Westport Innovations Inc. and Tata Motors have inked an agreement to develop an engine for light- and medium-duty trucks and buses. The financial terms of the agreement are unknown, but more interesting, and also unknown, are the details of the combustion technology involved in the development. According to Vancouver-based Westport, those details are being withheld “for competitive reasons.”

"Westport is developing a next-generation engine technology for integration into a new engine platform with Tata Motors," stated Nicholas Sonntag, executive vice president, Westport Innovations.

Once the proposed project has passed its development phase, Westport said it would proceed toward commercialization, and Westport would supply “key natural gas engine components” based on the proprietary technology that is being developed.

Westport develops natural gas engines for commercial vehicles, mostly trucks and buses, but also off-road and utility equipment. Its products are based on various “clean fuel” combustion processes, involving compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, hydrogen, and renewable natural gas fuels, e.g., landfill gas.

Westport already has natural-gas engine development programs underway with General Motors and Caterpillar Inc.

Also Westport maintains a joint venture with Cummins Inc. that designs, engineers, and markets spark-ignited natural gas engines for trucks and buses in the North American market.

Tata Motors is India's largest automaker, and markets its vehicles in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia and South America. Through its subsidiaries and affiliates Tata has operations in the U.K. — it is the parent company of Jaguar Land Rover — South Korea, Thailand, Spain, and South Africa.

Tata also has an industrial joint venture with Fiat SpA in India.

"As national CNG and LNG fueling infrastructure continues to develop a need for innovative, low-cost, reliable technologies, natural gas will emerge,” according to Ravi Pisharody, executive director of Tata Motors Commercial Vehicles business unit. “Tata Motors is already in the forefront in this area."

Sonntag added: "This is a great opportunity to work with India's largest engine manufacturer in a fast-growing marketplace demanding cost effective and environmentally conscious solutions.

“Our development schedule is accelerated and we believe it can be accomplished given the substantive market size and interest in natural gas vehicles in India," concluded Sonntag.