Friday 5 September 2014

GKN in flywheel bus push

GKN has stolen the limelight as its flywheel kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) is about to hit the streets of London in a series of buses to be fitted with its technology.

GKN, thought by some to be one of the sleeping giants of the automotive industry, acquired Williams Hybrid Power from the Formula One business earlier this year to form GKN Hybrid Power, implying that at times GKN can move fast.

The new business activity is focused on delivering a complete hybrid system which includes the flywheel, an advanced electric motor, gearbox and installation.

According to GKN Hybrid Power the Gyrodrive is designed to last the life of the bus, eliminating the need for battery changing.

Successful small-scale trials on of the technology have been carried out  on a handful of Go-Ahead  buses in real world environment and the developers claim a 20 per cent improvement in fuel economy – which is about par for the technology.

GKN plc and the Go-Ahead Group have agreed the deal whereby GKN Hybrid Power will supply 500 of its Gyrodrive systems to the transport operator over the next two years.

The Gyrodrive system uses a high speed flywheel made of carbon fibre to store the energy generated by a bus as it slows down to stop. It then uses the stored energy to power an electric motor which helps accelerate the bus back up to speed, generating fuel savings of more than 20% at a significantly lower cost than battery hybrid alternatives.

The agreement covers the supply of the complete Gyrodrive system, including the innovative GKN Hybrid Power flywheel as well as GKN’s advanced EVO electric motor, a GKN designed and manufactured gearbox, and installation. The system is designed to last for the life of the bus eliminating the need for any battery changes.

GKN has its eyes on further applications including the so-called mass transit market, as well as construction and agricultural equipment.

GKN claims to be a ‘truly global company’ with a ‘globa; footprint’ and in this sense it has the potential to introduce manufacture at other sites throughout the world, including the US, though at present manufacture will be focused on the UK until all the bugs have been ironed and the flywheel technology and installation procedures further refined.

GKN is aiming in the short term to offer the technology to bus makers as a piece of specific original equipment which can be closely integrated into vehicle manufacture.

The GKN system is based on Formula One race technology developed in the UK. It will help increase the efficiency of every bus to which it is fitted by using less fuel and therefore reducing carbon emissions. This same technology helped Audi’s R18 e-tron win at Le Mans in June last.

Following successful trials on buses in London, Go-Ahead intends to utilise the technology in cities it serves across the UK, initially in London and Oxford.

Philip Swash, chief executive of GKN Land Systems, said: “This is an important milestone for GKN Hybrid Power. We’ve worked in close partnership with Go-Ahead throughout the development of this innovative technology and it’s very exciting to move into the production phase.”

“The fact that we are using the same groundbreaking technology that helped Audi win at Le Mans for the past three years to improve fuel efficiency in the public transport sector also shows what great innovation there is in the UK’s engineering sector,” he added.

David Brown, chief executive of Go-Ahead, added: “Our collaboration with GKN has been a most constructive one. We have a strong record in continually reducing our carbon emissions and flywheel technology will help us make buses an even more environmentally responsible choice and encourage more people to travel by public transport.”

GKN Hybrid Power is based in Oxfordshire, with final assembly taking place in a new facility at GKN’s site in Telford. The Gyrodrive technology is being further developed for other mass transit markets including trams, construction and agricultural equipment.

Earlier this year GKN announced its acquisition of Williams Hybrid Power from Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited to form GKN Hybrid Power, which is focused on delivering complete hybrid solutions across multiple vehicle, power and industrial markets.

Last month the company announced that GKN Driveline Mexico had been awarded Ford’s prestigious Q1 certification for manufacturing excellence, indicating the facility is identified as a preferred supplier to Ford Motor Company and recognizes excellence in product quality, service and delivery.

The facility, in Villagran, is one of three GKN Driveline sites in Mexico. The award is in recognition of the strong relationship between GKN Driveline and Ford. During the certification process, the company was evaluated on nine measures, including performance metrics, delivery and customer endorsements and clearly bodes well for the future between the two companies.

Bob Willig, president, GKN Driveline Americas, noted that “Mexico is an important growth region for both our company and our customers, and we are expanding our business by continuously providing the highest caliber of service.”

GKN has four business units and in the latest half-yearly results to June: GKN Aerospace turned in £1.1 billion; GKN Drivelines, £1.765 billion; GKN Powder Metallurgy, £471 million; and GKN Land Systems, £426 million, making £3.828 billion in all. GKN Automotive achieved the biggest organic growth of the quartet with 11 per cent. Trading margin is given as 8.9 per cent.

Readers will be aware that GKN is not the only business developing KERS technology for land vehicles. Flybrid Automotive, part of Torotrak plc. is working with WrightBus on bus applications and Volvo with passenger car use.  

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