Friday February 8, 2013 1 commentsBy Katrina Pfannkuch
FORT COLLINS -- Fort Collins-based VanDyne SuperTurbo, Inc. is combining NASA technology and energy efficiency innovations to make a big splash in the trucking world.
The company recently won the Frost & Sullivan's 2012 North American New Product Innovation Award in the Automotive Powertrain Market for their VanDyne SuperTurbo and is currently working with customers in the United States, Japan and Germany on truck engines and construction equipment.
As an all-in-one engine solution that can be retrofitted onto a truck engine, the VanDyne SuperTurbo is designed to increase torque and engine performance, fuel efficiency and horsepower through exhaust heat energy recovery, while at the same time reducing CO2and soot emissions, engine size and turbo lag. [See video below.]
In short, it tackles many key challenges truck engine makers need to address to become more environmentally sustainable while at the same time maintaining or improving overall engine performance and saving fuel.
"The SuperTurbo is actually like adding a mini-jet engine to a piston engine but also helps it use less fuel," says company founder Ed VanDyne, president and CEO.
According to a recent press release, the VanDyne SuperTurbo "integrates the functionality of supercharging and turbocharging into a single device, which improves transient fuel efficiency and reduces soot emissions. The SuperTurbo also provides a third benefit called turbocompounding, which increases engine efficiency from the collection of waste heat energy in the exhaust pipe."
VanDyne SuperTurbo started as a spin-off company of Woodward in 2009 after Woodward invested $4.5 million in the technology. Investor money was raised for startup funds and the company is run by founder Ed VanDyne. A life-long entrepreneur with a passion for the auto industry, VanDyne started his first business at age 12 focusing on car diagnostics and repair.
While at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, VanDyne patented an idea focused on developing a better spark ignition system that later turned into a basis for a spin-off company. He ran that company for 14 years before selling it to Woodward in 2004.
When he moved to Colorado to become Woodward's director of research, VanDyne started doing extensive research and work on the SuperTurbo and proved the fundamental concept was efficient and workable. In 2008 at a meeting with Volkswagen, he was informed of the real impact it could make on the auto industry. So Woodward set up VanDyne with his own company to run in 2009 for further research and development of the SuperTurbo.
VanDyne Super Turbo is focused on heavy truck engines, construction equipment, U.S. Army engines and retrofit kits for truck fleets. The window from development to market is shorter for retrofit kits, and there is high demand to curb fuel use and environmental impact of large vehicles.
The best part about the SuperTurbo is that no internal engine modifications are required because it can be retrofit to current engines.
"The biggest near-term benefits of the SuperTurbo are that it's easy for consumers to adopt and increases the market for natural gas by making big improvements to dual-fuel engines," says VanDyne. "It is the only system of its kind that can significantly improve the efficiency and drivability of dual-fuel (natural gas-and-diesel) engines.
"The SuperTurbo can shift the ratio of how much air the engine is getting on diesel vs. natural gas. When large vehicles can switch between the two types of fuel, it's easier to use whatever fuel source is available along the travel route," VanDyne said. "The thought behind dual-fuel is that if drivers use up natural gas in the tank, they can switch to the diesel as a backup. It will be easier for the market to determine the amount of infrastructure (i.e. number of LNG fuel stations), as well as the amount of natural gas needed to support this country's fuel needs over the long-term."
The SuperTurbo can be used in truck/fleet highway trucking, natural gas engines, off-highway vehicles, automobiles, motorsports, hybrid vehicles and marine engines as well as small power plant generators and backup power for wind and solar energy farms.
It can be added to on-highway, heavy-duty truck engines without modification and provides between a 3 and 6 percent reduction in fuel consumption. The fourth generation of the SuperTurbo is now being tested on 15-liter diesel engines.
"Right now, we are focused primarily on large vehicles including trucks, buses and military-based vehicles, but those vehicles also use a considerable amount of fuel for basic operation," says Mark Herbst, COO and general manager.
"We've been working with the Department of Defense on an SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) grant (a government-funded grant for U.S. companies that are more than 50 percent individual-owned), which allowed us to build and deliver a SuperTurbo for the U.S. Army to work on their large trucks. The Army's SuperTurbo will be tested at TACOM (Tank and Automotive Command) in Warren, Michigan in the next few months."
Van Dyne has several industry partners, including Woodward, Northwater Capital, Colorado State University and the U.S. Department of Energy.
An innovative spirit
"My innovative ideas come from a place of 'How can I make this better, how can I make this more efficiently? What could I do better on this engine or car?'" says VanDyne.
"And innovation is key to making a business. Even though I've invented 60 - 70 things, I don't patent them until they are part of a business, and I've done that with the SuperTurbo," he said. "The SuperTurbo is actually scheduled to become part of a Smithsonian exhibit in 2014 (See American Enterprise) on the history of business and innovation, and they've requested my invention notebooks to showcase my personal innovation process."
"Innovation for our company is also customer-driven," adds Herbst. "A lot of the work we've done is in response to customer needs and feedback on our products."
Herbst said close relationships with customers allow for a free and honest dialogue and help keep VanDyne in line with or ahead of industry trends.
According to VanDyne, the bigger picture is that the SuperTurbo will reduce obstacles to using natural gas engines and make them competitive with diesel while also helping clean up the environment.
By 2024, new federal regulations will require cars to get 54 mpg, opening an opportunity for SuperTurbo to be adapted for consumer automobiles at an affordable cost by that time.
How the VanDyne SuperTurbo Works video: