Company: Achates Power
Teslas are magnificent cars, science fiction brought to life. But they’re transportation for the one-percenters – in more than just the standard wealth-measurement definition – and that’s what has David Johnson so worked up.
Johnson is the CEO of Achates Power, the decade-long developer of an advanced take on an old-school engine design that could be poised to emerge as a high-efficiency dose of reality to a transportation sector – and celebrity-inspired public – that Johnson says is smitten with an environmental brass ring most will never reach: battery-electric power for everyday, affordable vehicles.
That’s where Achates engine technology enters. This “opposed-piston” engine design is from far new – it’s been deployed as widely as by the German aircraft company Junkers for a pre-WWII aircraft and for any number of stationary power-generating applications from the 1930s to today. It’s promise is simple: with two pistons in each cylinder making for markedly more power density than a conventional single-piston-per-cylinder engine, Johnson told us the Achates design can be as much as 30 percent more efficient than an standard diesel engine of similar power. Or to make the same power, the Achates engine can be just two-thirds the size.
These kinds of gains are crucial, Johnson told us, because while Tesla and some of the major automakers create headlines about battery electric (or fuel-cell electric) vehicles being the technology ready to replace the “dirty” internal-combustion engine, the reality almost certainly is quite different. Teslas, Johnson chides, are big-money cars that do perform nicely for the select clientele able to afford them – but in no way will ever sell in change-the-environment sort of numbers. “They’re just too damn expensive,” to ever make an impact, he insists.