The Electric Revolution
By Dan Regan
Well, isn’t it great to see Grow Magazine back in print? Their positive news, vibes and passion have certainly been missed. It’s an honour to be contributing to their comeback edition and long may the relentlessly positive news continue!
There are a multitude of reasons for us to be excited about industry in Devon right now. It never fails to amaze me how our county, and the Southwest as a whole, is often seen as a sleepy corner of the UK that just serves tourists. In actual fact, Devon is now a thriving hub for all kinds of innovation, start-ups, technology trials and high growth businesses. Anyone that knows me, will not be surprised that I want to talk about how much Devon has and continues to contribute heavily to the automotive sector.
Most don’t realise that Matford Green and Marsh Barton are actually the second largest cluster of car dealerships in Europe! Pretty much any car you can think of can be bought and serviced there. That’s practically unheard of anywhere else in the world and whilst impressive, only really scratches the surface of Exeter’s automotive credentials.
I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in a host of groundbreaking and exciting automotive projects and businesses.
It was from a workshop in Pinhoe that we developed the charging system for the McLaren P1. Alongside the ‘LaFerrari’, it was the world’s first hybrid supercar, and the early development vehicles spent many hours on test drives on the roads around the outskirts of the city.
During my time with Ashwoods we also ‘hybridised’ the world’s first Caterpillar machine, built the drive system for the world’s first electric marine research catamaran and led the way in the UK by designing and building the first ever hybrid commercial vans.
Another great example is DeGould, headed up by entrepreneur and innovation extraordinaire, Dan Gould. They have created the world’s leading intelligent automated vehicle inspection machines. Used by vehicle manufacturers, dealerships and airport car parks all over the world, this highly innovative technology was designed and developed right here in Exeter.
Another is Petersen Engineering run by Jesse Petersen and his father ‘Top Gear Bob’, as named by Jeremy Clarkson when they appeared on the show back in 2012. They restore, rebuild and recreate vintage Bentley motor cars in a small village in the heart of rural Devon.
Based on the outskirts of Cullompton, Electric Motive Power developed the world’s first fully electric 10 tonne all-terrain commercial vehicle. It will, in the coming years, be appearing in places like farms, fields, forests and quarries – improving air quality, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and saving hundreds of thousands of pounds in fuel and maintenance costs. The hard work of some incredibly talented engineers, twinned with investors that truly believed it was achievable, means this vehicle will now go on to change the world.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, if you haven’t yet noticed, we’re on the cusp of the electric revolution.
The combustion engine has been around for nearly 150 years, and it’s about to get somewhat knocked off its perch. I’m a huge petrolhead, so this does on many levels fill me with great sadness, but being so heavily embedded in innovation for so many years, I thrive on embracing change. It drives us forward as a human race.
Our engineering prowess in the Southwest, perhaps twinned with our appreciation for our local green surroundings, has brought us a real opportunity to harness what we’ve achieved in the region so far and to stake our claim on the world platform as leaders in the automotive technology of the future. We’ve built the concrete base to achieve it, now we need to press forward, grow what we’ve created, build on these credentials, snowball our efforts and create hundreds, if not thousands of new jobs in the Southwest. Jobs that people love and enjoy, because they’ll be part of an industry that’s changing the world for the better. We can do this by collaborating, encouraging innovation, supporting each other’s growth, strengthening the bond between academia and industry and believing that we’re capable of achieving it all together as a region.
So, whilst the midlands has always been known for being the home of the automotive industry in the UK, Devon has already significantly contributed to the global automotive sector in the last decade. If we grab this opportunity, we could play a big part in putting the UK back on the world podium.
If that doesn’t excite you then go grab yourself a cup of coffee, watch Jeremy Clarkson’s ‘widowmaker’ review of the P1 on YouTube right to the end, and remember where the prototype did its first road tests…