Next-Gen Trucks And Buses Closer With £54 Million Funding

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Innovative green projects, which are creating the next generation of electric trucks and hydrogen-powered buses, are set to secure nearly 10,000 UK jobs and save millions of tonnes of carbon emissions thanks to over £54 million of funding by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

The 3 projects in Cwmbran, Warwickshire and Ballymena will receive more than £54 million of funding from the UK government and industry, and are forecast to secure nearly 10,000 jobs across the UK. They could also save up to 45 million tonnes of carbon emissions, equal to the total amount of emissions produced by 1.8 million cars over their lifetimes.

Investment in new technologies, including hydrogen fuel cells, will help cement the UK’s position as a global leader in automotive technology and support the country to build back better and greener from the pandemic by helping to meet the UK’s climate goals.

Projects to receive funding, from the latest Advanced Propulsion Centre competition ‘APC17’, include:

  • Next Gen FCEV (Fuel Cell Vehicle) [Ballymena, Northern Ireland] – The UK is a global leader in bus design and manufacturing. Wrightbus in Ballymena is developing hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicle single and double-deck buses. This programme will enable higher volume production at lower cost and create a centre of excellence for zero emissions hydrogen technology to upskill and share knowledge in the UK.
  • EPIC (Electric Powertrain Integration for Heavy Commercial Vehicles) [Cwmbran, Wales] – The next generation of zero emissions heavy commercial vehicles need lightweight ‘smart’ powertrains to manage extreme levels of electrical power. The EPIC project led by Meritor in Cwmbran integrates the key elements of motor, inverter, gearbox, differential and brakes in a single lightweight system for vehicles up to 44 tonnes and includes coaches, off-highway and construction vehicles. The funding would also go towards the construction of a new technology centre in Scotland.
  • e-MOTIF (e-axle with MOT or Inverter and Flywheel) [Southam, Warwickshire, England] – Weight saving and reducing energy consumption are key to winning in motor racing. The e-MOTIF project led by Shield Manufacturing Technologies in Warwickshire combines lightweight energy recovery technology from motorsport with a new motor and inverter for cars and vans to cut energy consumption and CO2 emissions. The e-MOTIF project is scalable and cost effective for global manufacturers, and will lead to three new manufacturing centres opening across the UK.

Managing Director of the Shield Group, Chris Shield, said:
“Shield Manufacturing Technologies is delighted to be working with APC and our partners to accelerate the development and production readiness of cutting-edge engineered technologies. The evolving market opportunity for this family of power-dense electric drive modules will generate significant numbers of skilled roles with associated investment across Shield’s facilities in the Midlands and opportunities for the region’s supplier base.”

This funding announcement builds on the recent launch of the government’s national ‘Bus Back Better’ strategy and the Prime Minister’s ’10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’, both of which aim to accelerate the shift to zero emission vehicles and decarbonise the UK’s transport networks.

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean stated:
“As we look to reduce our carbon emissions, strive towards our net-zero goals and level up right across the UK, the whole transport sector will need to embrace new innovative technology such as green hydrogen and these projects are a fantastic example of doing just that. I’m proud to see the UK leading the way in the global transition to zero-emission vehicles. In the next decade, we’ll continue to be at the forefront of their design, manufacture and use as we build back greener.”

The funding is being coordinated by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) which supports the development of low carbon emission technologies for cars, buses, heavy goods vehicles, and vans. These projects will help further the UK’s ongoing efforts to develop a sustainable supply chain for manufacturing electric vehicles by 2026.

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) collaborates with the UK government, the automotive industry and academia to accelerate the industrialisation of technologies, supporting the transition to deliver net-zero emission vehicles. Since its foundation in 2013, APC has funded 150 low-carbon projects involving 375 partners, working with companies of all sizes, and has helped to create or safeguard over 50,000 jobs in the UK. The technologies developed in these projects are projected to save over 260 million tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of removing the lifetime emissions from 10.2 million cars.

Executive Chairman of Wrightbus, Jo Bamford, commented:
“The funding will allow us to realise our ambitions of creating a centre of excellence for zero-emission technology in Ballymena, enabling us to produce the next generation of world-leading hydrogen buses at a higher volume and a lower cost than ever before. It will safeguard more than 1,000 skilled jobs and will allow us to create more than 3,000 additional jobs over the next 10 years, giving a significant boost to the wider economy in Northern Ireland.”

CEO at the Advanced Propulsion Centre, Ian Constance said:
“We are delighted to have guided the latest investment of more than £54 million in the development and production of innovative powertrains to further accelerate the transition of the automotive sector to a net-zero future. The funding will enable the UK to apply its world-class innovation and experience in electrification of vehicles across the supply chain in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”

He continued:
“From fuel cell technology for buses, designed and built in Ballymena, a lightweight electric powertrain for commercial vehicles developed and manufactured in Wales and an integrated motor and energy recovery systems system for cars and vans based on motorsport technology in Warwickshire, today’s announcement secures and creates nearly 10,000 jobs and will cut CO2 emissions equivalent to removing the lifetime emissions of nearly 1.8 million cars.”

By investing in new, greener technology for the UK automotive sector, funding of this kind will help realise the government’s ambition for the UK to end its contribution to climate change by 2050.

[by Abigail King]

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