Mayflower pins hope on revolutionary new engine

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The Independent Online

Car drivers could halve the amount of fuel emissions from their vehicles and reduce fuel consumption by 40 per cent within five years if a new engine launched yesterday by Mayflower Corporation is developed by car manufacturers.

Mayflower, best known for its bus and truck manufacturing businesses, said the new engine could deliver "hugely improved environmental, energy and economic benefits".

John Simpson, its chief executive, said: "I believe the new engine will become a 'must-have' among key audiences and the first engines could be in production within five years."

The engine, or the Mayflower e3 variable motion engine in full, works by becoming larger when cars need more power and smaller and more economical when less power is needed. By varying the compression ratio, the driver does not lose any engine performance.

Mayflower believes the e3 engine could replace conventional combustion engines in all their applications, which range from lawn mowers and chainsaws to cars and buses. To date, Mayflower has invested £6m in its 33 per cent stake in the technology rights to the e3. It has an option to increase this to 51 per cent over the next five years for a further £33m.

Analysts backed Mayflower's support for the e3, but said it could take more than five years before the company saw any sales proceeds. One analyst said: "The concept is very interesting. It looks to be one of those very simple concepts that is totally brilliant and could revolutionise things, but scepticism leads me to believe that things are never quite as good as Mayflower would have us think. The company tends to live on the optimistic side."

The e3 is the brainchild of Dr Joe Ehrlich, a scientist who has been involved in designing racing cars and motorcycles since the 1940s.

Mayflower shares slipped 3p yesterday to 119p, valuing the company at £310m. They soared 14 per cent on Friday after the company revealed it would shortly launch the new engine. Analysts said it was hard to estimate the overall value of the e3 to Mayflower, pointing out that the company had been the only engineering group to outperform the sector over the past three months by 25 per cent – roughly equal to the prospective value of Mayflower's stake in the e3. Mayflower hopes that the e3 will fill the gap between the engines of today and the fuel cell engines of tomorrow, perhaps extending the shelf life of the internal combustion engine.

Mr Simpson said the e3 was based on a simple change to the conventional design of an internal combustion engine, changing the piston motion from circular to elliptical. He added that it should be relatively easy for manufacturers to accommodate the new design. "The advantage with the e3 is that only one new component is needed to make it. There should be no increased cost to the engine manufacturer so there shouldn't be any increased cost to the consumer," he said.

Mr Simpson added that the company had "spoken to a number of engine manufacturers", but had yet to sign any deals. With more than 160 million new internal combustion engines made every year, the company said the marketing potential for the e3 was enormous.