The commercial adoption of Orbital (NYSE: OE) technology has passed a major milestone with the launch in Noale, Italy last night (Australian time) of the Aprilia SR 50 DITECH scooter.

Aprilia is Europe’s fastest growing motorcycle manufacturer and widely regarded as a leader in style and technical innovation. It achieved worldwide sales of more than 300,000 units last year.

Aprilia has described its DITECH (Direct Injection Technology) system — based on Orbital Combustion Process technology — as “a revolutionary technology bringing performance, record consumption and ultra-low emissions together in one engine.”

It added that DITECH was “a giant stride forward in terms of performance and reduction of fuel consumption and pollution, without compromising objectives such as simplicity, reliability, safety, character, power and, above all, riding pleasure”.

Orbital CEO Kim Schlunke said the launch of the SR 50 DITECH scooter was a very significant development for the entire motorcycle industry.

“This launch is the culmination of several years of work with Aprilia. A new generation of high technology engines has been created that clearly demonstrates the performance, environmental and commercial benefits of using Orbital technology. These engines have the potential to be the dominant motorcycle powerplant of the next few years because of their ability to meet increasingly stringent emissions regulations and customer requirements.

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“We anticipate several additional product launches over the next 12 months, including Chinese manufacturer China Hainan Sundiro Motorcycle Co Ltd, which signed an agreement with Orbital earlier this month.

“This progress in the motorcycle market follows the technical and commercial success of Orbital technology in the high performance marine market, where the injection system is a mature, industrialised product.”

At the launch of the SR 50 DITECH, Aprilia acknowledged the contribution of its technology partners, namely Orbital, Siemens Automotive, the leading world producer of injection systems, and Synerject LLC, the system component supplier “formed by the partnership between these two great names”.

Aprilia stated that the DITECH engine will generate multiple benefits:

— Fuel consumption improved by 40%. The DITECH engine achieves 50km per litre while traditional technologies achieve, at best, 29km per litre. A four stroke 50 cc engine, until now considered the lowest consumption engine, can achieve a reduction of up to 30% at most, but with considerably lower performance.

— More importantly, this improvement is obtained while maintaining performance equal or superior to that of current best-in-class engines.

— Oil consumption reduced by 60%.

— Pollutant emissions reduced by 80% compared to a traditional 50cc engine.

— The DITECH engine exceeds the Euro 1 emission standards by 50% and
Aprilia is working on a further development which will enable the engine to meet the Euro 2 limits proposed for 2002 without requiring a
catalytic converter or other devices.

— Emission of exhaust smoke is eliminated, as is emission of unburnt oil particles.

— Higher power and exceptional performance, with acceleration over 100 metres being 1.5 seconds faster than a traditional engine.

— Consistently perfect starting at all temperatures.

— Longer working life than a traditional 50cc engine.

— Complete electronic control providing constant automatic diagnosis of all components and real-time warning of malfunction.

Aprilia selected the SR 50 as the first model to use the DITECH engine because of its unrivalled reputation and sales record.

The SR 50 was the world’s first sports scooter when launched in 1992, and Aprilia has sold more than 500,000 since then, making it the favourite scooter among young enthusiasts from all over Europe.

Importantly, Aprilia stated that the DITECH system was applicable to its complete range of scooters.

Commenting on the stricter emissions limits being adopted in Europe, Aprilia said the DITECH 2-stroke engine was a superior option to using 4-stroke in 50cc scooters.

“To use 4-stroke in 50cc scooters could be seen as an easier and more immediate solution compromised, however, by high engine costs, larger size and weight and limited performance. Latest testing indicates that even these supposedly clean engines will struggle to meet the forthcoming regulations without even more expensive anti-emission devices”.

The DITECH engine combines the traditional advantages of 2-strokes, such as simple operation, high specific power, high performance, limited weight and size and low production costs, whilst overcoming the traditional shortcomings, namely poor fuel consumption and high exhaust emissions.

Orbital is a leading international developer of engine technologies using direct in-cylinder fuel injection and lean-burn systems for enhanced fuel economy and lower emissions. The company serves the worldwide automotive, marine, recreational and motorcycle markets. Headquartered in Perth, Western Australia, Orbital stock is traded on the Australian Stock Exchange (OEC), the New York Stock Exchange (OE) as well as the Berlin (ORE) and Frankfurt (OREA) Exchanges.