Norfolk inventor hoping to revolutionise the motor industry and reduce global carbon emissions
Former British Olympic skier Stuart Wilkie is hoping to put Norfolk at the heart of a global push for reduced carbon emissions and increased fuel economy in cars.
The inventor says he has already attracted the interest of top car markers, such as Porsche, Honda and Mitsubishi, for his unique design for a motor that turns petrol or diesel-powered cars into hybrids.
The 49-year-old had his 'eureka' moment two years ago after he looked at the electric cars currently available and realised the problem did not lie with new models.
He said: 'I decided if people wanted to address the real issue of carbon emissions they needed to convert existing stocks of cars and vans as efficiently as possible. This can be achieved by fitting new wheels which include retrofit motors and also by having more efficient batteries.'
By fitting these wheels to the chassis on the back of a four-wheel-drive, or the front of a front-wheel-drive, the vehicles could become an electric car at the flick of a switch.
Mr Wilkie, of Clenchwarton, near King's Lynn, added: 'The system I am working on would give 50pc improvement in fuel economy and will allow a family car to get 100 miles to the gallon. I am working hard to make sure it will be affordable for families. There is no point putting it on luxury sports cars if you want to make an impact on carbon emissions.
'There are currently 34 million cars in the UK and hundreds of millions of cars around the world so this system could have a big impact on slowing global warming.'
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Mr Wilkie has been working on this plan in association with Norfolk's Hethel Engineering for over a year.
He continued: 'One of my goals is to make sure my system creates British jobs and boosts British manufacturing. Ideally, I would want the production to be in Norfolk and use the ports in King's Lynn and Great Yarmouth to export my system around the world which will really put the county on the map.'
He is currently working with PPI Engineering, based in Norwich, on a prototype electric motor and Oxfordshire-based ABSL power solutions on the most efficient battery.
But he is facing a race against time to secure world patents to allow him to market his product across the globe and get funding of up to �250,000 to develop the working prototype.
He said: 'It is extremely difficult for a solopreneur like me to obtain the backing to the right level.
'In countries like Germany and Switzerland, they support people like me but in this country we don't seem to offer the same help.'
He continued: 'The Vauxhall Corsa will be the first car to try the new system and I am hoping to increase the mpg (miles per gallon) from 70 to 105.
'However I want more vehicles running around on this system within a year and hopefully sell it commercially within two years.'
Development company Morston Assets, which is heavily involved in regeneration in West Norfolk, is also supporting Mr Wilkie with professional advice and offering him access to the facilities at its Yours Business Networks centre at Bishops Lynn House, on the Tuesday Market Place.
The inventor is no stranger to success. He was the British, French, Swiss, Chilean and Swedish World Cup national champion for speed ski-ing in the 1980s and competed in the 1992 Olympics in France. This involved travelling at an incredible 140 miles per hour.
He said: 'I succeeded because I redesigned every aspect of the equipment, from helmet to boots, to make the clothing as aerodynamic as it possibly could be.'
Explaining his approach to work and design, he added: 'People get pigeon-holed and don't look beyond the text books. In redesigning things, I have always looked back to the original research.'