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.
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.
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.
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.