John Deere invests in ClearFlame Engine Technologies

By Chad Elmore01 November 2021

Investment said to be in line with Deere’s strategy to integrate smart and sustainable technology innovations.

John Deere announced it has made an equity investment in ClearFlame Engine Technologies, an Illinois-based start-up dedicated to the development of clean engine technology. 

John Deere said the investment is in line with its strategic vision to accelerate and lead the industry in low and zero carbon powertrain technology. The company will also supply an engine to use in conceptual testing, which will help validate the technology currently under development by ClearFlame.

ClearFlame’s solution enables low-carbon fuels such as ethanol to be integrated into compression ignition engines, offering a sustainable solution without compromising engine performance.

“We made this investment to stay on the leading edge of developments in renewable fuel technology,” said Pierre Guyot, senior vice president, John Deere Power Systems. “ClearFlame’s compression ignition engine technology has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions while continuing to provide the performance and durability our customers expect from John Deere engines.”

John Deere ClearFlame Engine Technologies co-founders Julie Blumreiter, Chief Technology Officer, and BJ Johnson, Chief Executive Officer.

“ClearFlame’s mission is to decarbonize the hardest-to-electrify sectors in a rapid and cost-effective way. Expanding our solution from heavy-duty trucking to agriculture and other off-highway markets delivers on that promise, offering significant sustainability and economic benefits that won’t compromise engine performance,” said BJ Johnson, ClearFlame CEO and co-founder. “We look forward to working together with John Deere and supporting its commitment to reducing net CO2 emissions through providing renewable energy solutions.”

Using ethanol in place of petroleum diesel fuel in diesel engines significantly reduces carbon emissions and air quality emissions. In addition, ethanol is widely available and can offer a high-efficiency, liquid alternative fuel option.

“Compression ignition engines have a long life ahead — in terms of both the current source of diesel and a wide variety of alternative fuel types,” said Guyot. “John Deere already offers biomass-based diesel compatibility on our engines. These investments are the right thing to do for environmental, economic and rural-development benefits.”

John Deere said investments like this one are a critical component of John Deere’s vision to integrate smart and sustainable technology innovations with its legacy of manufacturing excellence.

More money

The John Deere investment was part of $17 million in Series A financing, which is expected to enable commercialization in ClearFlame Engine Technologies’ engine technology for the long-haul trucking, agriculture and power generation sectors. The financing was led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures with additional participation from Mercuria and Clean Energy Ventures.

“Our technology will enable the rapid decarbonization of diesel-dominated sectors, and this funding advances our path to commercialization with demonstration trucks on the road by the end of this year, in parallel with agricultural equipment and generator set deployments in 2022,” said Johnson. “Our investors share a common mission to support solutions that drive rapid carbon mitigation and ClearFlame’s technology is achieving that through a platform that can be deployed globally this decade.”

“As one of the world’s largest commodities traders, Mercuria was an early adopter of bringing environmental products, including ethanol, into its trading portfolio. Biofuel refining enables Mercuria to directly manage quality, supply and price risk. Mercuria’s strategic investment in ClearFlame’s technology complements its continued commitment to biofuels as part of the energy transition,” said Boris Bystrov, Mercuria. “We strongly believe ClearFlame is positioned to make decarbonization in heavy-duty industry cost-effective by using existing liquid fueling infrastructure as the catalyst, which can drive more rapid market adoption.”

Previously, ClearFlame has received $4 million in non-dilutive and grant funding from the Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas and Illinois Corn Growers Associations, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and others. The company completed its $3 million Series Seed financing in early 2020, led by Clean Energy Ventures.

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