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Reshaping the future

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Dec 8, 2012

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

EcoMotors Design Challenge: Reshaping the Future Judging panel; (L - R) Jack Telnack Chief Judge, Wayne Cherry, Jay Leno and Tom Gale

By John Grafman Just a couple hours after the close of the first media preview day at the LA Auto Show an esteemed collection of automotive professionals are being treated to a glimpse into the future. Will this turn the industry on its ear as promised? Only time will tell. About two-dozen of us are immersed into the technology behind the innovative EcoMotors’ OPOC (opposed piston – opposed cylinder) design engine. This produces the same power of a conventional internal combustion layout in roughly half the space, and with a great reduction in weight. On the flip side, the OPOC® engine layout can be stacked to create twice the power in the same space. In a small, clandestine room of The Palms Restaurant, I’m surrounded by the likes of industry icons as Alexander Borla (Borla), Imre Molnar (CCS), Csaba Csere (auto journalist extraordinaire), and Geoff Wardle (Art Center College of Design). Like so many other innovative engineering feats, this powertrain can have incredible ramifications upon design, as the packaging can reflect the low profile boxer-like configuration of the cylinder layout. Now EcoMotors is a relatively new company, just about five years old. However, the principles, led by CEO Don Runkle, are industry veterans with decades of industry experience. A vast number of patents cover the new technology. Numerous test models have been built, but we are awaiting an in-car demo to really find out if this has the right stuff. EcoMotors is looking to have the technology adopted by a big OEM, and given the efficiency of the motor, it’s more than likely just a matter of time. To spur car companies into action, EcoMotors is showcasing how this can impact and revolutionize styling. To this extent a design competition, EcoMotors Design Challenge: Reshaping the Future, with students from Art Center and CCS is exemplifying just what could be possible. Judging by the results I would say anything and everything.

The judges along with Mark West of CCS, and Stewart Reed of Art Center College of Design

Fortunately, the pressure is off of us, but the select group of jury comprised of design legends - chief judge Jack Telnack (former Ford Design Chief), and Wayne Cherry (GM), and Tom Gale (Chrysler), and even auto aficionado Jay Leno had the difficult responsibility of deciding upon a winner. Each student entry provides a unique way to combine the new engine layout to open the doors to outstanding transportation concepts. Stewart Reed, Chair of the Transportation Design Department at Art Center College of Design honestly states, "The designs that the EcoMotors OPOC® engine inspired are unlike anything we could have foreseen beforehand – truly groundbreaking work." Mark West, Paul and Helen Farago Chair of Transportation Design at the College for Creative Studies, doesn’t hold back in saying, "The EcoMotors Design Challenge afforded that most coveted assignment: a genuinely clean sheet of paper – on which to explore how an engine half the size and weight of conventional motors can revolutionize vehicle packaging and design." After what must have been a heated debate on design, the winners are: Gold: Brian Malczewski, CCS (mid-size passenger car) Silver: Bruno Gallardo, Art Center (full-size pickup truck) Bronze: JJ Hwang, Art Center (new-concept vehicle for emerging markets) Honorable Mention: Alexander McGowen, CCS (new-concept vehicle for emerging markets) Honorable Mention: Eric Um, CCS (full-size pickup truck) Honorable Mention: James Leo Yamazaki, Art Center (mid-size passenger car) But, to believe that Brian Malczewski came out on top really misses the point. If the EcoMotors powertrain works as promised and is brought to market, we all win. Find out more at

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