The most prestigious annual award for innovation in the UK automotive industry has been won by Optare plc with its all-electric fast charging bus.
The Versa EV beat off tough competition from many of the leading names in automotive design and technology from across Britain to win the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) Award for Automotive Innovation 2012.
Optare’s Chief Executive Officer Jim Sumner and Chief Technical Officer Glenn Saint jointly received the award last night at a glittering event at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel attended by leading politicians and motor industry business leaders.
Speaking at the event 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 the 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.
“Amongst the many awards that we have won, the SMMT Award for Automotive Innovation is particularly exciting since we have been judged by our peers in the industry. We have invested a significant amount over the past three years in developing our EV’s and have learned many lessons from our early service vehicles which have been important in this success. Clearly anyone who now doubts the future of EV technology in the bus industry needs to seriously think again”, said Mr Sumner.
Optare is the only producer of full-size, commercially viable, battery-powered buses in the UK, which are manufactured at its modern assembly plant at Sherburn-in-Elmet in Yorkshire.
The Versa EV is the largest of Optare’s range of electric buses and is capable of carrying in excess of 50 passengers. Along with smaller Solo and Solo SR all-electric models, Optare electric buses have been running for up to three years in revenue earning service in Durham, Dorchester (Poundbury), Nottingham, Coventry and at London’s Heathrow Airport. In all of these places the zero emissions and low noise of these vehicles are contributing to increased passenger acceptance and a cleaner and quieter local environment.
Mr Sumner, who stands down as CEO and Director from Optare on 31 December this year having achieved a major turnaround of the company’s fortunes, said after the event: "We see this award as symbolising a strong platform for future growth of Optare under the aegis of Ashok Leyland and I sincerely wish the team all the very best for the future"
"It is hugely important that the government, local councils and operators get behind electric buses which are now a reality, as this prestigious Award demonstrates. This is a great opportunity for the UK to take the lead in the rapidly emerging global market for green transport", said Mr Sumner.