Niche Vehicle Network

Project Overview

WEV have successfully developed a number of novel ZEV technologies and lightweight architecture approaches in light commercial (N1) and passenger (M1) vehicles. This project aimed to evaluate if these could be scaled down to still offer significant benefit to the ultra-light vehicle L6/7e market sector, check the market positioning and potential to successfully deliver in this market and establish the most appropriate main EV systems supply chain at an appropriate TRL/MRL and economic level to support future exploitation.

Feasibility Study

This study confirmed considerable interest from OEM’s and WEV in this L6/7e sector with an approach that can be commercially competitive, saves CO2 and reduces urban congestion. A modular platform, with inherent passive safety, significantly reduces development timescales, cost-of-entry and risks for niche OEMs and is the market opportunity for WEV. The platform handles fundamental structural, safety and electric driveline requirements, while allowing manufacturers to add “application tailored” layouts and bodies. This safer L6/7e platform will help demonstrate that there is an engineering and legislative compromise that can deliver both safety and zero emissions in this emerging important vehicle category.

Significant Project Outcomes

Initial studies across multiple vehicles for newly identified OEM’s allowed creation of a core structural package concept. This utilised WEV IP in structural technologies, Flex-Tech® and Lightweight Laminate Baseplate and fundamental understanding of safety and weight/cost compromises. Vital EV systems were examined, high-level vehicle requirements developed and systems performance analysis initiated along with developing early BOM details. Prospective safety legislation will significantly impact this sector bringing requirements towards M1/N1 rather than motorbike. WEV can now demonstrate feasibility of delivering L6/7e weight vehicles with improved safety and intend to develop this platform and multiple full vehicles from it with collaborating OEMs.

Next Steps

A NVN PoC collaboration between WEV and a new UK OEM is agreed to develop this concept. Both have secured approval to include a bid in business plans. Engaging with a startup OEM on their ‘sports’ quadricycle has secured engineering/manufacturing for UK subject to completion of funding plans. A regional grant-assisted development with another startup is agreed. This L7e brings sustainability and safety features closer to market for their target off-highway agri-sector.

Engineered platforms for L7e are in demand across Europe. Due to current TRL/MRL and significant legislative/safety risks, projects will only progress with appropriate public and private support.

NVN Funding

NVN funding was critical in investigation of this sector for WEV. Internal commercial plans were focused on core product in the M1/N1 space. L7e was historically considered a low priority. The UK has no track record of encouraging this sector and there are many issues that need clarification of legislative intent to encourage growth. NVN funding helps spread a deeper understanding of the sector issues, bridges the knowledge gaps and allow pursuit of sector opportunities.

The many opportunities coming from the successful project completion demonstrates that the NVN is a key enabler in accelerating ZEV uptake in specific vehicle sectors.