Have you heard of a company called Torotrak? Probably not. They make a very clever gearbox called an infinitely variable transmission system – basically a form of zero-shift a little bit like the gearboxes they use in F1.
Trouble is, although Torotrak has been around for nearly a decade, not one single car manufacturer has been bold enough to invest in its gearbox (although Jaguar is working with it on a mechanical hybrid system). The industry, it seems, made up its mind long ago that Torotrak’s exceedingly clever transmission is too complex, too heavy and too expensive to use on the road. And so yet another of Britain’s brilliant engineering ideas has failed to get off the ground.
Until a few days ago, that is, when shares in the firm rocketed from 9p to 22p in less than one hour, following an endorsement from world-leading US lorry gearbox manufacturer Allison Transmisions, which has said it will invest over £10 million in Torotrak during the next two years.
The great thing about the Torotrak system is that it is, in theory, incredibly fuel efficient because it creates far less friction than a conventional gearbox, or even a DSG. And now, maybe, Torotrak is up and running and will appear in road cars of the future. Perhaps not everything is doom and gloom for British industry after all.