Westport and GM Sign Second Natural Gas Technological Collaboration Agreement

As natural gas prices continue to decline, and manufacturers make further inroads into developing engines to use it, Westport Innovations Inc. said yesterday it has signed a second agreement with General Motors for advanced engineering development for light-duty vehicles.

The Vancouver, B.C. based company describes itself as “the global leader in natural gas engines,” and says it and GM will collaborate on further natural gas engine controls, emissions and performance strategies.

“The expansion of our advanced natural gas technology collaboration with GM provides the potential for greater fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions for the industry and the consumer,” said Ian Scott, president of Westport Light Duty. “Our continued growth in light-duty is an important part of Westport’s overall commitment to innovative natural gas transportation solutions.”

The goal is one more aspect of a multi-pronged approach to curbing CO2 emissions and increasing fuel economy in light of looming mandates.

While companies have irons in the fire for every other technology including hybrid, all-electric, diesel and hydrogen fuel cells, natural gas is an available resource and the ongoing pitch is on in its favor.

“We have an abundant, inexpensive, and domestic resource in the United States, and there is great potential for natural gas vehicles to realize better efficiency, environmental benefits, and cost savings,” said John Lapetz, vice president of Westport LD and Managing Director North American Vehicle Programs.

Westport’s first natural gas co-development agreement with GM took place last July. Just in this month Westport also announced it had opened a center in Kentucky in collaboration with Ford, and had signed a deal with Caterpillar to utilize its High Pressure Direct Injection (HPDI) technology. In May it also signed a deal with Volvo trucks among other strategic alliances it has been making.

No doubt we’ll see more such natural gas collaborative agreements from Westport and others in the technological race generally intended to lead toward cleaner air and less dependence on petroleum.

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  • Party McAnimal

    Questions about natural gas engines
    1) On impact, what are the dangers of extreme combustion vs. a gas tank?
    2) Natural gas has no weight, making a car lighter…or does the impact points surrounding a tank, the extra thick gas lines, etc. (probably the same weight and thickness of an acetylene tank) make car weight a wash?
    3) What is the range of a natural gas vehicle between fill-ups?

  • William

    Some answers to your questions:
    1) Extreme Combustion – I would say there is actually less of a risk because if the tank is punctured the gas will leak out and quickly dissipate because it is less dense than the surrounding air. If you puncture a gasoline tank, the fuel will pool directly underneath and presents more of a fire hazard

    2) Weight – First, natural gas does have weight. At standard temperature and pressure CNG is less dense (lighter) than air, but when compressed into a tank at 3600 psi it becomes more dense than the air around us. When full, my car holds 44.6 lbs of natural gas in its tanks. As for overall weight, my 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas has a curb weight of 2855 lbs, whereas the 2012 Civic LX (sedan, with automatic transmission, like mine) has a curb weight of 2705 lbs, so there is a slight weight penalty.

    3) Range – I normally fill my car with 3000 psi gas (so I can only put about 37 lbs of gas in the tanks) and I typically get 240-260 miles per tank (plus approximately another 30 miles of range past the empty mark); I have gone over 300 miles on a tank filled to 3600 psi. Disclaimer: This is 95% highway driving, range is less for city driving.

  • Max Reid

    Excellent William.

    Ideally automakers should offer bi-fuel vehicles which go 100 miles on natgas and remaining 250 miles on gasolene and the price should be affordable like 2-3K more than similar sized gasolene vehicle.

    Worldwide there are 20 million + CNG vehicles and they are catching up fast.

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  • Al Bunzel

    I’d like to see a plug in hybrid (where the ICE is small, CNG powered and turbo charged, & for the electric side the batteries enable the car to drive in EV only mode for at least 100 miles or more at highway speeds).

    In countries like USA and Australia with large Natural Gas reserves, I don’t understand why we bother to import gasoline or oil.

    Also, USA and Australia has a lot of under utilized opportunities with solar, wind, hydro and other renewable forms of energy. We should focus on exploiting renewable forms of energy as well.