An electric-powered vehicle designed and made in the Midlands has attracted interest from as far afield as Dubai and Singapore – but it may have to be manufactured abroad after difficulties in attracting funding in the UK.
The Raptor, a three-wheeled EPV that is capable of doing 25mph, has been created in the region, with the lion’s share of the parts coming from West Midlands suppliers.
Brothers Paul and David Loomes, who have formed Ecospin to launch the Raptor, say there has been interest from the Metropolitan Police, Birmingham Airport and firms in Dubai and Singapore.
They plan to create dozens of jobs in the West Midlands if anticipated sales levels are reached.
However, Paul Loomes told the Birmingham Post the search for funding was ongoing, and he had been disappointed at the sparsity of public funding available in the UK – meaning it may have been easier to produce the vehicle in China or even France.
About £1.2 million has been invested in the vehicle, with a prototype created in the West Midlands, but with up to 60 miles possible on a single charge at a cost of around two pence per mile, Mr Loomes believes there will be demand from police forces, the security industry and local government, among others, despite the austerity cuts.
He said: “Obviously this is a tough time. We have been talking to authorities but in times of austerity it is tough. But there is a business case for people to buy the vehicle for the cost.
"For example, if you have got a policeman who is doing five miles a day, if you put him on our machines then he can effectively do three or four times the work.
“We have also been negotiating with East Midlands Airport and Birmingham Airport, who were both pretty interested. They are seeing whether putting advertising on it to generate income would help to pay for it.”
Ecospin is based in Leicester, but the firm has linked in with the Midlands Assembly Network – a collaboration of ten West Midlands manufacturers – to turn the design into a reality.
The EPV, which has undergone testing at MIRA and the SVA Centre, combines the latest automotive design techniques with an electric powertrain.
It has a custom-made chassis and intuitive handle bars deliver control and cornering, with twin rear-wheel drive providing increased traction over loose and slippery surfaces.
An elevated ride platform allows for the rider to see over crowds and increases visibility at events, with a special lithium ion battery delivering speeds of up to 25mph. Mr Loomes said the firm was initially creating 60 vehicles, but planned to make 3,000 units per year eventually, creating up to 100 jobs.
Birmingham-based FW Cables, which has developed specialist wiring looms, is among the suppliers, as well as Telford-based Advanced Chemical Etching, Wednesbury firm Alucast, PP Electrical Systems, based in Cheslyn Hay and Warwickshire-based SMT Developments.
Andrew Watts, managing director of FW Cables, said: “The Raptor is a great example of Midlands innovation and manufacturing at its best and we are delighted to be working with the designers on turning their vision into reality.”
David Loomes added: “The Raptor has zero emissions and typically costs less than two pence per mile to charge. A standard model will be about £6,000 and we’ll be pitching it into the police, security companies, postal service, theme parks, event management firms and airports.”
Paul Loomes said he hoped the firm could present an ideal opportunity for the much-vaunted Green Investment Bank, one of the major policies of the Government, which was expected to begin operation this month.
He said: “We have demonstrated that there is an appetite for the product and we have been working to get investment. We are working with a couple of angel investors and we were interested in the green bank – the problem is how to access it. I haven’t even been able to find a phone number.
"I actually wrote to Nick Clegg in the end. There seems to be a lot of talk about this, but I couldn’t even find the number.”