An innovative partnership which hopes to bring hundreds of jobs to the region believes it can solve the global electric vehicle market’s biggest problem.
Achieving the economies of scale needed to make electric cars and trucks an affordable mass-market reality is the number one issue facing the automotive industry worldwide.
But a new collaboration headquartered in Warwickshire believes it has developed a way to achieve just that – and at the same time create a car which appeals to the “iPod generation”.
Nuneaton-based engineering research and testing organisation Mira is teaming up with electric vehicle company Gevco, which has transferred its operations from Norfolk to Mira’s headquarters.
Although the project is in its early stages, the two firms are pioneering a new approach for the automotive industry – applying a “white label” model more common in the production of items like DVD players and televisions or for supermarket own brand groceries.
They aim to develop a generic modular vehicle which can then be customised and branded by partner companies around the world for use by wide range of customers, such as taxi firms, delivery drivers or university fleets.
By teaming up with partner firms in a number of different markets, they hope to achieve volumes of around 100,000 a year which would bring the price of the vehicles down for customers.
And crucially, the partnership claims the finished products would not compromise on cost, safety or performance when compared to internal combustion engine cars.
Jonathan Hunt of Mira said the firms were already in discussions with potential partners around the world.
“It’s a radical departure for mainstream automotive – we’re not designing a car and trying to sell a car,” he said.
“We are forming partnerships where we will take their requirements and generate this modular white label vehicle that they can then tailor to their individual markets.
“For example the distributor the US, Brazil or China will have agreements with universities or a large taxi firm.
“The idea is we produce a modular vehicle which can have different variants, different sizes, body panels, colours or brand labels – but the building blocks are common.”
Mr Hunt said the research and development would take place in Warwickshire, but the actual vehicles would be built on the ground in their overseas markets.
He was confident that the project had the potential to bring “hundreds and hundreds” of research and development jobs to the region on its launch, planned for three years’ time.
“The vehicles will be designed between Mira and Gevco but the partners investing in it will be able to set up their own assembly retail and service networks.”
Gevco founder and chief executive Steve Woolley said he wanted to create a car for “the iPod generation” who are looking for something different to the vehicle their parents drive.
“The car will probably be very basic but they have the opportunity to personalise it,” he said.
“Going beyond that we make sure there’s the ability to constantly update the vehicle after they have bought it so they can create a relationship with the car and the community around them.”
Mr Woolley said the firms wanted to strike up relationships with local technology and engineering firms.
“We want to meet technology providers in areas like motors, batteries and telematics who see an opportunity in the industry.
“In the Birmingham area there are a lot of very good engineering ideas – we would like to be working with them.”
The Government has given its seal of approval for the firms.
Mark Prisk, Minister for Business and Enterprise, said “The successful businesses of the future will adapt and help their customers adjust to a low-carbon and sustainable world.
“Gevco’s partnership with Mira will benefit from the British motor industry’s strong research and development skills and technical know-how and will produce a vehicle that could be successful all over the world.
“It is an example of the type of company the UK needs.”