Harold McMaster, the 84-year-old inventor who co-founded Glasstech, Inc., and Solar Cells, Inc., locally, is looking for $5 million to invest in a rotary engine that he predicts will sell for one-third the price of a six-cylinder engine and will emit zero pollution.
The prototype engine is to operate on hydrogen and oxygen or nitrous oxide and ammonia, Mike Cicak, president of McMaster Motor, Inc., told the Toledo Rotary Club yesterday.
It is to be just one-tenth the weight of other engines with similar power. It has only two moving parts, and it is to operate a vehicle without a transmission, drive shaft, differential, catalytic converter, spark plugs, and other parts, reducing the vehicle's weight by 30 per cent, according to a promotional video that Mr. Cicak played.
“It's better than anything he's ever done,” Mr. Cicak said of the engine, referring to his boss, who holds dozens of patents granted since 1945.
McMaster Motor hopes to raise $5 million in seven months and license production in three years, Mr Cicak said.
Mr. McMaster, chairman of the board, was in Arizona and did not attend yesterday's Rotary event.
However, he has invested $10 million in the idea, including about $250,000 for research by about a dozen University of Toledo engineering students and staff this year, Mr. Cicak said.
The university team has made many modifications, but Nagi Naganathan, interim dean of the UT college of engineering, said, “I would really credit the genius of his mind in suggesting the basic idea.”
Optimistically, he said, researchers hope the engine will be marketable in two to three years, with its main niche in low-horsepower uses such as golf carts, where weight, size, and pollution are big issues.
One of the biggest challenges for such an engine is that hydrogen and other alternative fuels are not widely available to consumers, said Frank Hampshire, director of research with the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association in North Carolina. Consumers are likely to be reluctant to purchase such an engine before its fuels are sold in traditional outlets.
“It's like a chicken-and-an-egg thing,” he said.
Automakers such as Mazda have experimented with rotary engines, although Mr. Cicak said Mr. McMaster's version is significantly different.
Automakers have not been approached by Mr. McMaster, Mr. Cicak said.
McMaster Motor is made up of Mr. McMaster, Mr. Cicak, an office manager, the contracted team at the university, and contracted machinists at an area shop. Mr. Cicak said he hopes the engine is produced locally, but would prefer to sell the rights to the engine rather than for the company to build a plant to produce it.