Proving Factory helps launch innovative automotive transmission, aiming for profit by 2018

An automotive industry start-up involved in the Tata Steel-backed Proving Factory in Coventry expects to commence low volume production soon and be profitable in three years’ time.

Announcing a call for fresh investors, Evolute Drives said commercialisation of its high efficiency MSYS multispeed transmission system would mean the company was profitable by 2018.

New products from the firm could be available four years later, claimed managing director Alex Tylee-Birdsall. Evolute was spun out of Drive System Design (DSD), an established drivetrain technology specialist based in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, and Detroit, Michigan.

DSD transferred its involvement in The Proving Factory – which has sites in Rotherham and Coventry and is managed by Productiv – to Evolute Drives when the latter company was incorporated.

The Proving Factory opened its Coventry manufacturing site in February. It should help smaller automotive companies produce low-volume runs of parts, to bridge the so-called ‘valley of death’ that prevents them from becoming the mass-produced components made by tier one suppliers and OEMs.

Nick Rodgers, director of The Proving Factory said: “We have a long-standing relationship with Evolute and are delighted to be working with them to get their product into production.  Evolute’s MSYS technology is proven and will bring greater opportunities for electric vehicle manufacturers.”

Tata Steel believes that once such new concepts are ‘locked in’ to contracts at automotive suppliers, carmakers may increase their take-up of engineering steels from Rotherham and other UK steel mills.

Tylee-Birdsall told The Engineer: “There are no plans for Evolute Drives to set up its own production facility, so its relationship with low volume and high volume manufacturing partners is very important.”

MSYS is an advanced drivetrain technology aimed initially at premium passenger cars that has the potential to provide EV manufacturers with additional range. German carmakers are said to be particularly interested and Evolute is eyeing introducing low-cost passenger car gearboxes to the Indian market.

Adding multiple speeds to electric vehicle transmissions could reduce energy consumption by 10-15%, Evolute claimed. These transmissions allow the vehicle’s power electronics to consume less energy, as the motor runs at lower speed.

The technology allows gear changes without interruption of power to the wheels, while not consuming additional energy to hold the transmission in gear. In most transmissions, energy is required to hold planetary automatic and dual clutch systems, or the power is interrupted, giving poor shift feel, Evolute said.

The three-speed transmission overcomes this by providing a seamless power shift, but requires no energy to hold the transmission in gear.

As a start-up company, Evolute Drives has been registered under the UK’s Enterprise Investment Scheme, which provides tax incentives to to investors who purchase new shares in such start-ups and new technology enterprises.