Gordon Day

General manager at GKN Hybrid Power

It is often wrongly assumed that if desirable technology is not readily available, it must mean it does not exist and is beyond the realm of human capabilities. However, occasionally it is more of a financial issue that is limiting production. 

A case in point is the developments around flywheel energy storage. The technology has been applied successfully in vehicles to win several endurance races but still remains beyond the reach of passenger vehicles due largely to the substantial costs associated with it.

GKN Hybrid Power is taking a leading role in changing this situation, but general manager Gordon Day is under no illusions as to when this will occur. “It is all about building global volumes, reducing the size of the system and continuing to increase performance,” he says. 

“Our plan is to get the technology into buses in the mega-cities of Asia and Latin America as, once production and customer support for the technology are global, it will be a lot easier to then look at automotive applications.” 

Significant interest in the system is being generated among both operators and manufacturers of vehicles, due to the 20% fuel savings it offers. The firm has secured a contract to supply 500 of the flywheels to a UK-based bus company. 

According to Day, it is with good reason that GKN did not jump straight from supplying three Le Mans-winning Audi Sport prototypes with the system to passenger vehicles. “When you're taking a technology that works in endurance racing, these are the stepping stones you have got to go through,” he says. 

“If you are going to put it in a car, the volumes are huge, so you have to take things one step at a time and make sure the quality is there. 

“Buses have a duty cycle that is just as punishing as race cars and their fuel bills mean they can justify the cost of the technology.”

tags: November 2014 GKN Hybrids & EVs