Tuesday, 25 November 2014

F1-inspired bus tech scoops UK innovation award

Torotrak Group’s kinetic energy recovery system (KERS), originally devised by Flybrid Automotive, has taken first prize in the prestigious SMMT Award for Automotive Innovation 2014.

Although designed for buses, the technology can be applied to commercial vehicles, including vans, as well as off-highway construction equipment.

Torotrak Group’s Flybrid KERS for buses and commercial vehicles uses a fully mechanical system to store energy from a vehicle’s motion, which can be transferred back to the drive system to power the vehicle. It beat off stiff competition from the Dearman Engine Company and Jaguar Land Rover, both of which received Highly Commended status.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive and a member of the award judging panel, said, “The UK is one of the world’s leaders in automotive engineering and R&D, a fact epitomised by Torotrak’s Flybrid KERS.

“Not only a genuinely innovative concept, it is also in an advanced stage of development with huge potential to influence the wider automotive sector. It was fantastic to see such a superb calibre of entrants in this year’s Award. SMMT will continue to help the UK build on its position as a global leader for automotive innovation.”
Sponsored by GKN and supported by The Times, the SMMT Award for Automotive Innovation demonstrates the wealth of design and engineering talent in the UK automotive sector by rewarding the most ground-breaking concepts each year.

The Award started in 2010, and Torotrak Group follows in the footsteps of Gordon Murray Design, JaguarLandRover, Optare and Ford in winning the accolade.
The Award was presented to Jon Hilton, Torotrak’s product development and sales director, by Nigel Stein, GKN chief executive, at the 2014 SMMT Annual Dinner on 25 November. Hilton co-founded Flybrid Automotive Systems prior to its acquisition by Torotrak plc.

Jeremy Deering, chief executive officer, Torotrak, said, “Our system will be around one quarter the cost of a conventional battery electric hybrid as well as substantially smaller and around a quarter the weight.

“Third party validated test results have been achieved with a thoroughly modern, lightweight, high efficiency vehicle from Wrightbus, indicating ongoing opportunities to provide the sector with a low-cost route to reduced emissions and substantially lower operating costs.”

“Winning such a prestigious award shows that there is real faith in the commercial potential of our purely-mechanical hybridisation system for heavy vehicle applications, and that by making hybridisation more accessible and affordable, we can make a real impact on fleet emissions and running costs,” continued Deering.

Nigel Stein, GKN chief executive, said, “Congratulations to Torotrak.  Any automotive innovation that can improve efficiency and reduce carbon emissions deserves particular focus, and it is great to see British companies driving this forward.”

To win the Award, Torotrak had to get through a judging session at the hands of some of the most influential experts in the UK automotive sector. The panel featured: Mike Hawes, chief executive, SMMT; Dave Salt, chief engineer, GKN Driveline; Robert Lea, industrial editor, The Times and Jim Higginbotham, head of specialist markets, Lombard

COMMENT. For GKN Drivelines there was a certain irony to the Awards event on 25 November. Earlier this year GKN aquired the assets of Williams Hybrid Power (see GKN in flywheel bus push of 5 September 2014) and as a result formed its own activity in this sector within its GKN Land Power group; GKN named its system Gyrodrive. At the time, GKN hailed it as "ground breaking technology". And indeed, the UK transmissions company won a contract to supply the Go-Ahead bus group with 500 systems. GKN is not the only player; Ricardo plc also has an interest in this sector of technology. So quite possibly, Dave Salt, as chief engineer of GKN Driveline, in approving Flybrid's design for the SMMT Award may have permitted himself a somewhy wry smile, bearing in mind GKN's descrption of its own system as "innovative". The SMMT Award was truly a case of David and Goliath! GKN's boss Nick Stein may also have had a few private thoughts of his own on the matter too! JM

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