GM Ventures tech investment could come to GM vehicles

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co.'s venture capital arm, General Motors Ventures, said Monday a 2012 investment into a startup and its new fuel efficiency technology could be used in future GM vehicles powered by gas engines.

The Detroit automaker said San Jose, Calif.-based Tula Technology Inc.'s Dynamic Skip Fire technology can boost fuel economy in four, six and eight-cylinder engines by up to 15 percent. The 15 percent figure is compared to a vehicle with a V-8 engine that does not use cylinder deactivation.

"This technology holds the potential to improve fuel economy on select GM vehicles without degrading power capability when it's required," said Jon Lauckner, GM chief technology officer and president of GM Ventures, in a statement. "This joint effort combines software expertise from Silicon Valley with powertrain expertise from General Motors."

GM spokesman Dan Flores said the company is not ready to discuss any possible production details including how soon the technology could possibly be used in GM vehicles or which vehicles would be get it. Flores said GM Ventures is not disclosing the amount of its investment in Tula.

Tula's Dynamic Skip Fire software and technology "continuously makes dynamic firing decisions on an individual cylinder basis" to give the right engine torque at all speeds, according to GM Ventures. It is not currently used by any automakers. Tula said it is an industry first system for individual cylinder deactivation that also prevents noise and vibration.

Automakers are increasingly looking at new technologies to help boost fuel economy in vehicles as they face federal fuel efficiency and carbon dioxide mandates. In the U.S., automakers must achieve average fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon for new cars and trucks by 2025.

Sequoia Capital, Sigma Partners and Khosla Ventures also invested in Tula Technology. Tula has an engineering office in Plymouth.

"We've worked closely with GM during this exciting stage of DSF development, and they've provided essential financial support while allowing us to run our business with full autonomy," said R. Scott Bailey, president and CEO of Tula Technology, in a statement. "Our goal is the same as GM; we both innovate to make the lives of people better."

GM Ventures was founded in 2010 and has invested in more than 20 startups that are focused in areas such as automotive clean technology, infotainment and advanced materials.