A consortium of British high-technology companies led by Torotrak PLC has won £2.4 million (US$4 million) in funding from the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board towards the development of an optimized manufacturing route for key components of the company’s variable drive systems.
Called S-CONTACCT, the program, with a total project value of £3.8 million (US$6.3 million), will establish new manufacturing processes for the traction drive disks and rollers at the heart of Torotrak’s portfolio of automotive CO2 and fuel consumption reduction technologies, which includes variable drive superchargers; infinitely variable toroidal transmissions; and an advanced flywheel kinetic energy recovery system (KERS).
The V-Charge variable drive supercharger allows smaller engines to provide the drive feel of a larger unit, enabling downsizing without compromising driveability.
The company’s Infinitely Variable Transmission manages engines at their optimum speed and efficiency, delivering up to 20% CO2 benefit and an equivalent saving in fuel for trucks and buses. (Earlier post.)
The Flybrid Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) provides a fuel economy benefit of up to 25% (Volvo data) (earlier post) in passenger cars for a fraction of the cost and weight of a traditional electric hybrid. (Earlier post.)
Through research into existing and new steel specifications, S-CONTACCT project will establish those grades most suitable for advanced new forging processes that meet Torotrak’s manufacturing requirements. These processes will include the development of cold and hot forging technologies to reduce post-processing by enabling net-shape, or near-net-shape, forming.
The anticipated outcome of S-CONTACCT will be an end-to-end supply chain able to deliver the discs and rollers using the novel cold rotary forging and enhanced grain flow hot forging processes. New process models and tools will be developed to optimize manufacturing techniques based on production cost and component functionality and to define the ideal manufacturing plant, process and facility layout. The technologies developed are expected to cut manufacturing time, cost, energy and material use, while also increasing the rolling contact fatigue life of the components.
Torotrak’s Dr. Adrian Lee, product leader, core variator technologies, says it is easy to forget manufacturability and cost when innovating to meet pressing targets.
One of the keys to successful commercialisation of innovation is to work on the complete solution in parallel, which must include manufacturability. By looking at the big picture from the vehicle manufacturers’ perspective, we are offering a proven package that includes technology, validation, manufacturing processes and supply chain.—Dr. Lee
The project consortium includes Tata Steel UK; two centers from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (the Advanced Forming Research Centre and the Manufacturing Technology Centre); South Wales Forgemasters and various specialist sub-contractors.
A project Steering Committee will include a global automotive Tier 1 and Productiv (lead partner of the Government and Industry funded The Proving Factory), as well as the consortium members and support by a UK OEM.
This is a substantial vote of confidence in our technology and a recognition of the results already achieved. Our emphasis is now changing from demonstrating how well our technologies work in prototype vehicles to getting them ready for production using techniques that will ensure they present an affordable solution to the demanding 2020 emissions and fuel consumption targets.—Torotrak chief executive Jeremy Deering
The Technology Strategy Board’s grant has been awarded under the category of disruptive technologies, i.e. those that change the status quo and enable new advances across many potential applications.