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Williams Touts F1 Energy-Saving Systems for London Buses

Nine-time Formula One champion Williams is seeking to supply London’s buses with energy-saving technology developed for the world’s richest auto racing series.

U.K.-based Williams is working on providing a flywheel system that would recoup energy each time a bus driver applied the brakes or stopped for passengers, Chairman Adam Parr said in an interview. Go-Ahead Group Plc, which operates 1,500 London buses, has discussed the plan, spokesman Sheldon Malcolm said.

Williams, whose past champions included Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, bought startup Automotive Hybrid Power Ltd. in 2010 to help develop the flywheel, even as the technology was shelved in Formula One racing that year on cost grounds. The Grove, England-based team used a less-bulky battery-powered hybrid engine last season, when it finished ninth of 12 teams.

“The really interesting thing in business terms is buses, trams and subway systems,” Parr said by telephone, with potential for selling “thousands or hundreds of thousands” of units and for the Williams logo to appear on vehicles.

A flywheel would last longer than the maximum 10-year lifespan of electric hybrids and could also be used for delivery and refuse trucks, according to Vitaly Belskiy, a Warsaw-based consultant on the transport industry at Frost & Sullivan.

‘Perfect Solution’

“The flywheel looks like the perfect solution for this segment of the market,” Belskiy said, adding that the main concern for bus operators would be any reliability issues.

The flywheel business, Williams Hybrid Power, had a net loss before tax and interest of 1.9 million pounds ($3 million) on sales of 2.1 million pounds last year because of research and development costs, according to earnings published March 9.

Parent company Williams Grand Prix Holdings Plc, listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange after an initial public offering last year, boosted earnings 30 percent to 7.8 million pounds.

Newcastle upon Tyne, England-based Go-Ahead is London’s largest bus operator, controlling about one-fifth of the market and carrying 1 million passengers per day on more than 100 routes, according to a statement on Sept. 1.

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