Fresh funding for niche vehicles

Niche vehicle research and development has been given a boost after a new round of funding was released for manufacturers of niche vehicles.

The Niche Vehicle Network – which provides support for the UK’s special and niche vehicles market – has announced that six engineering and development projects have been granted funding thanks to its R&D programme.

The projects aim to develop a variety of innovations and low carbon solutions within the niche vehicle sector.

The projects will last around six months each, with support for the projects coming from the Niche Vehicle R&D Programme that is funded by both Innovate UK and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV).

The Network holds an annual competition which aims to improve the fuel efficiency and cleanliness of niche vehicles though better aerodynamics; alternative fuel systems; reduced vehicle weight, and better propulsion methods.

The winning R&D projects for 2015 include:

  •  The production of a prototype chassis to validate the concept of using butted steel tubing to reduce weight – as a basis for future market exploitation.
  •  Electric hybridisation of a bus powertrain and electrification of ancillary mechanical loads through the integration and demonstration of a range of novel technologies.
  •  The creation of a new ultra-lightweight, low emission demonstrator vehicle using a combination of carbon fibre and steel tubing, with the vehicle powered by a novel lightweight rotary engine.
  •  The design and manufacture a prototype advanced composite chassis structure, formed from bonded panels for light-weighting, reduced tooling costs and lower production cycle times.
  •  The research and development of a manufacturing method to deliver a step change in the economic manufacture of ultra-lightweight magnesium pressings for the niche vehicle sector using the Heat treatment Forming and in-die Quenching (HFQ®) process.
  • The facilitating of lower like-for-like CO2 emissions, improved fuel economy and increased range for electric vehicles through the investigation and demonstration of innovative passive and active aerodynamic devices.

Director of the Niche Vehicle Network , Dr Viv Stephens commented: “We are really excited about this round of funded projects and would like to thank our sponsors Innovate UK, OLEV and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, who continue to provide funding for our projects and networking activities.

“Our R&D programme plays a vital role in supporting UK niche automotive engineering. The niche vehicle sector continues to produce innovative low carbon designs that can be applied to both the niche and volume vehicle sectors.”

Ruth McKernan CBE, new Chief Executive of Innovate UK
Ruth McKernan CBE, chief executive, Innovate UK.

The projects are all collaborative efforts between three UK-based manufacturers and will see the projects receive 50% of their funding – up to £150,000.

Chief executive of Innovate UK, Dr Ruth McKernan said: “We’re proud to support the Niche Vehicle Network and are tremendously encouraged by the consistently innovative vehicle technologies that are supported through the Network’s competitions for funding.

“The Network play a unique role in supporting SME-led vehicle innovation, which has often resulted in transformative technologies, ultimately adopted by major motor manufacturers, with significant benefits to UK plc.”