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Torotrak wins the Award for Automotive Innovation 2014


A UK-designed, Formula 1-inspired energy recovery system for buses has taken first prize in the prestigious SMMT Award for Automotive Innovation 2014.

Torotrak Group’s Flybrid KERS for buses and commercial vehicles uses a fully mechanical system to store energy from a vehicle’s motion, which can be transferred back to the drive system to power the vehicle. It beat off stiff competition from the Dearman Engine Company and Jaguar Land Rover, both of which received Highly Commended status.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive and a member of the Award judging panel, said, “The UK is one of the world’s leaders in automotive engineering and R&D, a fact epitomised by Torotrak’s Flybrid KERS.

“Not only a genuinely innovative concept, it is also in an advanced stage of development with huge potential to influence the wider automotive sector.

“It was fantastic to see such a superb calibre of entrants in this year’s Award. SMMT will continue to help the UK build on its position as a global leader for automotive innovation.”

Sponsored by GKN and supported by The Times, the SMMT Award for Automotive Innovation demonstrates the wealth of design and engineering talent in the UK automotive sector by rewarding the most groundbreaking concepts each year. The Award started in 2010, and Torotrak Group follows in the footsteps of Gordon Murray Design, Jaguar Land Rover, Optare and Ford in winning the accolade.

The Award was presented to Jon Hilton, Torotrak’s Product Development and Sales Director, by Nigel Stein, GKN Chief Executive, at the 2014 SMMT Annual Dinner on 25 November.

Jeremy Deering, Chief Executive Officer, Torotrak, said, “Our system will be around one quarter the cost of a conventional battery electric hybrid as well as substantially smaller and around a quarter the weight.

“Third party validated test results have been achieved with a thoroughly modern, light-weight, high efficiency vehicle from Wrightbus, indicating ongoing opportunities to provide the sector with a low-cost route to reduced emissions and substantially lower operating costs.”

“Winning such a prestigious award shows that there is real faith in the commercial potential of our purely-mechanical hybridisation system for heavy vehicle applications, and that by making hybridisation more accessible and affordable, we can make a real impact on fleet emissions and running costs,” continued Deering.

Nigel Stein, GKN Chief Executive, said, “Congratulations to Torotrak.  Any automotive innovation that can improve efficiency and reduce carbon emissions deserves particular focus, and it is great to see British companies driving this forward.”

To win the Award, Torotrak had to get through a judging session at the hands of some of the most influential experts in the UK automotive sector. The panel featured: Mike Hawes, Chief Executive, SMMT; Dave Salt, Chief Engineer, GKN Driveline; Robert Lea, Industrial Editor, The Times and Jim Higginbotham, Head of Specialist Markets, Lombard.

SMMT Award for Automotive Innovation 2014 shortlisted entries


  • Automotive Insulations – Xlite

An advanced range of sound-deadening materials for electric and lightweight vehicles.


  • Carrier Transicold – NaturaLINE

Use of CO2 in a transport refrigeration system, adapted from sea containers, and being pioneered in a trial with Sainsbury’s.


  • Dearman Engine Company – The Dearman Engine

Liquid air technology for efficient transport and cooling systems.


  • Jaguar Land Rover – Ingenium Engine

New family of compact, lightweight, low-emissions diesel and petrol engines.


  • Torotrak Group – Flybrid KERS for bus applications

Formula 1-inspired fully mechanical energy recovery system to improve efficiency in buses.


  • Vocis Ltd – OGeco

Hybrid automated manual transmission using an electric motor to deliver extra power, smoothness and efficiency.

The judges

A panel of leading industry experts will judge the Award for Automotive Innovation 2014. The panel includes:

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive, SMMT

Mike Hawes_SMMT Chief Executive_bwMike Hawes became SMMT Chief Executive on 2 September 2013. He has more than 20 years’ experience in policy and public affairs, the majority of which have been spent in the motor industry. He joined SMMT from Bentley Motors where he held a number of PR, corporate and public affairs roles. Prior to that, he worked for both Toyota and, more recently, Bentley’s parent company, Volkswagen AG, where he developed the European and global knowledge needed for this challenging role.


Dave Salt, Chief Engineer, GKN Driveline

Dave has more than 40 years of experience within automotive engineering and specialises in vehicle design, development and application. He is Chief Engineer and Engineering Site Manager at UK-based global engineering company GKN Driveline –  the world’s leading manufacturer of automotive driveline components. The business employs 24,000 people at 45 manufacturing facilities and 3 product development centres in 22 countries, working in partnership with vehicle manufacturers. This is the fifth year that Dave has participated in the judging of the Award.

Jim Higginbotham, Managing Director – Large Corporate and Specialist Asset Finance, Lombard

AAI_J Higginbotham_b&w2Jim Higginbotham is Managing Director of Lombard’s Large Corporate and Specialist Asset Finance (LCSAF) division. In this role, Jim is responsible for a diverse range of specialist businesses from vehicle stocking and short-term car hire through to technology services, renewable energy, and aviation and marine. The team also focus on meeting the asset finance needs of the FTSE 250 in partnership with Lombard’s parent, The Royal Bank of Scotland Group. As a business leader with more than 20 years’ experience within the financial services industry and specific functional expertise in risk, Jim brings key knowledge to a sector that can have complex funding requirements. He also has a clear understanding of the importance of balancing commercial ambition with a risk based approach to achieving a strong return on investment.

Robert Lea, Industrial Editor, The Times

Robert has been a business journalist for more than 20 years and at The Times covers the automotive, transportation, engineering and manufacturing industries as well as industrial relations and business policy.




Previous winners

2013: Ford 1.0 EcoBoost engine

Hailed as the future of engine technology and designed, developed and engineered in Essex, Ford’s 1.0 EcoBoost engine – found in hundreds of thousands of cars across the UK – was crowned winner of the SMMT Award for Automotive Innovation in 2013.

The efficient 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine, which uses a power-boosting turbocharger to deliver performance to beat that of a more conventional 1.6-litre unit, started life at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre in Essex.

Commenting on the win, Graham Hoare, Ford’s Director of Global Vehicle Evaluation and Verification, said, “On behalf of the 1,000-plus highly-skilled Ford powertrain engineers involved in the 1.0-litre EcoBoost programme, we’re all delighted with this prestigious recognition.

“In 2007, the engineering teams at Dunton and Dagenham took on the challenge to produce a cutting-edge three-cylinder petrol engine – exciting, durable and efficient enough for both cars and commercial vehicles. Six years on, and with over 300,000 global sales, two back-to-back International Engine of the Year titles, and now this major innovation award, we couldn’t be more proud.”

2012: Optare Versa EV

Optare_image 1

Bus manufacturer Optare scooped the 2012 award with its all-electric Versa EV.

Developed from the 27-seater Optare Solo EV that was launched in 2010, the Versa EV is the UK’s first fully operational, full-sized, battery-powered electric bus. Designed and engineered at Optare’s exclusive UK facility in North Yorkshire, the Versa EV boasts impressive environmental credentials with zero tailpipe emissions and reduced noise and is capable of carrying around 50 passengers.

Glenn Saint, Deputy CEO of Optare plc, said, “Winning the SMMT award is a major boost to our efforts to make electric buses an integral part of the UK transport infrastructure. It significantly raises awareness amongst key audiences leading to an increase in enquiries, both from domestic and international markets, and has confirmed our status as the UK’s leader in the field of low carbon buses.”

2011: Jaguar Land Rover Range_e


Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) won the 2011 award for its prototype Range_e – the world’s first luxury plug-in hybrid electric 4×4 with integrated V6 diesel engine. With an electric motor replacing the torque converter in the eight-speed automatic gearbox, the Range_e emits just 89g/km CO2 on the combined cycle.

Picking up the Award, Peter Richings, Chief Engineer, Hybrids, JLR, said, “Innovation and technology are the lifeblood of our business and we are delighted that our work has earned this recognition from our industry peers. Range_e demonstrates the advances we are making in cleaner and more fuel-efficient performance without compromising the performance and all-wheel-drive capabilities that are at the heart of our brand and we look forward to bringing its benefits to the market in the near future.

“The award for the Range_e project is testament to the range of skills, excellence and enthusiasm of not just our own engineers and designers, but the people in the research and academic organisations in the UK that have supported them.”

2010: Gordon Murray Design iStream

Yamaha Motiv

Gordon Murray Design’s revolutionary iStream manufacturing process was the first ever winner of SMMT’s Award for Automotive Innovation in 2010. Billed as “potentially the biggest revolution in high volume manufacture since the Model T”, iStream is based around a simplified assembly operation that allows the car manufacturing plant to be a mere 20% of the size of a regular facility. Since receiving the award, iStream has been incorporated into the 2013 Yamaha Motiv concept car (above).

Receiving the award in 2010, Gordon Murray said, “Awards like the Award for Automotive Innovation are really important for small start-up companies like ours. There are established innovators in the UK that get a lot of press coverage, but it’s always helpful to get recognition, especially when you are trying to do something which is not conventional, in order to gain people’s attention.”


To register for updates about the 2014 Award for Automotive Innovation, e-mail updateinnovationaward@smmt.co.uk.