GM Joining Westport to Develop Natural Gas Engines

Program will emphasize controls and emissions for light-duty vehicles

General Motors Corp. and Westport Innovations Inc. have formed a research program to develop a new natural gas engine technology for business and government fleets, and personal use. The investment value of the program was not announced, but Westport stated both companies would contribute expertise toward new natural gas engine controls and emissions and performance strategies.

The automaker has not commented on the planned program.

Westport will open a new technical center in Michigan to carry out research on natural gas-powered, alternative-fuel vehicles, and it plans to expand its R&D capability to support natural-gas projects for automotive OEM programs. “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,” according to John Lapetz, Westport’s Light-Duty Division managing director for North American vehicle programs.

Westport Innovations is a Vancouver company that develops alternative fuel, low-emissions technologies and manufactures engines that operate on compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, hydrogen, and biofuels, e.g., landfill gas. Its operating divisions focus on light-duty automotive systems, components, and engines; and natural gas-enabling technology for the heavy-duty diesel engines.

Cummins Westport Inc. is a joint venture with Cummins Inc. that sells low-emissions alternative fuel engines for buses and trucks.

The GM project follows Westport’s acquisition earlier this month of Emer S.p.A., a CNG and LPG fuel system developer. “Natural gas is 97% North American-sourced and much less expensive than gasoline or diesel fuels,” said Lapetz. “It also produces about 15-20% less CO2 than those fuels.”

“We are excited to work with GM and invest in advanced natural gas technology for the automotive market,” stated 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.”

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