Expert electrification company, Equipmake, has opened a brand-new factory in Snetterton, Norfolk, which will design and manufacture its fully-integrated electric bus chassis for an increasingly international customer base.
Having previously been based in nearby Hethel, Equipmake’s business has grown rapidly over the last two years as bus companies around the world move quickly towards electric vehicles (EVs). The new 1500 sqm purpose-built facility on the Snetterton Business Park, just a stone’s throw from the famous motor racing circuit, will allow it to meet global demand for its electric bus chassis – and was officially opened by Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade.
Equipmake’s innovative electric bus chassis allows any bus coachbuilder to become a full electric bus manufacturer almost overnight. Such is the demand from bus makers wishing to go zero emissions that Equipmake has forged partnerships with companies in Brazil, Argentina and India and grown its UK staff from 15 employees to 52 in a little over two years.
Equipmake also develops proprietary technology in the shape of its ultra-compact, lightweight high performance ‘spoke’ electric motor, the APM200. This versatile motor, which is one of the highest power/torque dense production automotive electric motor in the world, is used by Equipmake’s EBus chassis and will also power the upcoming Ariel HIPERCAR. On site in Snetterton, the company provides the complete EV solution, with the capability to design, test and manufacture everything from motors to fully electrified platforms, supporting the automotive and aerospace sectors.
The EBus chassis development programme is a £7.5 million Advanced Propulsion Centre-funded project that has involved multiple partners lead by Equipmake with grant funding designed to take the bus to production. Equipmake has already entered the final testing phase of its singe decker EBus platform, with UK-based performance and durability development set to finish at the end of the year.
In-service trials will then begin in Q1 2020 by Brazilian commercial vehicle manufacturer, Agrale, who will launch the electric bus first in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2021. Thanks to efficient management of its onboard heating and cooling system, the bus – a 12m single deck model capable of carrying 70 passengers – will have enough electric range for one day’s running without the need for charging. To charge the vehicle, the operator simply needs access to a standard three-phase supply, which will fully charge it in around five hours. Equipmake will begin double decker chassis trials later this year.
Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, said: “I am delighted to open Equipmake’s new electric bus factory today. It’s fantastic to see world-leading technology produced here in Norfolk and the fact that these buses are being exported globally further underlines the depth of talent that exists along the A11 technology corridor.
“Equipmake is a shining example of an innovative engineering company. We are committed to increasing R&D tax credits to support ventures like this. I wish Equipmake every success for the future.”
Ian Foley, Managing Director of Equipmake, said: “I am proud to open this facility and very grateful forthe funding we have received from the UK Government through the Advanced Propulsion Centre. It has supported us in the design and development of a highly innovative and in-demand product, showing that a relatively small company from Norfolk can become a global technology leader.
“There is huge demand for clean, affordable electric buses with a worldwide market of around 300,000 vehicles per annum, and that is only growing as cities strive to improve urban air quality. Equipmake’s EBus chassis is efficient and cost-effective; within 8-10 years it will be cheaper to run than a conventional diesel.
“Manufacture of the powertrain will scale dramatically over the next few years and our target is 700 EBus chassis for South America alone in the first year of production. That is why our new bespoke facility here in Snetterton is so important – it is crucial to fulfilling requirements from international customers for both single and double decker applications.”