Continental Motors Inc. (CMI), working with its Chinese parent AVIC International, is planning to invest in a line of diesel engines ranging from 160 hp to 350 hp or more.

At the same time, CMI is pursuing the supplemental type certificate market, recently obtaining the first for a diesel option on the Cirrus S22 and turning its attention next to the Cessna 182.

CMI President Rhett Ross stresses that the company plans to continue to support the aviation gasoline market and sees it remaining in the U.S. for some time. But in markets outside the U.S., leaded avgas can be difficult to obtain, and in some places – such as parts of Asia – “almost impossible,” Ross tells Aviation Week.

The move to expand its diesel activities comes through a desire to grow its market, Ross says, adding, “We have to grow our business in nontraditional ways.”

AVIC also has a strong interest in seeing the expansion, says Yu Yimin, executive vice president of AVIC International, calling the strategy “very important” given the lack of availability of avgas in China. He told reporters today (July 24) during the Experimental Aircraft Association’s 2012 Airventure in Oshkosh, Wis., that AVIC plans to “fully support” the development, not only with financing, but with engineering expertise and marketing.

The investment plans include a diesel line based on the tradition piston model, initially incorporating three models – TD220 (160-180 hp), TD300 (200-250 hp) and TD450 (300-350 hp).

The company estimates that the TD300 will enter production at its Mobile, Ala., factory in early 2013. The TD450 will follow in 2015 and the TD220 will come online after the first two “have successfully entered the market,” the company says.

Ross says that the company has held discussions with original equipment manufacturers but was not yet ready to discuss platforms.

The company already is poised to enter the diesel market through supplemental type certificates, recently achieving approval for the Cirrus S22 and embarking on what Ross estimates will be an 18-month program for the Cessna 182.

Ross says the company has targeted aircraft families that provide the largest market potential, but adds the company is not planning to focus only on diesel. “Right now our focus is on validating that all our engines will work on the correct fuels,” he says.

While it is still early to tell how the diesel options will take in the long run in the U.S., he says the narrow price differential, availability and performance benefits will make avgas the likely choice in the U.S. for some time.

In other areas, that won’t be the case, he says. Not only is availability a factor, but also cost. In Europe, for instance, the cost of avgas is almost twice that of Jet A fuel, he notes.