Sunday, 17 January 2016

Sorry - Bus out of service. Destination Nowhere.

So, there you are, sat at the Bus stop... You've checked the timetable, the automatic ETA display is updating, and every now and again when a bus does go past, the driver shouts out that your bus is going to be with you soon.
You keep checking the automatic ETA display for the bus - it says "due in 4 days", and price for a ride is 16p.

Then things start to happen. Firstly the digital ETA display goes blank. No warning. Nothing said. You get the conductor from the next bus shouting that they had been saying the next bus has been cancelled because it's empty, and that he had been saying that since November, and then you hear that the driver of the next bus has decided to get off one stop earlier because he thought he had done a good enough job of driving it for the last few years.

So, you're stood there, without a bus, and a one way ticket to ride that cost you 16p. Despite the price of a ticket having dropped by 20% in the past few days, you still sit there wondering what to do with a valid ticket but no bus to get on.
[Ed note: I originally drafted this first bit back in early 2015 but never finished it]

Then you hear that the bus has a new conductor, who once used to work on a rival bus company, but that went bust when the company ran out of money after spending all their advanced ticket sales on Gearbox design and research instead of manufacturing and selling them. Do you want to keep your ticket - or is it time to sell it on instead for whatever you can get ?

Whilst all this is happening, they tell you there's a bus going on a route in Kent. Sorry it's late, but it does accelerate very fast but the fuel efficiency isn't any different. (ahh, I hear you ask, but were the buses more punctual ? who cares - said everyone)

So we get to 2015...
In walks a new Managing Director. Genesis would have us believe Adam was the first, but it transpires that the delays to the Bus trials were too much for JD to remain with any integrity. It would seem an engineer can pull the wool over an accountants eyes, and the fallout from that was that Adam banished the KERS creator (John Hilton of Flybrid fame) from the garden of IVT with less than originally promised.

At the next AGM, JD was of course nowhere to be seen, which after the Steve Redgrave-esq request from the previous one was probably just as well, and Mr Robson set out the goals for the next 12 months.

And then, it almost happened.

The trials in Kent finished, the bus hadn't crashed, and announcements of great success and future production ensued, with confirmation of production tooling being made.

All seemed good, but lower down in the announcement it said things like "version 2" will now be on trial in early 2016. Visions of continual upgrades in technology and no actual sales rise onto the horizon again. Yet another perpetual research project I hear you say... oh not again.

And the shareprice drops. It drops to sub 4pence, and then drops some more to almost 3p. Yes that's my considerable investment reduced to 5% dust at todays rates.

But surely, if production tooling is on order, and end users and OEM's are saying they are looking forwards to further collaboration and production units in Q3 2016 this wouldn't be happening to the share price would it ?

So what is the truth and can we handle it ?

Is anyone paying for the next 20 version 2 pre-production test units for the trial buses ? well I've not seen anything that says they are.

So it's poker time. Do we have a winning hand ? Will the pre-production units prove the KERS solution, get spread to the four corners of the globe and convince them to get everything with KERS forever ? Will they be retrofitting their fleets ? and more importantly - if the pre-production version 2 units work - will the end user be paying for getting them !?!?! or is this yet another free trial give away ?

I see this time and time again in all types of business. The customer says "Can you do me a quote for designing me something and let me test it ?" and individuals and companies flock to provide the service/design/prototype for them to test. The test takes place, the potential customer (for they are not an actual paying customer yet) trials it on a proper job, makes some money, and then passes the trial unit/design/concept back to those who did all the work with a "thanks but no thanks", and either that's it (because their customer has moved on), or they take the design and give it to someone else to make - leaving the business out of pocket.

The share prices says that TRK don't have a winning hand. It also screams that there is no bankable deal (i.e. firm orders) yet to speak of, no kind of conditional offer to purchase if certain limits are met, and also that with the recent government funding for low emission bus schemes, (  and ) has not yet announced (today is mid January 2016)- did the TRK technology materialise too late without the evidence to help companies apply for their grants ?
News always leaks, and if there was good news, the pessimist in me says the shareprice would have ticked up already.
Worst case scenario is they make 20 mk2 KERS, they all go out onto free trials, and then the grants come through for other technology and they get left on the side as the grant funded technology gets put in instead. I hope I didn't just tell you so.

The optimist in me looks to the V-Charge testing at Bath University, and Ford to come charging in on their Unicorns and universally adopt the technology. We have heard positive news of new Technology - which means that parasitic losses (i.e. having the Vcharge running at idling speed when it's not needed) have been overcome by a new design that allows the unit to be clutched in and out.
Again, are we up to the Mk3 - at what point will we have a production ready version that someone wants to actually buy and doesn't want to wait for the next version ?

Meanwhile Alison Transmissions are part way through a redesign because the original version turned out to be too good and lasted too long with the size of discs in the variator. Cue Smaller Mk2 version redesign, oh yes and a load of endurance testing (which we have heard nothing about it's progress).
When is this design and test going to be completed, and if they have the main design, are they trying to integrate it into their manufacturing plans in the future.
No news yet, it's all very very quiet.

I am still sitting at the proverbial bus stop, nothing has arrived, and shareprice "out of service, destination nowhere" has been flashed up on the interactive arrivals board. The only thing missing from the information is an ETA for the end.

Meanwhile in the rest of the world, the price of oil drops below $30 per barrel, world war is slowly breaking out in the middle east, and after 16 years since I last bought one, I reluctantly accept that I can't buy a car with any sort of TRK technology in it and get something out of necessity.
And no, I'm not going to start catching the bus instead - that's not arrived either.

16 years. Think about that for a moment. Think about what has been achieved in the world in the 16 years since the millennium bug was going to hit, whole companies have grown -

As a comparison of companies - we can look to facebook that only started in 2004. Google had only just launched in 1998. (I hear you cry that they are just software companies...)

ok then - Elon Musk ( launched SpaceX in 2002

IVT technology is not rocket science, apparently, Rocket science is far easier.

I don't post that often on this blog, so don't expect anything probably from here until 2017 - unless something remarkable happens - I'll leave you to guess like everyone else what that could be, but going for 20 pre-production units without a bankable deal is the proverbial fig leaf over Adam's crown jewels. I hope he keeps it covered.

Until next time,
when that damn bus arrives....

Torotrak News - RSS from iii

Twitter Feed

TRK on Facebook

TRK shares on loan Graph (open Shorts)

iii Torotrak Discussion - latest 5 posts

Torotrak plc official web site news