Williams has always been a racing team and wants to keep the focus on competition, even if there is much potential in using its technology to create revenue. The announcement that it has sold Williams Hybrid Power Ltd to GKN in “a multi-million Pound transaction” is not really a surprise, although the firm will probably end up making a great deal of money in the years ahead. For Williams the technology, developed for racing, was not of any further use and so the subsidiary has been turned into cash instead. The deal includes “additional consideration” (ie further cash) based on future sales and licences of the flywheel energy storage technology transferred to GKN. This means that it will continue to provide the team with money and reduce the amount of hassle involved: a win-win situation for all concerned. Successes to date include supplying the flywheel energy storage system for the Le Mans winning Audi R18 e-tron quattro, a partnership with Go-Ahead Group to develop a system for urban buses, and a partnership with Alstom to develop flywheel technology for tramway applications.
“The Williams Hybrid Power business has been developed very successfully over the last few years, and is now at the point of broader market commercialisation,” said Mike O’Driscoll, Group CEO of Williams. “GKN have the resources and expertise to fully realise the enormous potential of the motorsport proven flywheel technology, primarily within a variety of public transport applications. Williams Advanced Engineering continues to focus on delivering energy efficient solutions through incubating and developing new technologies that primarily originate within our Formula 1 operations, to a broad range of industry sectors including automotive, aerospace, and energy.”
It is possible we will see further moves in the months ahead with the logic of the Williams Technology Centre in Qatar being questionable given that it has not led to any financial input in the F1 programme from the government there. They would be wise to buy the unit from Williams given that investing in a country that does not wish to invest in you is not a good long-term strategy. Williams may feel that there are other countries that would appreciate its efforts rather more than Qatar has done.