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Why the North East is pioneering the next generation of electric vehicles

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05.10.2022

Why the North East is pioneering the next generation of electric vehicles

The electric revolution is already in full swing. Last year, 450,000 electric and hybrid vehicles were registered in the UK–that’s 1 in 4 of all new cars and vans. Meanwhile some experts predict there will be 20 million electrified vehicles on global roads by 2025.

Of all areas of the UK, it is surely the North East of England that is already benefitting most from this global move towards electrification. Aided by the introduction of the Nissan Leaf–arguably the world’s first mass-market EV–which entered production at the company’s Sunderland facility in 2010, the region now boasts burgeoning electric vehicle expertise.

At the same time that Nissan began production of the Leaf more than a decade ago, it also opened a local facility to produce the vehicle’s battery cells. This spawned smaller companies that both supplied and fed off Nissan’s plant–such as Sunderland-based Hyperdrive, which repackaged the plant’s battery cells into bespoke applications.

Back in 2010 it was hard to imagine that the electric vehicle industry would grow up in the way that it has, and that the North East would become such a relevant part of its future. As well as the gravitational pull of Nissan’s electrification programme, this was also thanks to several academic and industry initiatives.

To begin with, Newcastle University boasts the UK’s largest academic research group in Electrical Power. It was within this group, and as faculty at the university, that our own founders Dr James Widmer and Dr Andy Steven first pioneered the technology that sets Advanced Electric Machines apart today.

The academic might of the region also meant that when the Advanced Propulsion Centre was looking to set up an electric machines hub to drive UK development of EV motor technology in 2016, Newcastle University was the obvious choice.

This was followed in 2019 by the foundation of the Driving the Electric RevolutionIndustrialisation Centre, which brings together world class capability in power electronics, machines and driver (PEMD).

All of this combined creates a fascinating hotbed of innovation, which puts the North East in a great position to capitalise on the next generation of electric vehicles. As demand grows, tomorrow’s electric vehicles need to be more efficient and less costly to produce, while also cleaning up a problematic and volatile supply chain.

We’re already seeing North East-based companies rising to the challenge. There’s Advanced Electric Machines of course, with our plans to make the world’s EV motors truly sustainable from our Newcastle headquarters, but there is also Turntide, which occupies what was once Hyperdrive’s facility. Meanwhile, the North East will boast not one but two Gigafactories thanks to investment by BritishVolt and Envision,(the latter now owns Nissan’s Sunderland battery plant). And this is just the start–as these companies thrive, more will follow to feed from and feed into the region’s success.

We’ve come a long way since Nissan started production of the Nissan Leaf in Sunderland, and the prospects for local companies involved in the electric revolution look brighter than ever.