THE region’s emerging green industries received a huge boost yesterday as an electric car company promised the creation of more than 500 jobs at their North East development plant.
Liberty Electric Cars announced it has secured a £500,000 contract with the Chinese government to produce motors for 10,000 electric buses, which will all be built in Cramlington, Northumberland.
CEO of the Oxford-based company Barry Shrier said the five-year agreement had been put in place with the option for an extension to 30,000 electric vehicles.
All of the jobs set to be created by the deal will be within the next two years, while Liberty have already said they are looking at the prospect of setting up a second premises in the region.
If the Chinese government chose to extend their order, the total value of the relationship could rise to £1.5bn, based on pricing of the initial contract.
Last night bosses from Liberty Electric Cars greeted representatives from China at a special reception held in Wynyard Hall, Teesside.
The company said China had signed the contract as it looked to meet its targets for reduction of carbon emissions and solve the problem of public transport for its burgeoning population.
Barry Shrier said: "Our strategy is to make the North East the epicentre of electrical vehicle research and production for the UK.
"The region has a tremendous reputation in terms of engineering and in terms of a reliable and capable workforce.
"From our perspective there are also advantages to being close to the industries associated with car manufacturing which have grown up around the Nissan plant." Under the contract announced by Liberty yesterday, the company will produce the motors, batteries, transmission, and software, at their North East plant. The motors will be assembled in Cramlington before being shipped to China to be fitted to chassis.
The product China has agreed to buy have been branded as the "e-Kit".
As part of the agreement Liberty will also help develop wireless, magnetic, or "induction" charging units which will be installed under the ground at bus stops along routes in China, allowing buses to recharge while they collect passengers, the company said. Managing Director of Liberty Ian Hobday said: "We’re excited that this agreement with our Chinese partners will bring much needed employment to the North East and continue the development of Newcastle as the epicentre of Electric vehicle technology in the UK."
The technology which will be used in the buses being produced for China is based on the high performance engine fitted into Liberty’s prototype Pure Electric Range Rover, which were on show at Wynyard yesterday where veteran North East entrepreneur Sir John Hall welcomed the guests to his hotel.