A UK-based advanced-engineering company is leading a consortium to design an innovative low-cost electric-vehicle chassis with the potential to provide an ‘environment-friendly’ alternative to the aged Tuk-Tuk utility vehicle that is widely used in India and Asia.
D2H is the lead partner in a consortium — funded by Innovate UK’s IDP15 scheme — for industry-led research into on-vehicle technologies that accelerate the transition to zero-emission vehicles in the UK and globally.
Matthew Hicks, D2H’s engineering director, said: “Many electric-vehicle projects target high-performance high-value chassis concepts. While these are great engineering projects, we identified a need for a very-low-cost zero-emissions utility vehicle that can be adapted to different configurations and offers the potential for much greater uptake.
“Having secured Coventive Composites and Warwick Manufacturing Group as partners, we have carried out a detailed design study to create a novel chassis that can be built locally to the market it is intended for, incorporating materials and manufacturing processes that are simple to use, abundant in the market and considerate to environmental issues, while giving consumers the option of an accessible electric-powered utility vehicle.”
Coventive Composites had been developing a jute-based natural-fibre thermoplastic polymer. Mr Hicks said: “This material has many advantages; the jute is readily available in the target markets and is both lightweight and relatively strong.
“When compared to metal alternatives, fibre-reinforced thermoplastics have reduced manufacturing cycle times and energy requirements, and they allow high levels of detail to be moulded in, so they typically require less post-processing. It was a material that we wanted to incorporate into our design.”
D2H plans to move to the prototype and testing stage with the help of further partners. “Having made good progress so far, we are keen to take this project further. The development of the vehicle will require like-minded powertrain and battery providers, who can provide robust and very low-cost alternatives to petrol combustion units.
“This is a clean-running version of the legendary Tuk-Tuk, which has been so successful in mobilising millions of people in India, South East Asia and South America. If we can create a lighter and safer zero-emissions alternative that competes on cost and utility, then we will have done the job.”