By Kristen Tatti
VanDyne SuperTurbo, Inc.™ is really starting to pick up speed in its journey to
revolutionize the auto industry.
The VanDyne SuperTurbo™ will be tested in the U.S. Army's Heavy
Equipment Transporter truck.
On the eve to a trip to the Society of Automotive Engineering World Congress in Detroit earlier this month, the Fort Collins-based startup finalized a contract to provide the U.S. Army with an analysis of how the company's engine technology would perform in a heavy equipment transport truck. VanDyne, an RMII company that spun out of Woodward Governor Co. in September, develops a device that can deliver fuel savings of 25 percent in passenger vehicles and heavy-duty engines.
The Small Business Innovation Research grant will give VanDyne $70,000 to provide a mathematical model of how the SuperTurbo™ will perform on the large engines. The goal is to increase fuel efficiency and maximum horsepower by 7 percent compared to a traditional military fleet turbocharged engine.
Company founder Ed VanDyne explained that the Phase 1 report could, and
often does, lead to a $750,000 Phase 2 grant that would put a test engine to
work to validate the claims made in Phase 1. Phase 3 would be a grant for
development and field-testing in non-combat situations.
VanDyne explained that the Army could benefit from the technology in three
ways: fuel efficiency, reduced emissions and more powerful acceleration. The SuperTurbo™ combines a turbocharger and a supercharger and uses turbocompounding - the recovery of energy from exhaust - to improve engine efficiency. Transporting fuel can be costly, not to mention dangerous, in combat areas. Emissions reduction is not only beneficial to the environment, it's also a safety issue. VanDyne explained that the diesel engines used in some of the military's vehicles actually produce soot, announcing the approach of a convoy from miles away. Lastly, gains in acceleration speed can be a matter of life or death for a vehicle under fire.
The SBIR contract has the company focused on one engine in a single military vehicle. VanDyne said that from early meetings with the Army there is indication that the SuperTurbo™ could be put to use in other military vehicles as well. While the military represents a low-volume customer relative to the entire automotive market, it tends to have a corroborating effect.
"It proves to potential investors that other people believe in your technology,"
The SuperTurbo™ already has validation in its roots. The technology comes from years of development at Woodward, an international engine control company. The spinoff agreement allows VanDyne SuperTurbo, Inc.™ to continue development of the technology and deploy it in the light vehicle market. In this case, light vehicle means anything with an engine smaller than 17 liters. VanDyne explained that the largest on-highway freight trucks have 16-liter engines. Technically the HET vehicles, charged with hauling tanks, would be outside the agreement, but VanDyne negotiated exclusive rights to the U.S. Army.
"It's a different avenue for raising money," he said of the military focus.
VanDyne SuperTurbo, Inc.™ submitted the application for this SBIR grant withinweeks of spinning off from Woodward. So far, the company has submitted eight U.S. government contracts, received three preliminary awards and have the one signed contract.
The contracts could help the company keep up with the growth expected soon as work with a European auto manufacturer starts to ramp up. However, it won't fulfill all the its capital needs. VanDyne has been meeting with potential investors for a major capital raise. Several of the firms are based in the United Kingdom, where fuel costs more than $7 per gallon. The capital raise would allow the company to ramp up to production at a scale large enough to satisfy a major auto manufacturer.