The Centre is designed to facilitate the development of the
transport of the future providing the ideal location for anyone -
academics, automotive manufacturers and system developers - to test
and trial new transport technologies.
The 92-acre Test Track site at the Nissan Sunderland plant has
been signed over to Gateshead College on a 20-year lease. The site
has been renovated and transformed into the nation's first
performance track for low carbon vehicles, such as electric
vehicles (EVs) and hybrids.
Norman Baker said: "The UK is on the brink of a critical
transformation in road transport.
"We are beginning to see a real shift from high carbon to low
carbon motoring and the government is doing everything it can to
accelerate this process.
"The facilities I have seen today are exactly the sort of
innovation that we need to ensure that the benefits of motoring can
be realised for future generations without compromising our carbon
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport took
the inaugural drive around the test track, in a Smith Edison
all-electric van, produced by Smith Electric Vehicles. Smith
Electric, which is also based in Washington, has leased the first
of the track's five workshops for its ongoing vehicle development
Smith Electric Vehicles is a leading manufacturer of
all-electric commercial vehicles - vans, trucks and minibuses. The
company's global engineering team is based in Washington,
developing and testing vehicles and systems that are ultimately
destined for major fleet customers in markets including North
America, the UK, Europe and South-East Asia.
Doug MacAndrew, Vice President of Engineering Design &
Development at Smith Electric Vehicles, said: "The performance
track will play a key role in the creation of the Smith vehicles of
"Smith Electric Vehicles invests heavily in design and
development. This is a young industry, so we are constantly
evaluating new technologies to further improve vehicle
"Having a high quality facility on our doorstep will undoubtedly
help us accelerate our development programmes."
Gateshead College took over the management of the Performance
Track just last year adding to its credentials as a leading
business in low carbon vehicle developments.
Richard Thorold, Principal of Gateshead College, said: "This is
exciting times for the development of low emission transport for
the UK. The Performance Track puts us at the heart of vehicle
development for the future for vehicle developers far and wide - we
are delighted that this is happening here in North East
Designed specifically for low carbon vehicles, the performance
track offers a comprehensive range of charging and refuelling
systems, including hydrolisers, a photovoltaic canopy, EV charging
points (both standard and fast charge) and biofuel tanks.
The 50sq m workshops include five bays available on flexible
terms from day hire to a year lease. The infrastructure includes
high-speed internet, a fast-charge bay for EVs, three-phase
electricity supply, exhaust extraction systems and a range of
The creation of this track is the last element in the regional
provision of a comprehensive offering for the low carbon vehicle
sector. North East England is already home to the Nissan LEAF
production facility from March 2013 and battery assembly plant, as
well as leading EV producers including Smith Electric Vehicles
andAVIDVehicles. Gateshead College provides training and learning
in all key areas of the sector. The College administers the
Government's Plugged in Places project, through its Charge Your Car
project. This aims to install over 1,000 EV charging points across
the region by 2013. The initiative intends to encourage adoption of
EVs and capture data on how early adopters use and charge their
Smith Electric Vehicles and Gateshead College also worked
together to create the UK's first Electric Vehicle apprenticeship,
which launched in 2010.
Media Enquiries:Dan Jenkins, Bright Sparks PR - 07536 092682; firstname.lastname@example.org