Torotrak to acquire remaining 80% of Flybrid for up to £23M; targeting commercial launch of M-KERS in 2015
|Torotrak’s M-KERS unit. Click to enlarge.|
Supercharger, kinetic energy recovery and transmission specialist Torotrak will acquire, pending shareholder approval, the remaining 80% of flywheel hybrid innovator Flybrid for up to £23.0 million (US$37.4 million), of which £15.0 million (US$24.4 million) is subject to performance targets. Torotrak had acquired 20% of its partner in March of this year. (Earlier post.)
Torotrak uses Flybrid’s flywheel module in its Mechanical Kinetic Energy Recovery System (M-KERS). M-KERS captures and stores energy that is otherwise lost during vehicle deceleration events. The integration of Flybrid and Torotrak provides a platform for a joint development and commercial launch of M-KERS, Torotrak said. The group intends to exploit what it sees as a market window from 2015 to 2020 in which new technologies are being demanded to achieve new EU CO2 targets applying to vehicle manufacturers’ overall fleets.
Torotrak’s directors believe that electric hybrid and plug-in solutions will for the foreseeable future only address a small element of the market and remain expensive. This leaves Torotrak’s technologies that improve the internal combustion engine’s performance well positioned as affordable, mainstream solutions in the mass car markets.
With the M-KERS, as the vehicle slows, kinetic energy is recovered through the KERS continuously variable transmission (CVT) and stored by accelerating a mechanical flywheel. As the vehicle gathers speed, energy is released from the flywheel, via the KERS CVT, back into the driveline. Torotrak’s variator reliably and naturally adopts the appropriate ratio, giving accurate control of the transmission torque and therefore precisely defining the energy flow.
As a purely mechanical system, M-KERS avoids the inevitable losses that occur when battery-based systems change energy from one form to another (i.e. mechanical to AC, to DC, to chemical). M-KERS is also small system package that is incorporated easily into vehicles. M-KERS for a city bus, with a weight of around 125 kg (276 lbs), weighs between 75 and 85% less than competing battery-based electrical hybrid systems, Torotrak notes.
M-KERS can recover up to 70% of braking energy for around a third the cost of battery electric hybrids, the company says. In commercial vehicles, Flybrid M-KERS offers affordable hybrid efficiency within a five-year payback period. The group intends launching this product into the market in trials in 2014 and into production in 2015 to achieve a first to market advantage and providing growing product revenues from 2015 onwards.
Torotrak believes that the acquisition of Flybrid provides it with the leading commercially viable flywheel technology in the market, offering low cost, high performance hybrid systems for mass market adoption in passenger cars and commercial vehicles.
In an independent report on flywheel hybrid technologies, commissioned by Torotrak, Ricardo Strategic Consulting also concluded that pure mechanical flywheel hybrids promise similar fuel economy and CO2 benefits to electric hybrids but at around one third the cost. This view is supported by E4tech, an independent research consultancy, which concluded that the Flybrid technology is well suited to the bus market; medium-volume market entry in the commercial vehicle market; and to some sectors of passenger cars. (Earlier post.)
Torotrak has conditionally raised funds of £16.0 million (US$26 million) before expenses by way of an equity fundraising comprising a Firm Placing, a Placing and Open Offer and a Subscription by Allison Transmission, Inc. The net proceeds will be used:
to finance the initial cash consideration payable in connection with the acquisition;
to finance the investment required for the commercialization of Flybrid’s first manufactured product for the commercial vehicle market; and
o finance the on-going design, development and testing of Torotrak’s V-Charge technology and Flybrid’s M-KERS technology for the passenger car markets, as well as enhancing Torotrak’s testing and engineering capabilities.
Jon Hilton (currently Managing Director of Flybrid) will join the board of Torotrak plc and, together with Doug Cross (currently Technical Director of Flybrid), will be key members of the enlarged group’s executive team.