Gearless traction drive company Torotrak said it was progressing to the next stage in its programme with heavy truck supplier Allison Transmissions.

The company has proved the transmission’s required performance on concept hardware and will now develop prototypes of a fully representative production design.

Torotrak has also completed an extensive process of knowledge transfer to Allison personnel who will now work  towards production while Torotrak provides specialist technical support and engineering consultancy.

Jeremy Deering, Torotrak’s commercial director, said: “[We have] re-shaped [our] engineering delivery structure over the last six months to provide the most relevant support as programmes such as Allison’s move closer towards commercialisation.

“Helping develop the production supply chain for important variable drive components, such as the discs, rollers and traction fluid, is as important to success as is the disciplined engineering staged approach and forensic attention to detail in planning. We are engaged with a number of suppliers with a view to establishing relationships to support Torotrak licencees.”

Torotrak hopes its technology will be part of the commercial vehicle industry’s response to growing legislative pressure to improve fuel economy.

In the US, new regulations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires heavy trucks to achieve fuel consumption and CO2 emissions savings of around 20% from the 2018 model year.

This will affect vehicles built and sold in 2017.

“The new US regulations signal a change of priority from the legislators, shifting the emphasis from reductions in noxious emissions to improvements in fuel economy,” said chief executive Dick Elsy.

Part of Torotrak’s strategy is to offer technology that can be implemented at a significantly lower cost of investment and can be used alongside more conventional transmission arrangements.

Torotrak technology is being developed for use in a number of other vehicle systems that reduce CO2 emissions such as compact continuously variable transmissions (CVT) which are a key part of mechanical flywheel hybrid systems for cars and commercial vehicles.

Work is under way with industry partners including Ricardo, Prodrive, Jaguar Land Rover and Optare in ‘pre-competitive research’ projects that examine the viability of the technology for premium vehicles and buses.

Volvo Cars is also working on a programme that incorporates a Torotrak CVT with a ‘flybrid’ flywheel.

Torotrak’s Rotrak joint venture is developing a variable supercharger that will ensure the more economical, downsized engines, which form a significant part of CO2 strategies, still provide the driveability car buyers expect.

Testing of the system is under way and talks with vehicle manufacturers and tier one suppliers are taking place.

“Torotrak’s technologies are based around the concept of simple variable devices that help recover and reduce waste energy or that enable more radical engine downsizing,” added Deering.