Lotus Engineering has signed a licensing agreement with US tier one supplier Eaton Automotive to develop for production the British company's 'Active Valve Train' (AVT) system.

Lotus' experience in powertrain research and development is being combined with Eaton's leadership in producing and selling valvetrain technologies to vehicle producers around the world. The companies will collaborate closely in the development of Lotus' current AVT) research system to meet the cost, packaging and performance requirements of a production system.

The technology is said to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy which are crucial to the global automotive industry as it faces increasingly stringent legislative standards towards the end of the decade. Simulations show that for a conventional engine, AVT improves operational efficiency to increase torque by up to 10%.

Lotus Engineering director Simon Wood said that Eaton has recognised the potential of the technology and is the best-placed firm in the world to bring the system to market.

Lotus and Eaton hope to have vehicles demonstrating the technology within two years and to have systems in production and available for delivery by 2008. An undisclosed major European vehicle manufacturer has already signed an agreement to acquire the AVT system for one of its platforms.

The fully variable AVT system is claimed to be several generations ahead of the various mechanical systems introduced by vehicle manufcturers to improve engine flexibility.

The system replaces the camshaft with lighter and more compact hardware and the electro-hydraulic valve actuation technology enables virtually infinite manipulation of the timing, duration and extent of lift for each valve. The control system selects and implements the valve lift profile that achieves optimal operational efficiency across the engine's entire speed and load range.