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Bill Gates-backed EcoMotors plans first engine factory in China

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EcoMotors International, the fuel- efficient engine maker backed by billionaires Bill Gates and Vinod Khosla,  has chosen “the biggest engine market in the world” as the location for its first factory: China.

Zhongding Power would be the first manufacturer to produce EkoMotors’ OPOC (opposed piston, opposed cylinder) engine whose features are said to include smaller size, lower cost, higher fuel economy and fewer emissions. Automotive-parts conglomerate Anhui Zhongding Holding Group Co. will provide considerable financial support for the project, investing more than $200 million to build the plant in China’s Anhui province,  Michigan-based EcoMotors said today.

Closely held EcoMotors expects the plant to produce 150,000 engines a year starting in 2014, representing $1 billion of potential revenue, chief executive officer Don Runkle said in a phone interview. The engines would be supplied to a range of customers for use in commercial and off-road vehicles as well as stationary generator sets.

The deal “gives us a toehold in the biggest … and fastest-growing engine market in the world,” Runkle said. EcoMotors’s Opoc engine uses opposed pistons and cylinders that improve fuel economy and lower greenhouse-gas emissions by as much as 50 percent compared to conventional engines, Runkle said. The company has talked to potential customers including Airbus SAS, Boeing Co. and Generac Power Systems Inc.

The company’s’ decision is a feather in the cap of China’s new President Xi Jinping.  Xi has taken pains to encourage foreign investment and ease concerns about investment restrictions on foreign companies.

Xi said on Monday that China would “protect the lawful rights and interests of foreign-invested companies” and “ensure their rights” to equal participation in government procurement and independent innovation.

“China will never close its door to the outside world,” he said. “Now that we have opened this door we will not close it, not for now and not in the future.”

The comments came after senior executives from companies including PepsiCo, Volvo and Samsung met Xi, who became president last month, to express their concerns including about restriction on types of investments they can make.

  • Bill Gates-backed EcoMotors plans first engine factory in China

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