Strong take-up locally of the £30 million project to get electric vehicle charge points in place across the UK could spell a multi-million pound bonanza for car component makers in the West Midlands.
That was the message from Alan White, chief executive of Central Technology Belt, who urged companies in the supply chain to “embrace this new technology, not be afraid of it”.
“North Worcestershire and large parts of Birmingham have already got a great track record of manufacturing components for vehicles,” he said.
“In most cases it is for vehicles with internal combustion engines but electric vehicles will still need many of the same components.
“The drive train may be different but they will still need seats, they will still need wheels and numerous other parts.
“And even companies that make components for engines could reap the benefits of the electric car market if they are fleet of foot and look at what they could produce for this type of car.
“It might be slightly different technology but there is certainly a lot of potential there and I would encourage companies to look into the possibilities.”
CTB is co-managing the £2.9 million West Midlands arm of the wider Midlands Plugged-In Places project – the scheme tasked with kick-starting vehicle charge point deployment in the region – with Cenex, the UK’s first centre of excellence for low carbon vehicle technologies.
The project was awarded to Cenex and CTB along with a consortium of Midlands businesses and local authorities at the end of 2010.
It has the express aim of delivering 600 charge posts in high profile locations, including shopping centres, railway stations and places of work, by 2013.
To date 12 full applications have been made for a total of 60 charging points from Midlands-based organisations but commitment has so far been strongest from the public sector. Commercial applications currently account for one third of the total applications, excluding motor dealerships, and CTB is keen to encourage stronger private sector uptake.
Mr White said: “CTB was originally set up to help secure long-term economic prosperity through technology transfer following the demise of the Rover Group and the impact it had on the automotive supply chain.
“Now, some six years post Rover, the automotive sector once again offers the potential to reinvigorate the region’s economy, but this time through the development of sustainable technologies.
“Whilst I don’t doubt that the ability of the region’s knowledge base to adapt to answer the questions posed by this new age of motoring, demand for electric vehicles must start to grow in the private sector if the full economic possibilities of sustainable motoring are to be realised across the West Midlands.”
He said that as more and more charge points were put in place by the public sector in Birmingham he hoped the private sector would have the confidence to purchase small fleets of electric cars, which could ultimately lead to larger fleets. At the moment we are relying on ‘early adopters’, people who buy these cars because they are mad about the electric vehicle revolution and the benefits it can bring.
“The electric car’s range of around 120 miles might worry some people but in truth the majority of drivers don’t do that sort of mileage each day.
“People have the habit of leaving home with a fully charged mobile phone and as long as they get used to doing the same with their electric car they will have no problem.”