SOMS Technologies says that its engine filter will extend the life of engine oil by 30,000 miles, enabling drivers to use 75 percent less oil and save hundreds of dollars in maintenance per car.
"You could say this would be terrible news for Jiffy Lube, but we don't look at it that way," said company CEO Miles Flamenbaum, who presented at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco on Wednesday. "It would allow them to charge a little bit more, take more of a margin from oil change costs, and do it less often."
The company, based in Bedford, N.Y., has raised $900,000 in angel funding and seeks another $4 million.
Flamenbaum aims for the company to snag a share of the $7 billion U.S. market for oil filter and engine treatment products while also helping to reduce the demand for petroleum and cutting pollution from waste engine oil, which contaminates groundwater when improperly disposed.
Engine oil passes through conventional filters in one swoop, but SOMS Technologies' system diverts some of the oil flow from the main filter into a finer filter.
"It's more passive," Flamenbaum said. "We're just taking a little bit of the oil and treating it separately, without affecting pressure in the engine."
The filtered oil comes out as clean as or even cleaner than new engine oil, he added.
The filter would cost about $15 and work with any combustion engine, including those in gasoline, biofuel, biodiesel, and hydrogen cars.
It uses off-the-shelf components as well as an "advanced material" the company won't disclose. Unlike many filtration systems being developed in labs, such as for purifying water, however, it does not involve nanotechnology.
There are 470 million filter changes each year in the United States, and 1.6 billion around the world, according to the company.
Flamenbaum sees the filter fitting into a growing green trend in automotive services. For instance, in November AAMCO launched its "Eco-Green" certification program to promote alternative fuels and reduce emissions at service centers.
Within a month, Green Earth Technologies' motor oil made from animal fats instead of petroleum will hit the shelves of big box stores, according to its CEO Jeff Marshall.
In April, SOMS Technologies' filters will be tested in some 30 New York City taxicabs, followed by 20 school buses in upstate New York. SOMS Technologies plans to target such fleets first, with long-term sights on selling its filters in automotive service stores and big-box retailers.
Flamenbaum sees a huge opportunity in developing countries where there's little infrastructure for waste oil recycling.
"I was in China last week and literally saw somebody draining oil and dumping it on the ground," Flamenbaum said. "If that guy was doing it there are probably another million like him out there."
The company is working on agreements to distribute the product in China, as well as with the United States Postal Service.
"We have excellent timing," Flamenbaum said. "There has been very little advancement in filter technology. Since the spin-on oil filter was invented in 1953, the biggest innovation is the pleated filter from the round filter to increase the surface area."
SOMS stands for spin-on microfilter system.