Monday 17 February 2014

Torotrak thwarted by ETBM delay

UK variable transmission specialist Torotrak plc has been thwarted by delays imposed by the European Truck and Bus Manufacturer (ETBM).

Licensed to use Torotrak’s transmission for on-highway use in commercial vejicles over 14 tonnes GVW, the ETBM has not confirmed its position regarding its manufacturing licence rights.

Torotrak had expected to receive a clear statement of the ETBM’s position by the end of 2013. In absence of this, Torotrak has assumed the ETBM will not seek to progress to manufacture the IVT units in-house.

Torotrak’s IVT technology has been adopted in ETBM prototype trials and demonstrated a 20 percent increase in fuel savings in the highest urban drive cycles against a benchmark product.

Important benefits include: premium driveability and passenger experience; substantially reduced nitrogen oxide and CO2 emissions; and excellent controllability.

According to previous remarks by Torotrak, the substantial benefits of IVT for ETBM lay in the smaller part of their overall portfolio orientated towards more stop/start events, although future product development could see IVT's attractiveness expanding to the entire range.

                                         Flybrid KERS on time

Meanwhile, a development programme in partnership with Wrightbus is “on track” to begin first-to-market M-KERS trials in the bus market trials on a public route during second quarter 2014.

This trial with Arriva will provide real world validation of the Flybrid KERS fuel-saving potential. The first prototype bus unit has been built. It has successfully completed initial calibration as well as full-speed and over-speed rig testing. Packaging and integration work is now underway at Wrightbus.

To boost its M-KERS work, Torotrak has invested £500,000 at its Leyland facility for new flywheel durability test rigs and manufacturing equipment. The first machine has been commissioned and the first flywheel hubs are being made on site along with other flywheel assembly components.

Torotrak intends to manufacture and assemble flywheels, retaining in-house its key know-how and intellectual property. Further equipment to manufacture the carbon fibre flywheel rims will be installed and commissioned by the end of the month.

In addition, three new flywheel test rigs are being designed, procured and built, with the first expected to be ready for operation next month. The remaining two rigs will be in operation in the second quarter of 2014.

The new rigs will be used to conduct durability and design validation testing as part of the programme for commercial launch initially into the UK bus segment with Wrightbus from 2015 onwards.

                                          Car and truck focus

In the passenger car market, Torotrak is in commercial discussions with various Tier 1 and OEM potential commercial partners. These discussions range from feasibility studies through to potential low-volume supply in special vehicle operations. Ultimately, there is the potential for licensing arrangements for both premium and volume car segments.

These discussions reflect the need for vehicle manufacturers to identify low cost solutions to help meet tough emissions targets from 2015 onwards.

With regards to Allison Transmission Inc., the aim of Torotrak's engineering focus is to complete the next milestone in the US company’s commercial vehicle programme. UK engineers claim to have made “significant progress” to support successful commercialisation, including advances in durability, cost and commercial supply routes.

As a sign of Torotrak’s commitment and confidence in the commercial vehicle programme, £2 million of the £2.6 million licence payment due from Allison was agreed to be contingent upon the completion by Torotrak of a number of successful accelerated tests using representative disc and roller components.

This programme gateway for Allison is substantially complete and Torotrak has “high confidence” in achieving the required milestones.

Engineers at Torotrak’s Leyland headquarters are expected to closely observe the close link between Allison Transmission, Dana Holding Corporation and Fallbrook Technologies Inc. which are working to develop the NuVinci “gears to balls” continuously variable transmission for light duty trucks, light commercials and passenger cars (see of 15 February, 2014).

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