ELECTRIC and hybrid vehicle specialist Sevcon hopes its crucial role in the development of Renault's new electric city car will create further inroads into the rechargeable vehicle market.
Renault chose the Gateshead manufacturer to provide microprocessor-based controllers for the new Twizy two-seater, which control the delivery of power from the car’s lithium-ion battery to the motor.
The contract is an example of Sevcon’s interest in the automotive market, and required it to boost its staff from 60 to 66 in the last 12 months. The Twizy has exceeded Renault’s expectations since its launch this spring.
President and CEO Matt Boyle said: “This is a major milestone for us and we are working hard to secure the foundations the Twizy has helped us establish in the on-road electric vehicle market.
“After getting initial approval it then took a further two years developing the software and meeting Renault’s exacting quality standards.
“We needed to develop bespoke software and hired four engineers on the strength of the contract. Our Polish partner spent millions of pounds re-equipping the manufacturing factory to achieve Renault’s tight brief.”
Over 5,000 Twizys have been sold since its launch in the spring, with Germany being the most eager consumer and there is speculation Renault could ramp up production further.
The Twizy has a range of 60 miles on a three-and-a-half hour battery charge, and comes in two models with top speeds of 28 and 50 miles an hour. It is powered by Sevcon’s Gen4 size two and size four motor controllers, which control the acceleration, speed and braking.
“With a top speed of 50mph it’s a nifty little motor,” said Boyle. “The other day I overtook a lorry on the main road through the Team Valley and the driver looked at me like he’d seen a ghost.
“We continue to work with several UK headquartered and global brands. This includes working with high-end manufacturers on specialist technology which we see eventually making its way into the mass-produced vehicle market in much the same way that fuel injection and ABS (anti-lock braking systems) have.
“We see great potential in the on-road electric vehicle market going forward.”
Sevcon is one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of microprocessor controls for zero emission electric vehicles.
It has a particularly strong presence in the industrial and construction sectors featuring in many of the world’s fork lift trucks, aerial lifts, airport ground support vehicles and mining vehicles.
Sevcon’s revenues for the year ending September 2011 came in at £20.7m, £4m up on last year with operating profits of £400,000.
Although managed from Team Valley where it employs more than half of its 100-plus workforce, it is listed on the Nasdaq stock market.