Khosla Ventures has increased its investment in fuel-injection company Transonic Combustion, Inc. to become the company’s largest preferred shareholder. Transonic is an R&D-phase company developing an advanced fuel injection system for automobiles which promises to dramatically increase fuel efficiency. This fuel injection system allows engines to run on gasoline, diesel and a wide range of bio-renewables.
Transonic says that a unique aspect of its technology is that it can precisely control fuel heat release during the combustion process without using spark ignition or relying on compression ignition.
Although it is holding details on the technology close, Transonic says that the technology achieves ultra-high efficiency by operating conventional gasoline engines at ultra-high compression ratios and incorporates very precise ignition timing and carefully minimized waste heat generation.
A key aspect of the technology is a new type of fuel injector. This injector can be supplemented by advanced thermal management, EGR, electronic valves, and advanced combustion chamber geometries.
Along with operating conventional engines with high efficiency on gasoline, this technology can utilize fuels on the basis of their chemical heat capacity largely independent of their octane or cetane ratings. Economical, highly functional mixtures of renewable plant products can be utilized which are not practical in either spark ignition or conventional compression ignition engines, according to the company.
The 18-month-old company has progressed from single cylinder research to current full size car engine testing. Transonic is in the process of developing a 100 mpg technology demonstrator in a sports car which is targeted to be on the road by the third quarter of 2008.
The company is moving towards commercialization plans and has started to recruit experts in the automotive, combustion science, materials science and ultra-precision manufacturing areas. Recent additions to the Transonic team include:
Mike Frick, formerly chief engineer for direct injection systems at Delphi with prior positions as strategic planner and chief engineer for injection systems at Siemens.
Dr. Dan Flowers, an advanced combustion researcher from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Dr. Feng Bin, a lubrication and seals expert, from Ford Motor Company and then Visteon, following its spinout from Ford.
With the additional investment, Vinod Khosla has joined the board of directors. Khosla Ventures participated in the first and second rounds of funding, in conjunction with Venrock and Rustic Canyon. The size of the investment was not disclosed, but was at a substantially higher valuation than the Transonic’s second round of funding which closed July 2007.
Transonic was founded by Mike Cheiky, a serial inventor/entrepreneur with expertise in batteries, fuel cells and computer architecture. Cheiky was the founder of Ohio Scientific, Zinc Matrix Power and V-Star.
Transonic’s innovative fuel injection system is an important building block in developing the next generation of fuel-efficient engines. Our commitment to growing Transonic’s business complements our firm’s additional investments in the engine space. Credit should be given to these firms for their work toward developing the 100 mile per gallon car in the coming years.—Vinod Khosla
Last week, Khosla Ventures announced an investment in EcoMotors, a company that is developing a new family of compact, modular, efficient diesel engines. (Earlier post.)