The California Energy Commission (CEC) and utility Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) have awarded Westport Innovations Inc., in partnership with the Gas Technology Institute, $900,000 toward a program to advance natural gas combustion technology.
Westport says the work will feature the company’s enhanced spark ignited (ESI) natural gas engine technology and demonstrate “high frequency corona discharge ignition” on an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partner’s engine. The engine has a displacement of between 1 and 1.5 liters per cylinder and is targeted at medium-duty commercial vehicle applications.
“Next-generation natural gas engines of this class will be smaller, lighter, lower cost and have even higher performance than modern diesel engines because we can exploit the advantages of natural gas as a high-performance fuel with naturally lower emissions challenges,” says Brad Douville, Westport’s vice president of business.
“This new program builds on our ESI foundation by integrating corona discharge ignition technology, which opens a number of new opportunities for even higher engine performance, efficiency and reliability at lower maintenance costs than current spark ignition hardware,” he continues. “We would expect that, if this program is successful, Westport ESI systems integrating corona discharge technology could become commercially available in as soon as four years.”
Of the total program funding, $750,000 is coming from the CEC and $150,000 is being provided by SoCalGas. Westport will contribute approximately $250,000 in additional funds for a total of $1.15 million.
“The CEC is committed to supporting the development of advanced transportation technologies that use alternative or renewable fuel sources,” says CEC Chair Robert Weisenmiller. “These solutions are essential components of the state’s strategy to address local air quality issues and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.”
“SoCalGas supports rapid commercialization of natural-gas-powered vehicles as a key strategy to help California’s South Coast basin attain clean air standards and greenhouse-gas reduction commitments,” adds Rodger Schwecke, vice president of customer solutions at SoCalGas. “Innovative technology that enables clean-burning natural gas engines, designed for medium-duty commercial trucks to outperform the power delivery of diesel engines, will facilitate the rapid conversion of truck fleets to natural gas. This will reduce targeted pollutant emissions dramatically.”