Evolute Drives, incorporated as a separate entity by its sister company Drive System Design (DSD), is seeking investors to help commercialize its high-efficiency MSYS multispeed transmission system. Developed to extend the range of battery electric and hybrid vehicles, MSYS is an advanced drivetrain technology aimed initially at the premium market segment. In addition, the company has product under development suitable for the higher volume mainstream automotive industry, with cost-effective gearbox solutions for conventional powertrains that are particularly well suited to the needs of developing markets such as India.
“The German car makers in particular, which tend to be global leaders in automotive technology development, are already expressing a keen interest in our high-efficiency transmission for hybrid and electric vehicles,” says managing director Alex Tylee-Birdsall, who is also technical director of sister company DSD, an established engineering consultancy and drivetrain technology specialist based at Leamington Spa in Warwickshire and Detroit, Michigan. “OEM success in electric and hybrid vehicles has emerged very clearly around premium level vehicles. That’s why we’ve aimed initially at these early adopters of electric vehicle technology. Licensing to higher volume mainstream vehicle manufacturers will follow.”
As a startup company, Evolute Drives has been registered under the UK’s Enterprise Investment Scheme, which provides significant tax incentives for investors in new technology. The HEV transmission products developed by the company are state of the art and at a high level of technology and manufacturing readiness. The company has been created as a spin-off business by DSD to accelerate the production of its portfolio of driveline technologies and in particular its innovative MSYS gearbox.
“We’re on course for initial low-volume production, and scheduled to be profitable from 2018 onward, with additional products available to launch by 2022,” says Tylee-Birdsall. “The 2018 milestone will provide an initial opportunity for incoming investors to exit through an automotive industry sale following a year of successful low volume production.”
“With global patents now secured, our three-year funding requirement will cover the ongoing costs of protecting our intellectual property while demonstrating the technology to vehicle manufacturers and their Tier 1 suppliers. The investment will help us to design, test and validate MSYS for specific applications, so that it can be licensed to vehicle OEMs and their manufacturing partners for high volume series production.”
It has long been recognized within the automotive sector that multispeed transmissions will be the next important step in the development of electric vehicles, allowing traction motors to be downsized, while extending their range and performance. With the MSYS family of gearboxes, Evolute Drives will focus on a product that meets immediate market demand.
“That means we’re pushing at an open door,” says Tylee-Birdsall, “which is why our business plan can provide a rapid return on investment, delivered within three years.”
DSD has transferred to Evolute Drives its membership of The Proving Factory, the UK government-backed project that creates a low-volume automotive manufacturing and assembly capability in the UK. This will enable Evolute to provide cost-effective systems for low-volume fleet trials, and help its high-volume customers to reduce their development risks and timescales.
“Evolute Drives has been founded as a standalone business,” says Tylee-Birdsall. “Initially it will be managed by highly experienced senior staff seconded from DSD, but in time will have its own expert management team. We anticipate that an incoming lead investor will introduce a non-executive director, who would also most likely serve the main board as company chairman.”
The MSYS transmission was originally developed under a three-year Technology Strategy Board (now InnovateUK) grant awarded in 2011, and in 2013 DSD was named as a key member of a £16m (US$24.7m) UK government-supported consortium known as the Evoque_E development program, which took a pragmatic look at how new transmission and motor technologies could be implemented to increase the range, performance and refinement of electric vehicles. Almost completed, the project has investigated a number of evolving powertrain options, including multispeed transmissions and the potential for doubling electric vehicle motor speeds.
Other industry leaders of the Evoque_E consortium were AVL, Delta Motorsport, GKN Driveline, Jaguar Land Rover, Motor Design, Tata Steel, Williams Advanced Engineering, and Zytek. The consortium was supported by the universities of Bristol, Cranfield and Newcastle.
“The prior TSB grant and Evoque_E project have provided the most comprehensive and up-to-date studies yet devised of EV transmission options,” says Tylee-Birdsall. “They’ve reviewed a number of concepts and how they could be implemented for production in a premium vehicle. These programs have helped us understand several important developments in HEV transmissions and the requirements of drivetrain electrification.”
In addition to the premium hybrid and electric vehicle (HEV) applications of its gearbox technology, Evolute Drives recognizes that there is a lot of interest in better and more efficient automated manual transmission (AMT) solutions for conventional powertrains, particularly in developing markets such as India.
“For these rapidly developing markets, the volumes are significantly higher, albeit offset, of course, by smaller profit margins in what is essentially a commodity market,” says Tylee-Birdsall. “There is a real commercial opportunity, however, for an efficient 4-5-speed AMT rather than the larger, more complex and more expensive DCT systems. Consequently, we’re receiving serious enquiries and genuine interest in these markets for our patented high-efficiency gearbox designs.”
Evolute Drives has appointed Anson Global as exclusive investment advisor on a worldwide basis.