New Partnership Strengthens North-East’s Electric Vehicle Economy

Four leading institutions are forming a partnership to power up North East England's electric vehicle (EV) economy.

Leading EV advocates Zero Carbon Futures, Gateshead College, transport consultants TRL and sustainability experts tadea, have formed a partnership to further grow the region as an international centre for zero carbon emission vehicles.

The four organisations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to launch the Zero Carbon Vehicle Centre of Excellence programme. This aims to increase the number of EV technologies that are developed and trialled in the region; grow jobs in the sector; and become a leader in EV and fuel efficient driver training.

Each organisation brings a different strength to the partnership. Headquartered in Bracknell, TRL is a leader in the domain of transport science, research and technical consultancy and brings expertise in a wide portfolio of zero and low carbon related competencies including the use of vehicle simulators for driver training and research applications. This agreement will see the organisation look to North East England to further develop their low carbon vehicle knowledge and drive forward international business partnerships in this field.

Paul Copping, Corporate Development Director, TRL said: "We firmly believe that the introduction and expansion of electric vehicles is one of the best solutions for reducing C02 emissions from road users and offers significant business opportunities to the UK. We are keen to expand TRL's skills in this sector and we have chosen Gateshead College's  Skills Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing and Innovation in North East England as our low carbon vehicle base. We look forward to working with other organisations already in the region to make the most of our combined knowledge and partnerships."

Under the terms of the agreement, the partners will form working teams to place significant investment, research and development into the latest innovations in battery development, electric vehicle technologies and hydrogen fuel cells.

Colin Herron, Director of Zero Carbon Futures, said: "This signing builds on the recent announcement by Nissan and Gateshead College which will see the development of a Zero Emission Centre of Excellence in the region. The new centre will provide significant opportunities to the region in areas of manufacturing, battery and technology development and this partnership will build on those opportunities."

Zero Carbon Futures was established in 2011 and has a wide remit to further develop and sustain a low carbon automotive and transport technology cluster in the North East of England picking up on the work of the Regional Development Agency, One North East, to ensure that the region is an international leader in this field.

Gateshead College is a recognised leader in the development of skills and training in the new technologies of sustainable transport. 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. Smith Electric Vehicles and Gateshead College also worked together to create the UK's first Electric Vehicle apprenticeship, which launched in 2010. The College's £9.8million Skills Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing and Innovation, where TRL will now be based, was opened in 2011 and sits alongside a Performance Track, for trailling low carbon vehicles.

Mick Brophy, managing director for business, innovation and development, Gateshead College, said: "Our aim is to develop a world-leading facility for low carbon vehicle technology that will attract new businesses and customers to our region. TRL's decision to make Gateshead College's Skills Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing and Innovation a base for their low carbon research activity is a real vote of confidence showing that North East England is already recognised nationally for our expertise."

Billingham-based tadea provides expert, impartial advice and project management services in the field of sustainable energy and carbon reduction, helping to create local jobs and economic growth in these areas. One of the partnership's key objectives is to build on tadea's long track record in driver training.

Alan Jones, Business Development Manager of tadea said:  "We are very excited about the plans we have as a partnership. Together, we are making strides in making low carbon transport a reality for road users. Driver training is crucial for the future success of EVs as it can help drivers travel for longer distances, and this is particularly important for the increasing number of businesses that are choosing to use electric vehicles for their fleet." 

North East England is already the established UK leader in the emerging low carbon vehicle industry. The region is home to the Nissan LEAF facility and battery assembly plant which will commence production in March 2013, as well as other leading EV producers including Smith Electric Vehicles andAVIDVehicles.