Industry News: Greater Manchester company develops the UK’s most affordable electric vehicle
MeV, a Greater Manchester company, has spent the past two years designing and developing a low cost electric vehicle that can retail at the same price as an average car, for example an eight year old hatchback, rather than competing on price with new vehicle…
The MeV BeeAnywhere is claimed to be the UK’s most affordable electric vehicle, with a target price of under £10,000.
Dr Anthony Keating, MeV CEO, explained “Emissions-free transport shouldn’t be limited to those who can afford to pay a premium. The BeeAnywhere makes electric vehicles affordable, stimulating mass adoption and it offers the potential to displace millions of older polluting vehicles, especially if backed by a scrappage scheme.”
To create an affordable vehicle the company has combined the expertise of the National Centre for Motorsport Engineering at the University of Bolton with advanced composites from the University of Manchester’s Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre. The resulting innovative chassis design and composite body allows the vehicles to be assembled from a minimum of parts, significantly reducing production and component costs.
In contrast to other automotive manufacturers whose strategy has been to replicate an existing car with an electric powertrain, the BeeAnywhere has been specifically designed as a two-seat urban vehicle, controlled via the user’s smart phone and with the comfort, range and performance demanded by the urban environment. The company is currently building pre-production vehicles.
MeV Chairman Tim Harper added “For the UK to achieve targets set out in the government’s 2019 Clean Air Strategy there needs to be a rapid switch to electric vehicles. Currently there are no viable alternatives to conventional vehicles at an equivalent price point and the targets will not be met simply by charging for entering Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ). The upcoming COP26 Conference gives the government an opportunity to back low carbon innovations and stimulate the creation of new industries.”
Professor G E Holmes DL, University President and Vice Chancellor commented “The University is proud to be associated with the MeV development. Universities are at the forefront of technology developments and innovation. This new affordable electric vehicle will give effect to a step change in EV adoption, and we at Bolton are delighted to have played a part in such an important new product.”
James Baker, CEO, The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, (GEIC), at The University of Manchester commented “The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), at The University of Manchester, is pleased to be working with a number of automotive companies like MeV to accelerate their adoption of high strength lightweight graphene-based composite materials. MeV is currently collaborating with the GEIC through the ERDF Bridging the Gap programme, which aims to work with Greater Manchester SMEs to accelerate the adoption of graphene into a range of products and processes.”
MeV Ltd was founded in 2019 by Dr Tony Keating of Keating Supercars, and Tim Harper a former European Space Agency engineer who has founded a number of tech companies ranging from scientific instruments to water filtration. Starting with the question “Why are electric vehicles so expensive?” the team tested several small electric vehicles over thousands of miles in order to understand how to design a vehicle to be highly efficient, low cost and easily maintained.
By combining their knowledge of automotive engineering and advanced materials, the team realised that there was an opportunity to design an electric vehicle from the ground up, specifically optimised for low cost production. The reduction of the complexity seen in traditional vehicles combined with the use of advanced materials allowed the BeeAnywhere to be designed for minimum maintenance and maximum recyclability.
MeV has spent the past year working with a team of automotive designers and engineers to improve the final design, with assembly, production and end of life recyclability taken into account from day one.
More than four in five urban areas have illegal levels of air pollution despite government promises to tackle the problem. Long-term exposure to air pollution has been linked to the deaths of in 19 people in the UK as well as lower educational attainment and a higher risk of depression and suicide. Other research links it to anxiety, dementia, missed work, and criminal behaviour.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 4.2 million premature deaths globally are linked to ambient air pollution, mainly from heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections in children.
The major threat to urban clean air is now posed by traffic emissions. The fastest solution to reducing urban air pollution is to switch from internal combustion engine vehicles to battery electric vehicles.
At the end of 2018 there were 38.2 licenced vehicles in the UK with an average age of 8.1 years, meaning 50% are above 8.1 years old, and 18.3% (7 million) being 13 years or older. Bringing forward a ban on new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars to 2035 would therefore result in 7-10 million ICE vehicles on the road by 2050.
Electric vehicles are not expected to reach price parity with petrol and diesel vehicles until the mid-2020s and are not expected to overtake them in sales until the late 2030’s. Currently price is the biggest barrier to adoption, alongside poor infrastructure, battery range and a limited offering of affordable electric cars, with BEVs on average double the cost of ICE vehicles. However, in an urban environment most vehicles do not exceed 100 miles per day and the BeeAnywhere is designed with hot swappable batteries to reduce time spent charging, something that is especially important in car sharing or 24-hour fleet applications.
By comparison the average price of an average vehicle of average age, e.g. a 2012 VW Golf is £7-8,000.
MeV has identified an opportunity to produce a small, low-cost electric vehicle, the BeeAnywhere, for urban use, allowing cities to drive fast adoption and create an immediate and significant reduction in urban air pollution.
The innovative design of the BeeAnywhere, with the self-aligning chassis and body components, means that production can be rapidly scaled to meet demand without huge capital investment in infrastructure. The chassis developed at the NCME uses aluminium and carbon fibre, producing an extremely stiff and protective yet lightweight cell for occupants. The reduced number of components compared with an internal combustion engine vehicle both increases reliability and reduces the need for maintenance.
Designed for low speed of build, low component costs and maximum recyclability, the BeeAnywhere can be supplied for almost a quarter of the cost of some currently available compact BEVs with a target price in volume of under £10,000.