Freedom Motors has developed a version of its Rotapower® rotary engine that can use contaminated biogas to generate electricity. Biogas is a major source of man-made methane emissions which now appear to be driving climate change.
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There is an increasing global demand for engines that are both environmentally friendly and efficient. We believe the existing engines in the market that respond to this demand are heavy, expensive, and unsuitable for many applications such as consuming contaminated biogas in order to mitigate global warming.
Our team at Freedom Motors (the Company) believes we offer a solution: The Rotapower® rotary engine, which is very small in size and powerful with multiple patented features that make it one of the most flexible, efficient, durable, and powerful engines in history.'
While the Rotapower® engine can be a superior source of power for many applications (as shown in Exhibit A), there are three emerging and existing power-plant needs where there is no meaningful competition:
Powerplant for Personal Air Vehicles (PAVs) often referred to as “flying cars”. We believe that the high power together with its low weight and size have the potential to make PAV’s viable with this engine technology.
Range extender for electric cars. In this application the Rotapower® engine is no larger than a shoe box while a competing piston engine is the size of a large suitcase.
The Rotapower® engine’s simplicity with only two moving parts means direct and indirect costs will be lower than those for piston, turbine, or conventional rotary engines.
By investing in Freedom Motor’s Rotapower® engine you are not only investing in smart and accessible technology that could help reduce global warming, but also in powering future personal ground and airborne transportation systems.
Freedom Motors has built and demonstrated Rotapower rotary engines of various sizes, from 2.5 hp to 360 hp, for many different applications. (See table of engine families, and see Exhibit A.) All engines based on our 150cc, 530cc and 650cc core displacement designs are ready for volume production. The 530cc design includes all our latest IP, and subsequently has the greatest power to weight efficiency and expected run life of all the engine models.
We are currently partnered with a company in Canada to demonstrate our 530cc engine for electrical generation using unfiltered biogas as a fuel source (from a waste-water treatment facility). We will be gathering engineering data and run-time experience on our engine’s capabilities in this application over the next several months as we work together on this co-development project. We have provided the company with one of our 530cc engines, and we are currently working together to complete the design of this prototype biogas generation system for deployment in the immediate future.
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Brief History of Freedom Motors
In 2001 Freedom Motors was spun off from Moller International (MI). As part of this spin-off, Freedom Motors signed a Technology Agreement to acquire all the hard and soft rotary engine assets of MI. This agreement also granted the Company the worldwide exclusive rights to manufacture and distribute the Rotapower® engine for all applications, except for aircraft and ducted fans. For these applications the Company would be a parts supplier. The assets acquired by the Company included all the hard and soft rotary engines assets previously acquired by MI from General Motors (GMC), Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) and Infinite Engine Company (IEC). GMC had created the high-volume machine tools necessary to go into volume production while OMC had put one model into volume production and had a second model ready for production. We estimate that combined these three companies worked several decades in the development, pre-production and production of rotary engines. Their entire rotary engine assets now belong to the Company.
Exhibit B provides some comments on the company, the Rotapower® engine and its President.
Product Development History
Freedom Motors used the production proven OMC engines to initiate its development program with the following goals:
Double its horsepower per pound of engine weight
Extend its seal life to over 20,000 hours from its original design life of 500 hours
Make fuel consumption competitive with the best piston engine
Produce additional Rotapower® engine models to cover a range of power from 2.5 hp to 360 hp
These objectives were accomplished as follows:
The original OMC engine produced about one horsepower per pound of engine weight. The Rotapower® engine was able to achieve over three horsepower per pound in a version designed to power a PAV (Personal Air Vehicle)
Seal life was documented at 22,000 hours
Fuel consumption was reduced from 0.55 lbs./hp-hr. to 0.43 lbs./hp hr. through improved volumetric efficiency. Recent patent pending technology is projected by the Company (link) and NASA (TM 105562) to lower fuel consumption below the best piston engine
The following table shows the family of engines that have been designed, tested and placed in various applications:
Unique Features of the Rotapower® Engine
Few Moving Parts
Only 2 moving parts in a single rotor engine. Compares to 7 parts for 2-stroke and 25 parts for 4-stroke piston with a similar instantaneous output torque
Charge- or air-cooled rotor design eliminates many engine components typical of rotary engines
Can be disassembled and reassembled in less than 30 minutes
Less moving parts means longer life and lower cost
Solid Fuel Economy
Specific Fuel Consumption <0.45 lb./HP-hr. ~. Expect <0.35 lb./HP-hr. when compounded based on NASA predictions and test results.
Compares to 0.5 lb./HP-hr. for 2-strokes and ~ 0.35 lb./HP-hr. for the best 4-stroke piston
Very Low Emission Levels
See Emissions Performance
Carbon Monoxide(CO) and unburned hydrocarbon (HC) emissions two orders of magnitude better than 2-stroke, and one order of magnitude better than many industrial or commercial 4-stroke piston engines.
NOx emissions much lower than 4-stroke piston engines, similar to 2-stroke engines
Proven Multi-Fuel Performer
Demonstrated on gasoline, natural gas, alcohol and propane
Spark-ignited diesel, kerosene and jet fuel
Low Vibration Levels
Perfect radial balanced allows rigid mounting which can become part of the structure
Instantaneous torque characteristics identical to 6 cylinders 4-stroke piston engine (two-rotor model)
Stacking of rotors easily extends range of available power
Engine Production Considerations
The company has received letters of intent (LOI) to purchase over 3.5 million engines. A volume manufacturing facility would have to be built to address many of these LOI in order to offer a competitively priced product. Freedom Motors has discussions underway with a number of potential user/partners to meet this demand.
The Company is concentrating its immediate effort on applications where the Rotapower® engine demand is based on its unique ability to provide a solution. These include:
Biogas fueled genset to address the various sources of man-made biogas. The need is immediate and we believe there is no meaningful competition for dealing with small to mid-size biogas sources, where the cost of removing the contaminant is not economical. Because the Rotapower® engine powered genset is so much less expensive than those driven by converteod diesel engines or microturbines, the profit margin is sufficient to allow contracting out low-volume engine part production. This application is where funds raised through the Company’s Reg CF offering will mainly be utilized. (Rotapower Biogas Testbed Pictured)
Range extender. Automotive companies generally produce their own engines. Consequently, discussions are underway with four automotive companies centered around a licensing arrangement.
Personal Air Vehicles (PAV). All the automotive companies that have an interest in the Rotapower® engine as a range extender have also formed divisions to develop a PAV and have expressed an interest in using the Rotapower® engine for that application. Discussions generally center around a joint venture.
On Methane Mitigation and Biogas
Global Demand for Methane Mitigation
Methane (CH4) is the main component in natural gas and has been considered the second-most impactful global warming gas (GWG). That assumption is now being challenged by a growing number of scientists. Carbon dioxide (CO2) has dominated most discussions of GWG. However, the rate of increase in global CO2 production has recently slowed to near zero, while the rate of methane production has increased by a factor of 20. Since a molecule of methane traps 85 times more heat during its lifetime than one of CO2, many Earth scientists believe that methane is a far more immediate threat due to its ability to create a “runaway greenhouse gas scenario”, which would end life on earth as we know it.
Most of the methane increase is coming from biogas generated from man-made sources such as landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and animal manure. Ideally the biogas would be used in an engine to produce electricity. However, if the methane content is too low, or the hydrogen sulfide or silica contaminants are too high, the biogas may not be usable in a piston or microturbine engine and instead flared or released to the atmosphere.
Consequently, we have seen that there is a local and worldwide push to develop methane mitigation strategies.
California has a 40% reduction target over the next 12 years (link).
The Global Methane Initiative is bringing together companies, governments, and NGOs from around the world to address these issues (link).
The World Bank has a program to promote zero Associated Petroleum Gas (APG) flaring from oil & gas industries by 2030 (link).
Oil & Gas Climate Initiative involves major global oil and gas companies (link).
Problems Associated with Using Biogas to Fuel an Engine
Four-stroke piston engines, rotary engines using oil cooled rotors and microturbines have many of the following limitations as a power-plant using biogas as fuel:
Oil bath lubrication or cooling systems become acidified by hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Biogas from human or animal waste contains 700 - 10,000 ppm of H2S. Its presence in an engine is a major source of corrosion. H2S content above 200 ppm can void the engine warranty
Cannot tolerate small amounts of silica because of its abrasion affect and valve damage. Silica is becoming increasingly present in human waste due to its widespread use in many household items; particularly in cosmetics. Silica appears as a fine dust form of sand. During anaerobic digestion in landfills and Waste Water Treatment Plants (WWTPs), it evolves into siloxane. This ceramic-like material is deposited on engine valves and wear surfaces with destructive consequences (“Siloxane Removal System”. Venture;link). Microturbines cannot tolerate siloxane.
Cannot efficiently combust biogas; particularly when the methane content is significantly below 50%.
Genset cost per kilowatt using converted diesel engines or microturbines may limit the utilization of biogas conversion to electricity for anything but very large landfills, WWTPs or animal manure sources.
Piston engines have so many parts that any level of corrosive activity compounds the maintenance costs.
How the Rotapower® Engine Overcomes Biogas Limitations
The following features allow the Rotapower® rotary engine to efficiently utilize biogas to create energy:
Uses a lubrication system where very small quantities of oil are metered to the roller bearings and seals. Any remaining oil is burnt before becoming acidic.
Tolerate siloxanes by using chrome carbide wear surfaces and silicon nitride seals (9 Mohs versus 6-7 Mohs for silica). The Rotapower® engine does not need or use valves.
Uses a stainless-steel rotor with a low thermal conductivity as opposed to the aluminum piston used in piston engines. This results in a rotor surface temperature of up to 900°F versus a piston at 400°F. This improves combustion of biogas that has a low methane content.
The Rotapower® engine, as distinct from a piston engine, has an intake chamber that is separate from the expansion chamber. This prevents the expansion chamber surfaces from being pre-cooled by the intake charge, contributing to the Rotapower® engines ability to utilize low-methane content biogas.
A two-rotor rotary engine has only three moving parts. By comparison, a two-cylinder piston engine can have twenty five moving parts with each subject to the corrosive effects of H2S.
A methane mitigating facility’s capital cost is projected to be 70% lower when using a Rotapower gen-set versus existing genset solutions.
Methane Mitigation as Business Opportunity
It is unrealistic to expect to compete with the multiple 1,000+ Kw gensets at landfills and waste water treatment plants (WWTPs) that are large enough to justify the capital and operating costs to remove either or both H2S and siloxane. However, now that the impact of methane emissions on global warming is being recognized, the large number of smaller anthropogenic methane sources will begin to be emphasized. For example, there are 51,481 dairy farms in the US. The average farm has 180 cows and can produce enough methane from its manure to power a 55 Kw. genset running year-round. (There are over three times as many beef cattle than dairy cows in the US.) However, the dairy will probably not be able to justify the $41,000 capital cost and $8,640 annual maintenance cost to remove 5,000 ppm, of H2S. The dairy would have the following choices:
Flare the biogas, which is restricted in many areas.
Use a microturbine, at a cost of ~$1,200 per Kw. that will probably need a siloxane removal system.
Use a converted diesel engine at ~$900 per Kw that will probably need a H2S removal system and may need a siloxane removal system.
Use a Rotapower® engine at $233 per Kw that requires neither a H2S or siloxanes removal system.
Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are another source of recoverable energy from biogas. The average town in the US has a population of 20,000. Each human generates approximately one pound of feces per day, which through anaerobic digestion can produce 5.65 ft.3 of biogas. By using this biogas in a gen-set, each town could provide a quarter of a megawatt of electrical power. Freedom Motors is located in the town of Dixon, CA with a population of approximately 20,000, which is the average size town in the US. Dixon just installed a state-of-the-art WWTP, however, it still releases its biogas to the atmosphere. We believe the growing regulatory pressure to reduce methane emissions will change that.
If the energy available from various man-made biogas sources could be converted to electricity, we believe it would be sufficient to provide the electricity needed by 30 million US homes.
California is a global leader with regard to addressing the methane/manure challenge. Senate Bill SB1383 requires a 75% reduction in methane generated by animal manure by the year 2030. Manure creates 25% of California’s total methane emissions. Landfills generate a comparable 20% of methane emissions and SB 1383 requires that they be reduced by 40% by 2030 as well. Thus far, only a small percentage of California’s dairy farms utilize anaerobic digesters. Implementation of SB 1383 began on January 1, 2018 (link).
Exhibit A: Applications Utilizing the Rotapower Engine
High Performance Engine
Hybrid fuel-electric vehicle
All Terrain Vehicle - ATV
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Neuera 200 Aircraft
Skycar M400 Aircraft
Exhibit B: Industry and Government Comments Related to Rotapower Engine and its Leadership
NASA Scientific and Technical Information (STI):
“Through Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding from NASA’s Glenn Research Center, the company created a new coating for rotary engines used for industrial application, watercraft, and other performance-demanding machines. These coatings significantly improve the fuel consumption of a vehicle while reducing emissions. The new coatings are offered in the new Rotapower® engine, which is produced and distributed by Freedom Motors. It is this innovative coating that allows the Rotapower® engine to function smoother than other models, reducing wear and protecting the engine. Incorporating NASA technology into the Rotapower® engine gives it the ability to run cleanly and efficiently on a variety of fuels.”
NASA Lewis conclusions regarding Freedom Motors patented use of a composite coating (Duplex PS212/PSZ) for engine applications:
“Duplex PS212/PSZ coatings are expected to be an enabling technology.”
“Concept is applicable to other Wankel engine applications and possibly to other engine types as well.”
“Advantages derived are higher specific power, longer life, and lighter structure.”
“The combination of the thermal barrier and wear coatings was established as a sound principle and has wide application.”
New York City Village Voice:
Dr. Dennis Bushnell, Chief Scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center, Virginia stated that “Paul Moller is one of the finest engineers in the country.”
Dr. Andrew Burke, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis:
- On the use of a rotary engine in hybrid electric vehicles:
“Small size of the rotary engine makes packaging much less difficult than with a reciprocating engine”
“The cost of the rotary engine in volume production should be less than other engine types”
“Two-cycle engine size and cost, with 4-cycle engine efficiency and low emissions”
“Rotary engines are smooth and quiet compared to other engine types”
- Dr. Burke’s Comments specifically on the Rotapower® rotary engine:
“Paul Moller and Freedom Motors have been leaders in the development of the modern rotary engine since 1985”
“The Rotapower® engines are superior to the Mazda engines in several respects: rotor cooling, lubrication, reduced engine friction, and rotor surface coating”
“Emission tests of Rotapower® engines have shown the capability to meet California ULEV standards in vehicles without exhaust after-treatment”
“Some advanced features of the rotary engine patented by Freedom Motors have the potential to increase efficiency of the engine to over 40%” (conventional piston ≈ 30%)
Dr. Burke is considered the resident expert on hybrid cars at ITS-UCD, and is often referred to nationally as the father of the series hybrid car.
Dr. John Zuk—Chief, Advanced Plans and Programs, NASA Ames:
“This is extremely significant,” says Dr. Zuk. “It’s really a breakthrough for the type and concept and it has merits from a cost standpoint that show promise to be a future personal transportation system. It’s a true first.” Dr. Zuk goes on to say, “Moller is different. He’s got academic credentials. He’s thorough.”
Inc. Magazine— “This is Rocket Science!”:
“The engine was the key Moller knew, in combining straight up flight with the speed and simplicity of a light plane.”
Fortune Small Business (FSB) Magazine:
Described Paul Moller as: “...that rare entrepreneur who can pinpoint the genesis of his idea.”
USA Today—Cover story, “Is Flying Car Model T of the Future?”:
“One immediate advantage would be safety. The (Skycar) engines have so few moving parts that they should require a fraction of the maintenance of a helicopter. One engine could fail and the Skycar could still hover to a landing. Piloting the Skycar should require less skill than driving a car.”
Smithsonian Institution INVENTION Series: “The Flying Car”-Produced by the Discovery Channel:
“Paul Moller is unique in this world of complex high technology. He is an independent entrepreneur who still makes his own test flights. It is the people with imagination and the ability to see past the end of their nose that are going to be the ones flying instead of sitting down here in grid-lock on the freeway.”