October 4, 2011, Xconomy.com - When Ecomotors International set out to change the way car and truck engines are built, it set up shop in Livonia, MI, a suburb of Detroit, in hopes of eventually licensing its technology to the big U.S. automakers. It was a calculated risk. As radical as Ecomotors’ opposed-piston engine design may be, at least the company’s founder, Peter Hofbauer, has unquestionable auto-industry credentials—he’s the guy who helped Volkswagen build its first mass-production diesel engine.
Pinnacle Engines isn’t even bothering with Detroit. The San Carlos, CA, startup, which recently won the backing of the world’s largest venture capital firm, is also developing an opposed-piston engine, one that promises to marry the fuel efficiency of diesel technology with the lower cost structure of gasoline-burning engines. But Pinnacle’s founder, James Montague “Monty” Cleeves, is a veteran of the semiconductor industry; for him, designing engines and tinkering with cars was always an avocation, not a profession. He’s pretty convinced that Detroit will never listen to his ideas—so Pinnacle is looking farther east for its first commercialization opportunities. Much farther east. To India, in fact.