By his own admission, Elsy leaves Torotrak “at such an exciting time when our plans are really starting to deliver.” If so, why not stay and enjoy the full rewards of his work?
But why CVT? In early motor cars, a one-to-one connection between engine and final drive was out of the question if the power unit was to operate at its most efficient. Early manual gearboxes had few fixed ratios but the number gradually increased – and so did complexity; today's complex fully-automatic gearboxes can offer eight ratios.
In development, giving focus to the following can bring improved toroidal CVTs: film traction and suitable fluids; disc and roller design and related fatigue life; losses; noise; effects of temperature on maximum shear strength which in turn determines the limiting traction; regime gearing arrangements; materials development; machining; production packaging; and an effective and durable control system. Last year, Torotrak completed over 25,272 hours of durability and fatigue testing with a design life of 300,000 miles declared.
Torotrak's annual reports have grown thicker and glossier over the years, but its main ethos remains unchanged: "The design and development of traction drive technology based on the toroidal variator as a means of infinitely changing gear ratio."
So is the tide turning in Torotrak's favour? On 26 July 2012 the company announced Allison had agreed "an advance commitment of £2.5 million against its final £10.62 million option, to be paid this August. The final option, exercisable in 2013, would secure exclusive rights for main drive transmission applications in commercial vehicles".