GKN Land Systems is ramping up production of a new hybrid technology for buses that will enable operators to save fuel, reduce fares and make some routes more viable. Demand for the company’s Gyrodrive electric flywheel hybrid is growing following successful trials in London and the start of UK production.
GKN Land Systems CEO Phil Swash said: “Gyrodrive is the first hybrid technology that makes economic sense for bus operators. Gyrodrive is part of GKN’s strategy to offer customers new hybrid and electric driveline solutions that compliment our existing portfolio of technologies. In the next five years hybrid and electric systems will become increasingly more important to commercial, off-highway and agricultural vehicles. As we increase production volumes, GKN’s economies of scale will make Gyrodrive’s cost and benefits compelling for many commercial vehicle operators.”
The Gyrodrive system is a lower cost alternative to conventional battery hybrids. The upfront investment is a fraction of the cost of existing hybrids. With real-world fuel savings of up to 25%, the payback period for bus operators is three to four years. The system is smaller than conventional battery or super-capacitor hybrid units, which means it does not compromise seating or passenger capacity and can be retro-fitted to existing fleets.
Jules Carter, Head of Innovation at GKN Land Systems, said: “Few companies can match GKN’s expertise in composites, aluminium, and powder metallurgy, its understanding of driveline vibration and harmonics or its high-volume production capabilities. Leveraging all that expertise as we scale up production will enable us to make Gyrodrive viable for a broad range of commercial vehicle applications.”
Gyrodrive uses a high-speed composite flywheel paired with an innovative GKN EVO electric motor to regenerate the energy normally lost during braking. When the driver brakes, a traction motor on one of the axles slows the vehicle and generates electricity simultaneously. The electricity charges the flywheel, spinning it at up to 36,000rpm. When the driver accelerates, Gyrodrive returns the energy to the wheels, boosting power, saving fuel and reducing emissions.
The electric flywheel started life in motorsport. In June, GKN’s Gyrodrive system helped power Audi Motorsport’s hybrid race car to a third consecutive victory in the gruelling Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race.
“Bus operators want certainty on the fuel and cost savings and the reliability,” said Jules Carter. “Buses are the perfect first step for Gyrodrive as GKN builds production volumes,” said Carter. “Extensive trials in London proved the technology offers operators certainty on the savings and the reliability. With buses an important part of transport policies in the developing world’s fast-growing megacities, Gyrodrive has the potential to play a global role in improving city air quality.”
Gyrodrive will also help improve the efficiency of other commercial vehicles used in cities. Refuse and delivery truck applications are planned, so are agriculture and construction vehicles. Heavy vehicles with ‘stop-and-go’ or ‘back-and-forth’ duty cycles consume a lot of energy that Gyrodrive can recover and regenerate. In the longer term, as volumes increase and costs reduce, GKN expects Gyrodrive to be a viable option for mass-production vehicles.