Detroit Bureau on Twitter

Posts Tagged ‘khosla ventures’

Skip Fire System Could Slash Fuel Consumption

GM invests in promising Silicon Valley start-up.

by on Jan.06, 2015

A diagram showing the Dynamic Skip Fire system at work, selectively shutting down cylinders.

Facing tough new fuel economy standards, automakers are frantically searching for ways to boost mileage, and General Motors is betting it may have found one of the possible solutions coming out of Silicon Valley.

The maker’s investment arm, GM Ventures, is pumping cash into startup Tula Technology which is developing a system it calls Dynamic Skip Fire. The technology allows a vehicle to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 15% by briefly shutting off individual cylinders when the demand for power is reduced.

Subscribe for Free!

“This technology holds the potential to improve fuel economy on select GM vehicles without degrading power capability when it’s required,” said Jon Lauckner, GM chief technology officer, vice president of Global R&D and president of GM Ventures. “This joint effort combines software expertise from Silicon Valley with powertrain expertise from General Motors.”


Bill Gates Betting $23.5 million on Detroit Start-Up

Microsoft founder one of two key investors in new EcoMotors project.

by on Jul.13, 2010

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is betting $23.5 million on a promising new engine technology, the opoc.

He’s better known as a tech guru – and, since his retirement from Microsoft, as a mega-philanthropist.  But Seattle billionaire Bill Gates is now betting on what some have described as a revolutionary new automotive engine technology.

Gates is one of two new principal investors in EcoMotors, a suburban Detroit start-up that is developing a technology called the opoc motor.  Short for opposed piston-opposed cylinder, its developers claim it can run on either regular unleaded gasoline or diesel and not only boosts fuel economy but also reduces the number of parts needed compared to a conventional gas or diesel powertrain.

The Microsoft founder is putting up $23.5 million in two-year-old EcoMotors.  He is joined as a new investor by Khosla Ventures, a major investment firm from Menlo Park, California.  The Silicon Valley venture capital firm’s founder, Vinod Khosla, was one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems.

The new engine “can be an important step in providing affordable, low-emissions transportation for the developing world,” said Gates, explaining his involvement in the EcoMotors project.  He has steered a significant share of his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation cash to third-world projects, such as the elimination of malaria.  But his personal involvement in the auto industry – beyond Microsoft’s push into auto technology – is new.


EcoMotors’ appeal is twofold.  There’s the new technology, and a set of old names.  The venture is run by one-time General Motors wunderkind Don Runkle, who left the maker to work at its parts spin-off, Delphi Corp., before venturing out on his own.  He serves as CEO, while John Coletti, best known for his work on Ford Motor Co.’s performance vehicles, is president and chief operating officer.  The basic design of the opoc engine, meanwhile, was developed by Peter Hofbauer, former head of powertrain development at Volkswagen AG.  Hofbauer is EcoMotors chairman.