Thursday 31 July 2014

Lotus installs KERS into passenger car

Torotrak has begun work on a funded programme with Lotus Cars to integrate KERS into the manual transmission of a performance passenger car.

Torotrak is also working on a number of programmes to introduce Flybrid KERS in commercial vehicles. Most notably, the first KERS installation in a Wrightbus StreetLite bus has demonstrated good driveability and energy capture during on road testing in Leyland this month.

Torotrak is also conducting calibration and performance optimisation with the bus powertrain and vehicle operating strategy prior to the next stage testing at Millbrook; and is on track to begin KERS trials in a bus on a public route with Arriva in the third quarter of this year.

Torotrak claims to be building a strong pipeline of potential sales opportunities for KERS in buses and considerable interest is being shown in the technology.

Finally, as already reported here, a funded programme is underway with JCB is underway to design, develop and make Flybrid technology ready for production in excavators, building on successful trials of a prototype design in 2013.

Torotrak’s strategic objectives remain to achieve a successful, earlier to market launch of Flybrid KERS in commercial vehicle applications, beginning with buses, where fleet trials are due to commence later this year; establish low volume manufacturing capability to support high unit value supply of products and to build growing product revenues commencing in the next financial year; introduce high profile, low volume show cases of our technology for launch in the next three years, which also contribute to product development for next stage higher volume applications; and finally establish Tier 1, licensed manufacturing partnerships for volume launch of our products in the critical period: 2017 - 2019, ahead of the next wave of passenger car and commercial vehicle platforms requiring next generation, low CO2 technology.

As to manufacturing capability, flywheels and flywheel assembly component manufacturing is scaling up in the Leyland facility to support wider bus fleet trials scheduled for the first quarter of next year and expected start of commercial production by end 2015.

Also, positive responses to requests to tender have been received from supply chain partners, confirming the bill of material costs for commercial production of KERS units for buses is within target; and Torotrak is in advanced stages of discussion with key partners for sub-system supply of KERS for buses.

All of which suggests that if all goes well, KERS could form a major part of Torotrak’s income in the years to come, following the company acquisition of Flybrid automotive at the beginning of this year.

According to Jeremy Deering, chief executive officer of Torotrak, there is continued, strong business development engagement with OEMs, Tier 1s, and Tier 2s across each product area (IVTs, V-Charge and KERS) and in a number of major automotive territories. 

“This has been reflected in terms of six new evaluations and three expressions of volume requirement subject to manufacturer engagement,” he said. “Our estimate of minimum development time to market is approximately three years, meaning that to achieve our objectives Tier 1s need to be signed up between this financial year and the financial year ending March 2016.”

Torotrak was founded to introduce continuously variable transmission (CVT) and later infinitely variable transmission (IVT) into road vehicles (cars, trucks and buses) but over the years the emphasis has shifted towards establishing three legs to the stool: IVTs, V-Charge and KERS.

Heavy commercial vehicle IVTs have long been promised with Allison Transmission in the US being the principal contended along with the ever mysterious “European Truck and Bus manufacturer”. Of these, Allison Transmission has invested significantly in Torotrak’s IVT.

In the context of manufacturing partnerships, the next stage engineering programme with Allison Transmission is “on track” to receive a success related deferred license fee in the fourth quarter of this year, while collaboration with a Tier 1 and global passenger car OEM to optimise V-Charge for new engine platform is “progressing well”.

So, the signs for long-suffering shareholders suggest there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon, although, to mix metaphors, there continues to be a heavy emphasis on ‘jam tomorrow’!

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