Those seeking positive news for UK PLC need look no further than November’s news roundup. It’s great news for the West Midlands’ “automotive central” as two major brands invest in the region, and there’s further investment elsewhere in the UK. It’s all driven by brands’ strategic expansion and the development of future mobility, and it’s great to see some old favourites such as Norton charting a roadmap for the future.
New sites in Solihull for ZF and Norton
Global Technology company and future-mobility specialist ZF Friedrichshafen AG has officially opened its new purpose-built technical centre at Blythe Valley Business Park in Solihull. The all-new £70 million, 220,000 sq. ft facility is located in the heart of the UK’s automotive industry, central to all UK Test Bed facilities.
The centre hosts 700 UK staff with room for growth, and the technology and infrastructure to develop autonomous, electric and connected mobility solutions. It will also be the company’s global Centre of Competency for Servo-Motors design.
Norton Motorcycles has further enhanced the West Midlands’ credentials as an engineering hub by officially opening its new global headquarters in Solihull, creating 100 jobs and a production line capable of delivering around 8,000 motorcycles a year. The 73,000 sq. ft site will also house Norton’s global design and research and development hub, customer showroom, service workshops and offices.
Indian owner TVS Motor Company says the move sets the foundation for a sustainable long-term future and a bold plan to return the iconic British marque to a global force.
Councillor Ian Courts, leader of Solihull Council, has described the region as having “unmatched connectivity, access to a highly-skilled and dynamic labour market and a firmly-established reputation for world-leading advanced manufacturing and engineering.”
Hypermotive set to expand
High-performance vehicle electronics specialist Hypermotive has opened a new manufacturing facility in Northampton, in the heart of the UK’s Motorsport Valley, to support the growing demand for its electrical systems manufacture and vehicle integration.
The new facility includes dedicated series volume production lines and configurable workstations for batch manufacturing of electrical systems and low and high voltage wire harnessing. It also includes extensive vehicle workshops with vehicle lifting and overhead craneage, further expanding Hypermotive’s vehicle integration capability out to commercial vehicles, rail and marine.
Company director Brad O’Nians describes the development as “an exciting new chapter in the continued growth of Hypermotive…(which will) allow us to maximize our production efficiency and capacity to better meet the increasing needs of our customers and support the growth in the electrification sector.”
New homes and buildings to be EV-ready from next year.
Historically, the lack of a widespread, easy-access charging infrastructure has been one of the critical barriers to wholesale consumer adoption of electric passenger vehicles, but a new UK law looks set to address this. As of 2022, new homes and buildings in England must install electric vehicle charging points, with new-build supermarkets, workplaces and existing buildings undergoing major renovations also coming under the law.
With new petrol and diesel car sales banned from 2030, it is hoped the law will radically change the UK’s readiness for an all-electric world, with contactless payment being introduced at all new fast and rapid charge points.
It’s not all good news though. Britain has about 25,000 charging points today but could need as many as ten times that number before 2030. The Policy Exchange think tank has warned that small towns and rural areas could become “charging blackspots” unless the rollout gathers pace, and a critical barrier remains: EV passenger vehicles are still beyond the means of many consumers. Whoever wins that race could win a huge share of market.
Manufacturing & Tech
Rolls-Royce gets backing for small modular reactor plans
A Rolls-Royce led consortium has received £210m in new government funding for the development of small modular reactors (SMRs).
The money, matched by over £250m from the private sector, will fund design of the Rolls-Royce SMR and take it through the regulatory process to assess its suitability for deployment in the UK.
The consortium, also known as Rolls-Royce SMR, estimates that each 470MW plant – occupying the footprint of two football pitches – could be capable of powering 1m homes through clean energy - equivalent to a city the size of Leeds. Rolls-Royce said they could be available to the UK grid ‘in the early 2030s’.
Meanwhile, Rochdale bus manufacturer Mellor has announced that it will launch a range of single-deck battery electric buses next year, with further details to be announced within the next few weeks. The company claims the vehicles will be the widest range of battery-electric buses from any manufacturer in Europe, and is engaged in a dramatic repositioning, with plans for a new 54,000 sq. ft facility in Scarborough that will employ 130 workers and produce up to 500 vehicles per year.
Executive & Leaders
Apple hire further fuels self-drive speculation
Apple has hired a former Tesla engineer, Christopher “CJ” Moore, apparently for a team that is working on the much-discussed Apple autonomous car. With a focus on software, he will report into Stuart Bowers, who was also hired from Tesla.
The move suggests Apple is ploughing ahead with attempts to develop self-driving technology, codenamed Project Titan, in a high-stakes race with Tesla and other manufacturers.
Moore is joining a division known for its secrecy and frequent turnover, and previously caused controversy when he implied Elon Musk overstated the capabilities of Tesla’s Autopilot software, saying his then-CEO’s claims about the brand’s proximity to achieving Level 5 autonomy did not “match engineering reality”.
Graduates critical to British legend’s future strategy
Bentley’s biggest-ever trainee intake - which we’ve discussed in this space before (it will see over 100 new recruits hired over 2022) - will involve the legendary British marque developing apprentices and graduates to focus on lean manufacturing, systems and electrical engineering, software engineering and data science, building towards the brand’s ambitious future strategy. Many more traditional roles, such as marketing, will also be filled by the new influx.
As part of its recruitment drive, Bentley will host virtual outreach activities at universities around the UK and views “attracting a wide range of the best talent from all walks of life, including digital innovators and creative thinkers,” as critical to its future strategy.