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An interview with Allied Electric

23/09/2010

Allied Electric is part of the Allied Vehicles Group. Established in 1993, Allied now employs over 300 people and is the UK’s leading specialist vehicle manufacturer and the largest supplier of wheelchair accessible vehicles. Through its Allied Electric vehicle division the firm also produces fully electric zero emission cars and vans.

While many companies talked about the introduction of electric vehicles, Allied Electric set about bringing the products to market.

Now entering the marketplace, these products combine the latest in lithium ion and polymer batteries and state-of-the-art electronic management software, together with a range of tried and tested vehicles.

Allied Electric is part of the Allied Vehicles Group. Established in 1993, Allied now employs over 300 people and is the UK’s leading specialist vehicle manufacturer and the largest supplier of wheelchair accessible vehicles. Through its Allied Electric vehicle division the firm also produces fully electric zero emission cars and vans.

While many companies talked about the introduction of electric vehicles, Allied Electric set about bringing the products to market.

Now entering the marketplace, these products combine the latest in lithium ion and polymer batteries and state-of-the-art electronic management software, together with a range of tried and tested vehicles.

Allied Electric is at the forefront of electric vehicle development in the UK and is playing a principal role in helping businesses and public sector organisations convert to electric-powered fleets, among other things partaking in the Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator programme run by the Technology Strategy Board.

We spoke to Allied Electric’s managing director, Paul Nelson to find out what his range of electric vehicles can offer and what the firm has planned next as a pioneer in its field.

Q:  Tell us a little about your current range of electric vehicles.

A: We currently offer the full range of Peugeot commercial vehicles converted to electric zero emission vehicles. The range encompasses the eBipper, ePartner, eExpert and eBoxer.

Our vehicles utilise the latest in lithium-ion and polymer batteries and boast speeds of up to 65-70 mph and battery range of between 60-100 miles between charging.

Q: You specialise in adapting vehicles for specific purposes, be it electric driving or mobility needs. What changes, beyond drivetrain alterations do you make to the electric vehicles you produce?

A: As you mentioned, the main alteration to a vehicle is the electric drive train and internally there is a replacement gear stick and electronic display to support the electronic management software. One of the main plus points is that our range of Peugeot commercial vehicles offer the peace of mind which comes from the Peugeot brand because the alterations to the vehicles are minimal.

Q:  How did Peugeot become your partner in this venture?

A: This process began by conducting international research to identify technical partners in key fields. These included sourcing partners for high performance electric batteries, engines and engine management software. Based on the results of their research, we now lead a consortium of key technical partners based in Scotland and worldwide.

Allied have worked closely with Peugeot in particular in developing a workable range of all electric LCVs and small cars. The Peugeot range of commercial vehicles is modern, successful and popular and so this, combined with the fact that we already had a successful long-running relationship with Peugeot, made them the obvious partner choice for us in this project.

Q: Are your passenger and commercial vehicles suitable for the needs of most businesses?

A: Our electric vehicles produce zero emissions in operation and so transferring some or all of your fleet can greatly reduce your organisation’s emissions. The average miles driven in the UK is only 25 per day and our electric vehicles offer a range of between 60 and 100 miles between charging, so they are ideal for daily working life.

Most users simply charge overnight and then the vehicle is set for driving the next day again.

These vehicles offer businesses reduced running costs with [electric] charging being significantly cheaper than running a fossil-fuelled combustion engine. With zero emissions in operation these vehicles are also exempt from road tax charges.

Q: You recently said that Scotland should play a leading role in the low carbon revolution. Why do you think Scotland is in an ideal situation to take such a role?

A: With ambitious targets in place for emission reductions from transport, widespread change is needed. The Scottish Government has made strong commitments to the adoption of electric vehicles through various funding initiatives.

There are many Scottish elements to Allied Electric vehicles, including the fact that they are manufactured in Scotland, with batteries from Axeon in Dundee. In addition, Strathclyde University have been involved in the research behind the technology. Scotland is making large environmental advances with the emergence of green energy and this project fits well with these developments. Now is the perfect time to move over to electric and be at the forefront of the change in Scotland.

Q:The eBipper and ePartner are the most recent additions to your range. What has the feedback been like from customers on these new models?

A: The feedback on the eBipper and ePartner has been very positive. Customers like the compact manoeuvrability of the eBipper. The Peugeot Partner is already a successful Peugeot commercial vehicle so there has been strong demand for an electric version. Glasgow City Council will shortly take delivery of the first batch of 30 ePartners, but feedback so far implies that this could be one of the most popular models in the range. The ePartner offers the added convenience of dual phase charging, meaning the vehicle can be charged through three phase charging points, or simply plugged into a standard single-phase domestic socket.

Q: Speaking of which, the Glasgow City Council launched just last month, what do you hope this trial will achieve for the city?

A: The first ten electric eExpert’s delivered through the Technology Strategy Board project will be used for a variety of purposes within Glasgow City Council including site visits for planning officers, social workers making home visits and staff that visit various schools in the city. Plans are also in place for electric vehicles to be trialled through partner organisations such as the fire service and the Scottish Government, with use also scheduled for other consortium members including Scottish Power.

The delivery of these first vehicles is the culmination of a strong forward-thinking partnership with Glasgow City Council, Axeon, Scottish Power, Strathclyde University and Scottish Enterprise. This first batch of vehicles for the Glasgow Technology Strategy Board project hopefully signals the beginning of widespread usage of zero emission vehicles throughout the city.

Q: There is no indication of the cost of your vehicles on your website. Are they beyond the means ordinary businesses? Do you hope to lease or sell your vehicles to private sector organisations anytime soon?

A: Our vehicles are available to lease or buy with prices ranging from £40,000 and with various funding schemes available the costs are not beyond the means of ordinary businesses. We have already supplied vehicles to organisations including BT. Although the capital costs of the vehicles are higher, the running costs and environmental costs are significantly lower.

Q: What do you think is the biggest obstacle to wider uptake of electric vehicles?

A: One of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of the vehicles is perception. People’s perceptions of electric vehicles are often based on outdated experiences and so we have had to work hard to change attitudes and perceptions through trials like the Technology Strategy Board project and by raising the profile of the vehicles through attendance at as many events as possible where people can actually test drive the vehicles themselves. We have found that once people have driven the vehicles their attitude is very positive as they are very much like driving a normal petrol or diesel vehicle – without the emissions!

Q: Tell us about Allied Electric’s plans for the next couple of years.

A: We will continue to develop our range of all electric vehicles, increasing sales and adoption.

We understand the need to always be on the look-out for new and emerging technologies and opportunities to ensure our products stay at the forefront of the electric vehicle market.

For more information visit: www.alliedelectric.co.uk

Fuente: The Green Car Website

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