GM, Westport sign pact to develop natural gas engine tech

Automaker General Motors and clean-engine specialist Westport Innovations will partner to develop advanced natural gas engine technology.

American automaker General Motors and clean-engine specialist Westport Innovations announced on Tuesday that they will partner to develop advanced natural gas engine technology.

Natural gas, of course, burns cleaner and is less expensive than gasoline.

The announcement dovetails with Westport's recent announcement to acquire Italy's Emer S.p.A., manufacturer of compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) components.

To pursue R&D on natural gas tech for OEMs, Westport will open new "technical center" in Michigan, as well as research facilities specifically focused on natural gas for business and government fleets. The company seeks to apply efficiencies to gasoline-powered engines -- hybridization, turbocharging, direct injection, etc. -- to natural gas versions.

Presumably, GM has some sort of exclusive deal for technology developed under the agreement, but the terms were not disclosed.

Westport leads the industry in patents for natural gas technology; giving GM access to its intellectual property helps the automaker leap from No. 7 in patents to No. 1, ahead of CAT, Toyota, Ford, Siemens and Fiat.

Meanwhile, the deal gives Westport the muscle to license its extensive patent portfolio broadly in the market.

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