Torotrak, BTG’s Lancashire company, says its infinitely variable transmission could replace traditional transmissions in most cars by 2010. However, it will probably appear in a tractor first, before the end of the decade.
Maurice Martin, Torotrak’s chief executive, said half the world’s car manufacturers were already looking at its system. Feasibility studies have been carried out by some manufacturers, and contracts have been signed with Rover, a Swedish truck manufacturer, a French car maker, and a German company. Licensees – with production clearly in mind – include Ford, Toyota, FFD-Ricardo, a tractor manufacturer, Getrag (which supplies transmissions to BMW) and LG Cable.
Torotrak is already eating into the £12.6m raised by BTG in June. Its workforce of engineers has increased to 40, and new buildings and test equipment are being installed.
`Our main aim is to convince the conservative car manufacturers that the technology is reliable,’ said Martin. Torotrak has built 15 units to date and has five Ford Mondeos on the road.
The system, based on torque control, uses a series of variable geometry discs and rollers to transmit power from the engine to the driven wheels, which allows the engine to remain as near to idle as possible. This has fuel economy savings of at least 15%, and noise reduction benefits.
Altering the software dictates the driving experience, and allows it to be used as a manual gearbox.
Research by Pira indicates that the system could be 20% cheaper to produce than present-day automatic transmissions.