Former F1 team supplier Equipmake driving development in electric bus technology

Equipmake at Hethel Engineering Centre. MD Ian Foley. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Equipmake at Hethel Engineering Centre. MD Ian Foley. Picture : ANTONY KELLY - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017

Electric supercar technology could soon be powering your commute, thanks to research by a Norfolk manufacturer.

Equipmake at Hethel Engineering Centre. Electronics engineer Javier Vara testing one of the motors.

Equipmake at Hethel Engineering Centre. Electronics engineer Javier Vara testing one of the motors. Picture : ANTONY KELLY - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017

Equipmake, whose former clients include the Williams F1 team, is developing batteries to power a fully electric bus – and hopes to bring down the vehicles' prohibitive running costs in the process.

Following promising research into the feasibility of creating a cost-effective electric bus, the Hethel-based company applied for and was awarded a £1.8m grant from the government's office for low emissions vehicles (OLEV) to take the project forward.

Its work focuses on increasing the energy efficiency of electric buses' heating, cooling and ventilation systems, which can use as much as 50% of the total battery power.

Managing director Ian Foley said: 'With all the news about air quality problems there is a big political will and desire for all-electric buses.

Equipmake at Hethel Engineering Centre. Head technician Dave Garnham. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Equipmake at Hethel Engineering Centre. Head technician Dave Garnham. Picture : ANTONY KELLY - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017


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'We recognise there is a huge global demand for them but currently they are up to twice the price of a conventional bus.

'If the main thing holding back their adoption is the price, we hope a cost-effective alternative to a diesel bus will go down well.'

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The £1.2m-turnover company initially designed the technology, launched at the Millbrook Low Carbon Vehicle show, for a supercar maker before exploring its broader applications.

The bus batteries comprise dozens of smaller batteries, produced by the Nissan plant in Sunderland, combined into a larger pack.

Mr Foley, who has previously worked on hybrid bus technology, said: 'The biggest issue with electric buses is the heating and cooling of them.

'We put a lot of effort into seeing how you reduce those requirements which means you can put a much smaller battery in.

'We think that we have got here is novel and that will be our edge.'

Equipmake, which employs 16 people at its workshop, is planning to market the technology globally to the world's 'relatively small' number of bus makers.

The initial road trials for the electric buses will be in South America, with buses supplied by an Argentinian company.

'In a lot of respects the electric bus is simpler than a conventional one. Hopefully at the end we will have a product that is applicable to any bus manufacturer,' Mr Foley said.

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