Optare plc has been crowned the winner of SMMT’s 2012 Award for Automotive Innovation, for its Optare Versa EV – the UK’s first fully operational, full-sized, battery-powered electric bus.
Beating off strong competition from across the car, component and intelligent mobility sectors, the Optare Versa EV won SMMT’s annual award, which highlights the importance of R&D and innovation in the industry. The award, sponsored by GKN Driveline and supported by The Times, was presented to Optare’s Chief Executive Officer, Jim Sumner and Chief Technical Officer, Glenn Saint at SMMT’s Annual Dinner.
Developed from the 27-seater Optare Solo EV that was launched in 2010, the Versa EV is capable of carrying 50 passengers and is designed and engineered exclusively at Optare’s UK facility in North Yorkshire.
In developing its electric bus range, Optare has taken advantage of recent developments in battery technology, which have seen both weight and size reduce. This has enabled more compact driveline packaging within the same engine compartment as that of a standard Versa diesel-engined bus.
The development of fast charging stations has also brought the ability for batteries to be charged to full capacity in under two hours compared to around eight hours from a normal overnight charge. This allows for ‘opportunity charging’ to take place during the working day and this can double the range from the current 75 to 95 miles on a single overnight charge.
Commending the winner of this year’s Award, Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive and Chair of the judging panel said, “Optare has pioneered the development of the UK’s only full-sized electric bus, reaffirming the sector’s commitment to lowering vehicle emissions while offering fleet operators enhanced efficiency and tangible cost savings. This Award seeks out innovations that have the potential to leave a lasting impact on industry and it’s fantastic to have a champion that truly demonstrates why the UK is recognised as a world-leading technological innovator.”
Receiving the award on behalf of Optare, CEO Jim Sumner said, “On behalf of all our employees at Optare it gives me immense pride to collect this very prestigious award, which is the culmination of three years hard work by our team. We passionately believe that the future of the bus industry lies in EV and that Optare’s demonstrated market leadership will be sustained in the years to come as zero emission technology takes off.”
Three of the Versa EV models are now in service in Coventry and are using fast-charging technology.