The Australian company developing a new compact internal combustion engine, CMC Power Systems Limited, said its new 500cc prototype engine had successfully fired up for the first time at Cosworth Technology's Northampton engine building plant in the UK.

It has been specifically designed to be the 'prime mover' for CMC's Automotive Auxiliary Power Unit (AAPU), an electricity generator which is expected to find a rapid route to market as an on-board source of electrical power for emergency vehicles, trade vehicles, camper vans and mobile homes.

The announcement was made at the company's annual general meeting in Sydney, where a display version of the ultra light weight 500cc engine, made largely of aluminium and weighing only 29kg, was unveiled to shareholders in its world-first public viewing.

Project Director Paul Kasperowicz told the AGM that the second of the 15 prototype engines Cosworth Technology is building under contract had fired only a matter of hours beforehand, and Cosworth Technology would on Monday start the in-house test programme it applies to all new engines it builds.

"Cosworth Technology, one of the world's most experienced engine development companies, will conduct its formal Development Verification Programme (DVP) over the next two months to fine tune the design ready for mass production," Kasperowicz said.

"The firing of the engine has taken place in a remarkably short time of only seven months from a 'clean sheet of paper' to a fully-functioning prototype," he said.

The CMC engine is based on a unique crank mechanism which has rigid conrods connected to a central sliding bearing. This allows the conrods to be considerably shorter, leading to an engine that is less than two-thirds the size of conventional engines. In addition it eliminates a large amount of conrod movement and friction, resulting in an engine that is cleaner, smoother, quieter, more economical and durable.

The horizontally opposed four stroke water cooled engine is 45cm long, 60cm wide and 40cm high, and will produce 5.8kW of  power at 1800rpm with fuel consumption of 2.5 litres per hour for a continuous electrical output of 5kW, with emissions compliant to Euro 3, Federal EPA Tier 2 and CARB LEV II.

The AAPU was conceived for the forthcoming world upgrade of car electrical systems from 12 to 42-volt car electrical systems, and also to be adapted to generate power at 120 or 220 volts.

CMC Power Systems says the AAPU is attracting keen interest from after-market vehicle conversion companies in Europe, and the company expects orders for units to be placed soon to meet the urgent demand for quiet, compact on-board power generation.

The AAPU is expected to establish a new world benchmark for compactness and quietness, such that the unit can be built into camper vans and emergency and service vehicles and operate while passengers and crew members are working or sleeping. It combines CMC's patented engine with a CSIRO-developed Permanent Magnet Generator, which when operated at a constant speed delivers efficiency of 95% compared with 55% for normal variable speed alternators.

CMC Power Systems sub-contracted Cosworth Technology to build the AAPUs through its two subsidiaries, CMC Power Technologies Pty Ltd and Aria Power Products Inc (an alliance formed at the beginning of the year with the California-based Aria Group).

Aria Power Products has further sub-contracted one of the world's best-known performance car builders, the UK company Prodrive, to fit the AAPU into a Ford Lincoln Navigator and integrate it with all the car's electrical storage and distribution, fuel and emission reduction systems.

The Navigator will be displayed in January at the Detroit Motor Show, the world's most influential forum for automotive product innovation, where the Australian technology will be made accessible to all major motor manufacturers and component suppliers.