Westport Innovations announces $50 million Detroit investment image

Vancouver-based compressed natural gas company Westport Innovations announced it will open a design and development center in metro Detroit.

Westport claims the CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) powetrain systems it builds are the future of light-duty vehicles. CNG is as much as two-thirds cheaper than gasoline, is found in large amounts in the U.S. and burns cleaner that petrol and diesel.

Westport Innovations will invest $50 million in metro Detroit. Currently the company has approximately 20 engineers and technologists working on CNG powertrain systems in Plymouth, Michigan. Two thirds of workers are either retired or laid-off auto industry veterans.

“This is the hub of the auto industry for light-duty vehicles. Not only are the major automakers there, but the auto suppliers who support them. The other part is the talent pool,” John Lapetz, managing director of Westport North America, was quoted as saying by the Detroit News.

The company is looking to hire approximately 15 people in the short term. According to Westport, of the estimated 12 million natural gas-powered vehicles on the road today, only 110,000 are in the U.S. The Canadian company will launch its first light-duty product this spring. Earlier this year, GM signed an agreement with Westport for developing CNG products.