Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and U.K. supplier GKN are all beneficiaries of a British investment fund that aims to keep the country's e-mobility development industry on the boil and position the country as the go-to place for European automotive r&d - even as it cuts ties with the European Union.
The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) started in 2013 with the aim of dispersing £1 billion ($1.3 billion) of government funding to collaborative projects that focus on zero-emission propulsion technology.
In April, APC announced its 10th round of funding, inviting applications from groups to bid for £30 million ($40 million) of r&d cash.
The money goes to the lead participant of a collaborative group. And under the rules of the program, the consortium that bids for the funds must include a small to medium-sized U.K. business with the aim of giving them a leg up. The group also must prove that the cash will expand r&d activities specifically in the U.K.
Ford last year won £4.7 million ($6.3 million) to help develop a plug-in hybrid version of its Transit Custom van. It bid with its consortium partners Prodrive, an engineering firm better known for successes running the global Subaru rally team, and Revolve Technologies, originally set up in the U.K. by Detroit's Roush Technologies before being sold off.
After Ford developed the gasoline-electric van at its Dunton, U.K., commercial vehicle r&d center, Prodrive then built 20 prototypes to test with fleets, mainly in London. Ford plans to put the vehicle into production next year.
The APC is just one part of the U.K.'s ongoing investment in high-tech automotive technologies. Earlier this year the government announced a deal worth about $738 million to accelerate the development of electric vehicles. That program includes the Faraday Battery Challenge, a competition to award money to companies or projects working to improve automotive battery cells or packs. As part of that initiative, the government committed £80 million ($107 million) to build the National Battery Manufacturing Development Facility, to be built near Coventry, in central England, the cradle of Britain's car and bicycle industry.
In the past, the U.K.'s auto incentives were mostly channeled through the Regional Growth Fund, which gave money to companies expanding in areas identified as worthy of financial investment. Recipients included Geely's taxi firm, the London Electric Vehicle Company, which received government funds to help build a new factory in Coventry.
But that regional growth money has stopped, as U.K. government shifts its efforts to spur more development in e-mobility solutions.