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Transonic's goal: A car engine that gets 100 miles per gallon

Here's a good rhyme to remember Transonic by: high compression fuel injection.

Transonic is coming clean with its ambitions: it is working on a fuel injection system that will let liquid fuel cars get 100 miles a gallon.

And an engine equipped with Transonic's technology will be able to run on gas, ethanol or other types of fuel without help from batteries. In other words, a car with a Transonic-assisted engine would get as good or better mileage than a plug-in hybrid (mileage on plug-ins drops on freeways) but still have the punch of a gas car. More mileage leads directly to lower emissions, and also less dependence on foreign oil.

Put in a fuel like biodiesel and the car with the technology would, in theory, emit nearly zero emissions from the tailpipe.

The somewhat secretive start-up, based in Southern California, has received investments from both Venrock (the firm that grew out of the Rockefeller fortune) and Khosla Ventures. Until recently, the company has been relatively vague about its plans and still shows only details of its technology under nondisclosure agreements. I was given some details a few months ago but was sworn to secrecy--and, because I promised, I still can't talk about that. But vague details have begun to emerge.

The company has created a new type of fuel injector for high-compression engines that greatly improves energy efficiency, according to its Web site. Waste heat is minimized by the efficient use of energy, but efficiency can also be boosted by more advanced thermal management technologies and sophisticated combustion chamber designs.

Meanwhile, major car makers are trying to eke out efficiencies in their engines. General Motors and Toyota have been researching Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI), which increases mileage by varying the pressure and temperature inside an engine, for the past few years. HCCI promises to boost fuel economy by 20 percent or more. Honda has a diesel Accord coming in 2010 that gets 62 miles per gallon.

The company's president is Mike Cheiky, who also help start battery start-up Zinc Matrix Power. Cheiky, who has 45 patents and pending patent applications to his name, also has invented technology for the cellular industry. He invented some early prototypes around the ideas behind Transonic in 2005 and formed the company in 2006.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Venrock partner Ray Rothrock wrote a bit about the company in a column on VentureBeat.

"It minimizes the volume of carbon emissions by developing a way to reduce the amount of gasoline or other liquid fuels needed to go the same distance as engines today," he said. "This injector can be supplemented by advanced thermal management, EGR, electronic valves, and advanced combustion chamber geometries for even better utilization of a unit of fuel."