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In the early 1980's, Professor Philip Hill at the University of British Columbia's (UBC) Mechanical Engineering Department sought improvements to natural gas combustion in engines. Working with a team of graduate students and research engineers, Prof. Hill focused on natural gas as a fuel in diesel engines to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), which are harmful to human health and the environment. At the same time, he wanted to preserve the performance, fuel economy, durability, and reliability characteristics for which the diesel engine is famous.
With limited funding and no suitable commercial components or testing equipment available, Prof. Hill and the team designed and fabricated their own components and equipment. Through research and experimentation, they began to form key theoretical knowledge, which would become the basis of Westport 15L technology.
Prof. Hill injected a small amount of diesel fuel before a main injection of natural gas to start combustion of the engine. With this method, he was able to successfully retain the characteristics of the diesel engine. The natural gas was injected at high pressure, thus the concept was called high pressure direct injection (HPDI).
The team developed the initial and unique injector concepts that enabled this double injection to take place within a single injector that fit in the same location as the original diesel injector.
To date, no commercially available technology allowed diesel engines to run on natural gas without compromises in performance and fuel efficiency. Alternative fuel technologies for global transportation markets, particularly for heavy-duty trucks, have been complex, impractical, and expensive.
In 1994, UBC's University-Industry Liaison Office introduced David Demers to Prof. Hill, and in 1995, with HPDI technology as its principal strategic asset, Westport Innovations Inc. was formed.
"The initial research conducted by Dr. Hill and his team at UBC was the genesis of our company's leadership in developing and commercializing low-emissions, environmentally friendly engine systems," says David Demers, CEO Westport Innovations Inc. "Today, Westporters continue to draw inspiration from Dr. Hill's design and technical brilliance."
Westport and Cummins Inc. of Columbus, Indiana entered into a memorandum of understanding to explore the development of HPDI technology for Cummins flagship heavy-duty truck engine, the 15-litre ISX.
Westport, already publicly traded on the former Alberta exchange, listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under WPT.
Westport and Cummins formed a joint venture, Cummins Westport Inc. With confidence in Westport's expertise and potential, Cummins transferred its current spark-ignited natural gas engines and related technologies for on-highway vehicles, industrial, and power generation applications to the new joint venture. Today, Cummins Westport offers medium- and heavy-duty natural gas vehicle engines from 150 to 320 horsepower available in nearly 60 OEM vehicles and boasts over 28,000 engines in service worldwide.
Westport and Beijing Tianhai Industry Co. Ltd. began a relationship that would develop into the formation of a joint venture—BTIC Westport Inc.—to develop and market natural gas tanks for the transportation market.
Westport launched the Westport HD Engine and LNG Fuel System for heavy-duty trucking applications. The HPDI technology featured in the Westport 15L engine, currently based on the 15-litre Cummins ISX, can be adapted to other OEM engines as well.
Westport formed a joint venture with Weichai Power Co., Ltd., China's largest heavy duty engine manufacturer, and Hong Kong Peterson (CNG) Equipment Limited in 2008. Weichai Westport Inc. will develop, manufacture, market, and sell advanced, alternative fuel engines incorporating Westport HD technology for use in automobiles, heavy duty trucks, power generation and shipping applications.
Westport listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market as WPRT, while continuing to trade under WPT on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
In 2008, Westport began working with Volvo Powertrain, and in 2010 both companies committed to a supply agreement for Westport HD natural gas fuel systems for Volvo heavy-duty applications for future commercialization.
Juniper Engines Inc., originally a joint venture created in 2007 between Westport Innovations Inc. and OMVL SpA, became a wholly owned subsidiary of Westport as a result of the acquisition of OMVL in July 2010. Juniper now offers natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) engines and fuel systems for the OEM light-duty automotive and industrial market and aftermarket kits and components for the automotive market.
The Westport Carbon Project (WCP) was established to monetize the carbon emission reductions associated with the Westport 15L engine, the Cummins Westport ISLG and other natural gas engines developed with our OEM partners.
2011 brought the acquisition of Emer SpA, a fuel system and components manufacturer, and the acquisition of Alternative Fuel Vehicle Sweden AB, the sole supplier of natural gas fuel systems to Volvo Car Company (VCC).
Westport has come a long way from the small research lab at UBC. We have:
"The initial research conducted by Dr. Hill and his team at UBC was the genesis of our company's leadership in developing and commercializing low-emissions, environmentally friendly engine systems"