Niche Vehicle Network

The challenge

Recent, increasing focus on zero-emission vehicles in urban environments, coupled with rising demand for B2B and B2C parcel delivery services, which has surged because of Covid-19, has created a strong demand for lightweight, electrically assisted cargo tricycles, such as “ALECS”. The partners started the project in a strong position, with a working prototype from the Proof-of-Concept phase, but market engagement activities identified several key requirements particularly durability, cargo capacity and performance, where the early prototype fell short. Developing the vehicle to meet these requirements and building the capability to start manufacture was the objective of this Production Readiness project.

What did the project do?

The project was split into eight work packages, including market engagement, design, vehicle development and testing, manufacturing preparations and production trials. Due to the compressed timing of the project, several work packages occurred in parallel and CAE tools were used extensively to accelerate the vehicle development, particularly around the design of the vehicle chassis. Prototype vehicles were tested physically to validate the CAE, for evaluation of vehicle dynamics, and testing of key components such as the motor-drive unit and the transmission.  The manufacturing process was modelled using the UNITY game engine, allowing simulation of any likely manufacturing scenario in a scalable way, to understand material flows, limitations of chosen cell layouts and impact on facilities of finite capacity. Vehicles from production trials are being provided to target customers for evaluation and feedback before the start of production in Q4 2021.

The results

The partners can lay claim to some significant achievements because of this project. The objective of developing this unique concept to a commercially viable, production-ready level has been met, and in doing so the partners have gained an in-depth understanding of a rapidly expanding market, built relationships with market players to understand their requirements and established a predominantly UK-based supply chain to meet these demands. Cutting edge configurable tools have been developed to improve manufacturing planning, which will ensure production is maximally efficient when it commences later this year. Through this project, all partners have grown their capability and increased penetration into strategic markets, which will drive growth and create jobs in the UK.

With the support of the NVN, Pashley and its partners have created an innovative cargo carrying vehicle which is at the forefront of final mile delivery solutions for a rapidly growing market.

- Pashley