe, fun-to-drive, good looking, highly useful vehicles that can be afforded by 80 million buyers around the world each and every year.  The product that fits this description relies on a clean and efficient internal combustion engine.  And I’d be pleased to suggest that the best IC engine for all future transportation needs is the Achates Power engine.


Diesel: The Alternative Fuel

Bryan Knight, Engine Development Engineerby: Bryan Knight
Engine Development Engineer
Achates Power, Inc.

In an age where the national news is dominated by reports on rising fuel costs and greenhouse gas regulations, consumers are aware of the different alternative fuels that promise to save money at the pump and reduce tailpipe emissions.  These fuels—such as natural gas, ethanol, biodiesel, and hydrogen—are designed to decrease the carbon footprint of vehicles; market penetration, however, has been slower than expected. Ultimately, a significant reduction in fuel costs and carbon emissions will not be realized by a new fuel type alone, but rather by a better internal combustion engine that substantially increases the efficiency of our vehicles.
A study that addressed the question of why alternative fuels have showed slow adoption was completed at the Institute of Transportation Studies in 2007. It examined the adoption of natural gas vehicles in several countries, including the United States. For widespread acceptance of natural gas to take place, it is of paramount importance to implement a sufficient fueling infrastructure. As summarized in a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the lack of infrastructure for alternative fuels continues to pose the greatest barrier to widespread adoption in the U.S. Time has shown that alternatives without a dedicated infrastructure will fail to saturate the market. As such, we need to reevaluate fuels, such as diesel, which already have a mature infrastructure in place.
Earlier this year, Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, a member of the board of management of Daimler Trucks and Buses, surprised listeners in a keynote address by saying “My alternative fuel is diesel,” and “I don’t see any replacement of diesel in the near future, not even in the long run.” Dr. Bernhard reminds us that diesel fuel has often been overlooked, and he is convinced that “a highly efficient diesel engine will be [the way] to reduce emissions.”
Only through a substantial increase in the efficiency of current engines can we decrease our dependence on petroleum and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As summarized in a market report compiled by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2013 for the U.S. Department of Energy, the transportation sector accounted for 71% of total U.S. petroleum use—more petroleum than the U.S. produced annually. This cost the economy $500 billion in 2012 and accounted for 33% of total CO2 emissions nationwide. Stop for a second to think about the magnitude of these numbers. To lessen our dependence on oil and reduce emissions to the environment, it does not come as a surprise that the engines in our vehicles need to be much more efficient.
The vision at Achates Power—to design a better internal combustion engine that is both environmentally and economically sustainable—is perfectly aligned with these global challenges.  Our modernization of the opposed-piston architecture has allowed us to achieve increased engine efficiency that results in substantial reductions in CO2 emissions.  With the publication of our latest light-duty engine performance and emissions results, we have shown that our engine has the potential to meet stringent Tier 3/LEV III emissions and CAFE 2025 while delivering a 30% fuel economy improvement over modern diesel engines equipped with the most advanced technologies.  These benefits also apply to fuels other than diesel. In fact, we have already done extensive testing with natural gas and will continue to optimize our architecture so that it works with the best fuels available on the market. Using our technology, the world can decrease its petroleum dependence while, at the same time, reduce harmful pollutant emissions.
Dr. Bernhard’s hypothesis may be proved correct in time; diesel, with its significant infrastructure and high efficiency potential will not be replaced. However, in order to meet future efficiency and emissions targets around the globe, the internal combustion engine is due for some exciting changes, and we are passionate in our vision to get us there.

Advanced Combustion and the Achates Power Engine

Rishi Venugopal, Senior Staff Engineer, Achates Powerby Rishi Venugopal Senior Staff Engineer Achates Power, Inc.

Last month, I had the opportunity to organize and co-chair a technical session at SAE World Congress on efficiency and emissions in compression-ignition combustion. In my session as well as several others, there were a number of papers focused on advanced combustion concepts aimed at simultaneously controlling emissions and improving engine efficiency. This is not surprising as we head towards CAFE regulations for on-highway applications and, likewise, strict emissions standards for industrial power generation and marine applications. At this year’s World Congress as well as over the past few years, there has been a surge in the R&D activity of universities, research institutes and OEMs to accelerate the evaluation and development of advanced combustion regimes. Continue reading

Revolutionizing Vehicle Transportation

Fabien Redon, Vice President, Technology Development, Achates Powerby Fabien Redon Vice President, Technology Development Achates Power, Inc.

Last week, I had the privilege of presenting our light-duty diesel engine’s latest performance and emissions results at the SAE High Efficiency IC Engine Symposium and SAE World Congress. It’s always an honor to share our work with automotive executives, analysts, academics and engineers. And, it’s even more meaningful when those same individuals realize the potential our engine has to revolutionize passenger and commercial vehicle transportation. Continue reading