Torotrak told shareholders this week that the first vehicle to use its Infinitely Variable Transmission (IVT) system is planned for launch in 2002. Lancashire-based Torotrak is aiming for IVT to become the automotive industry standard transmission by the end of the decade.
Nine major global automotive companies have signed up as Torotrak licensees, including Ford, General Motors and Toyota. In its interim results statement, the company revealed that Korean manufacturer LG Cable plans to launch an IVT-equipped tractor in 2002.
IVT is based on a variator, a system of discs and rollers which produces a continuous range of drive ratios from full reverse to overdrive, eliminating the need for the four or five fixed gears found in conventional transmissions. This allows the gear ratio and engine speed to be optimised to suit power demand, making it more efficient.
Torotrak claims its technology achieves a 28% fuel economy benefit compared with conventional four-speed automatics, and a similar reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Chairman David Wallis said automotive manufacturers face demands for significant improvements in exhaust emissions and other environmental impacts. He said: ‘We are confident the Torotrak IVT will make a significant, cost-effective contribution to the achievement of that challenge.’
Wallis said two manufacturers — LG Cable and BMW — had passed the ‘concept readiness’ stage of development, with all technical issues surrounding IVT resolved, and said Torotrak would be ‘pushing hard’ to get all licensees to the point where preparations for high volume production can begin. But Wallis admitted such decisions involved questions that only the volume manufacturers could answer.
During the first half, Torotrak completed its new facility at Leyland, bringing all its 160 staff under one roof. The company suffered a setback when problems with bought-in components delayed delivery of its Series 3 transmission to Ford and GM by three months. ‘This has been declared and is not a problem to the customers,’ said Wallis.
The delay contributed to a 75% fall in turnover for the six months to September, during which Torotrak spent £4.2m on development.