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11th July 2003

Lotus and Eaton surge ahead with Camless Engine Technology


Lotus Engineering has signed a licensing agreement with leading U.S. tier one supplier Eaton Automotive to develop for production the British company’s ‘Active Valve Train’ (AVT™) system.

Lotus’ excellence in powertrain research and development is being combined with Eaton’s leadership in producing and selling valvetrain technologies to vehicle producers around the world. The companies will collaborate closely in the development of Lotus’ current Active Valve Train (AVT™) research system to meet the cost, packaging and performance requirements of a production system.

The technology promises to reduce engine-out emissions and improve fuel economy, crucial to the global automotive industry as it faces increasingly stringent legislative standards towards the end of the decade. Furthermore, simulations show that for a conventional baseline engine, the improved operational efficiency increases torque by up to 10% with AVT™ technology on board.

Simon Wood, director of Lotus Engineering, explains the synergy between Lotus and Eaton. "This agreement is important for both companies. We are capitalising on our unrivalled experience with AVT™ technology and its calibration and control systems, while Eaton has recognised the incredible potential of this technology and is the best-placed firm in the world to bring the system to the market."

Lotus and Eaton hope to have vehicles demonstrating AVT™ technology within two years and to have systems in production and available for delivery by 2008. An undisclosed major European vehicle manufacturer has already signed an agreement to acquire the AVT™ system for one of its platforms.

"Eaton’s Automotive segment produces products focused on fuel economy, the environment, and targeted safety systems. Our collaboration with Lotus means we can get to market quickly with one of the most exciting developments in valvetrain technology for many years," said Stephen Buente, Eaton senior vice president and group executive -- Automotive. "Between Lotus and Eaton there is the right mix of experience and know-how to make the AVT™ system a world-leading technology that is attractive to vehicle producers the world over."

The fully variable AVT™ system is several generations ahead of the various mechanical systems introduced by OEMs to improve the flexibility of their engines. It offers a level of valve control never seen before in production engines. Replacing the camshaft with lighter and more compact hardware, the electro-hydraulic valve actuation technology enables virtually infinite manipulation of the timing, duration and extent of lift for each valve. The complex control system selects and implements the valve lift profile that achieves optimal operational efficiency across the engine’s entire speed and load range. In addition to reduced emissions and fuel consumption, Lotus’ AVT™ technology offers increased torque and power output potential from the engine.

Furthermore, the AVT™ system will subsequently be an essential enabler for new combustion processes. For example, Lotus has demonstrated that Controlled Auto Ignition (CAI) and Homogenous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) are capable of reducing engine-out nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions by up to 98%.