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Automotive innovation: Torotrak's Flybrid flies high

02 December 2014

Automotive industry leaders have selected Torotrak's novel Flybrid affordable hybridisation technology as this year’s winner in the category: ‘UK innovation with the potential to make a difference’.

Torotrak product development director Jon Hilton says the company is also working on development programmes with a number of European passenger car manufacturers as well as on the bus application highlighted by the SMMT award

The 2014 SMMT Award for Automotive Innovation has been won by Torotrak for its Flybrid mechanical flywheel hybrid system. The award, supported by GKN and The Times newspaper, recognises UK-developed automotive technologies that have "the potential to leave a lasting impression on the whole automotive industry for years to come".

Torotrak’s technology joins a long list of prestigious winners that include Ford for its heavily down-sized 1.0 litre Ecoboost engine (2013), Optare for its Versa E bus (2012), Jaguar Land Rover’s Range_e (2011) and Gordon Murray Design’s iStream (2010).

“It was fantastic to see such a superb calibre of entrants in this year’s Award,” says SMMT Chief Executive and member of the judging panel, Mike Hawes. “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.”

Torotrak’s Award focuses on the application of its mechanical hybrid technology to urban buses and commercial vehicles. The system captures kinetic energy as the bus slows down and transfers it to a flywheel that spins at up to 60,000rpm. The energy flow is reversed during acceleration, to reduce load on the diesel engine; saving fuel and reducing emissions.

The technology is purely mechanical, with no costly high-voltage batteries and without the inefficiency of converting energy from mechanical / kinetic to electrical and back. Because it is completely mechanical, the flywheel system also provides full depth of discharge throughout the vehicle’s life, and has only basic servicing requirements, similar to the main drive transmission. This helps to offer a low cost of ownership, and also maintain the vehicle’s residual value.

“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,” says Torotrak chief executive officer Jeremy Deering. “Third party validated test results have been achieved with a thoroughly modern, light-weight, high efficiency vehicle from Wrightbus, indicating on-going 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. We hope that this will raise awareness of our technology, and help us expand our reach more firmly into international markets.”

Torotrak is also working on Flybrid evaluation and development programmes with a number of European passenger car manufacturers, and also an off highway machinery OEM.

About Torotrak
Torotrak is an innovator and supplier of low carbon vehicle technologies, focussing on mechanical solutions that increase efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions in vehicles.

These include the V-Charge variable-drive supercharger, a range of Torotrak gearless traction drive transmissions, and the Flybrid energy recovery system, which uses a mechanically-driven flywheel to capture kinetic energy during braking and efficiently return it to the wheels.

The company’s engineering team works with proven, global tier one technology partners to provide a validated route from prototypes to production. Customers include major vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers in the light duty, heavy duty and off-highway sectors as well as leading motorsport teams.

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