Car giant Tata Motors is set to for a recruitment drive with both engineers and production staff on its wishlist, after starting production of an electric car in the Midlands.
The Indian owner of Jaguar Land Rover is planning a major expansion of its European Technical Centre, known as TMETC, in Coventry, which will see its workforce rise from about 230 to up to 400.
The firm is also set to grow a new electric car plant, at Cross Point Business Park, in Coventry, after the Vista EV car assembled at the site was named among nine low carbon vehicles eligible for a Government grant.
The car was named on the list, which will mean buyers can enjoy 25 per cent off the purchase price, worth up to £5,000, under a plan to promote low-carbon transport.
TMETC was established in 2005 and is in the business of design engineering and product development for the automotive industry, including the low carbon Vista EV and Ace EV vehicles.
The operation, which is a subsidiary of Tata Motors, will be seeking skilled staff to aid design and development work on the next generation of sustainable vehicles.
There are currently 25 people working at the new EV production site to produce about 25 vehicles for evaluation in the Technology Strategy Board-sponsored CABLED programme.
However, Tata plans to increase production at the plant, which has a capacity of 1,500 a year – but is not expected to grow to that capacity until electric vehicle uptake increases sufficiently.
A group spokesman said: “With the market introduction of the Tata Indica Vista EV, Tata Motors continues its commitment to innovations in low carbon technologies.
“Investments in The Tata Motors European Technical Centre, the Centre of Excellence for Green Technologies, through collaborative research and internally-funded programmes will bring forward the next generation of low carbon and sustainable vehicles.”
The Coventry site will assemble cars using kits shipped in from India, batteries from Norway and drivetrains from Canada.
There is no input from Jaguar Land Rover into the site, although Tata seeks to collaborate between its various operations wherever possible.
The Vista EV is a fully-electric, four-seater family car which has a 110 miles range and a top speed of 71 mph.
It will be launched in the UK market, and other selected European markets, in early summer 2011 and will initially be available to fleet customers in limited numbers to develop a robust customer base and after-sales programme, ahead of a more comprehensive launch in 2012.
Under the Government scheme, the firm will be eligible to receive a grant of 25 per cent of the purchase price up to a maximum of £5,000 for each new vehicle sold between January 2010 and March 2012.
The Vista EV will join the scheme in March, with the Mitsubishi iMiEV, the Mercedes-Benz smart fortwo ED and the Peugeot iON all eligible for grants from January.
And the West Midlands remains at the heart of the next generation of electric cars, with engineering centre MIRA working on projects to improve the range of batteries and reduce the cost of electric cars.
Dr Geoff Davis, business development director at MIRA, said: “This year we have invested in a state-of-the-art battery testing site.
“It is all about batteries because the range the vehicle can travel is dependent on that. That is now being utilised by UK OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).
“We have also just started GEVCO, which is a fresh approach to electric vehicles for Generation Y, or 20-somethings. It is all about trying to make the cost of an electric vehicle the same as a traditional vehicle.”