Vantage Power: disrupting public transport

Vantage Power is playing a major role in disrupting the public transportation industry. Jonny Williamson hopped on a bus to learn how.

Vantage Power designs, manufactures and retrofits complete diesel-electric hybrid powertrains for buses already on the road - image courtesy of Vantage Power.
Vantage Power designs, manufactures and retrofits complete diesel-electric hybrid powertrains for buses already on the road – image courtesy of Vantage Power.

As someone who writes about manufacturing almost exclusively, there were two things about my trip to Vantage Power that stood out as being particularly memorable.

Firstly, the location – Greenford Park Industrial Estate in West London. It’s not often I have the opportunity to visit a manufacturing or engineering company, yet stay within the M25.

Secondly, the meeting room – which in this case was the upper floor of a double-decker bus, a surprisingly apt setting.

Established in 2011, Vantage Power designs, manufactures – in partnership with Northamptonshire-based metal engineering firm, Fablink – and retrofits complete diesel-electric hybrid powertrains for buses already on the road. The idea being that operators are able to reduce their fleet’s fuel consumption and emissions at a fraction of the cost of purchasing new hybrid buses.

“By designing the entire hybrid system – everything between the fuel tank and the wheels – we ensure the optimal performance of every component; which in turn results in higher fuel economy, lower emissions and greater reliability than alternative systems,” explained Alex Schey, the company’s CEO and co-founder.

The amount of fuel double-decker buses use makes the the most amount of fuel, it makes the economics of a hybrid retrofit more appealing than smaller buses - image courtesy of Vantage Power.
The amount of fuel double-decker buses use makes the the most amount of fuel, it makes the economics of a hybrid retrofit more appealing than smaller buses – image courtesy of Vantage Power.

“Our immediate focus is the two most popular double-decker buses as ‘deckers use the most amount of fuel, making the economics of a hybrid retrofit more appealing than smaller buses. Focusing on just two models makes designing and manufacturing much more streamlined.”

I arrived at Vantage Power during a period of transition. The site is being significantly redeveloped, with expansion taking place across all aspects of the business.

Among production benefits, the construction – due to be completed sometime during summer 2016 – will crucially create the space needed to increase staffing levels. Currently around 30-strong, the workforce is expected to swell to 40 by year-end, and more than double to 70 within the next 18 – 24 months.

“A particular focus will be put on fleshing out some of the areas that are often somewhat emaciated in fast growing companies such as ours. In engineering companies, the first people you hire as much of as possible is engineers, which is what we did.

“Now we need to bulk up management, including technical project managers, team leaders and operations,” Schey added.

Vantage Power Plug - June 2016The team is currently working on contracts for 10 ‘beta’ units, due to be placed with four clients.

Considered to be “a very prestigious clutch of initial customers”, one of the operators has a combined fleet of around 10,000 in the UK, with another 50,000 across Europe.

“The market is massive. If these first 10 orders go well – which they will – there is the potential for a considerable amount of future orders,” added CTO and co-founder, Toby Schulz.