A MULTI-MILLION pound investment to help the expansion North-East’s growing low carbon vehicle sector by creating a centre of excellence has been made.

Gateshead College is set to create an International Centre for Low Carbon Vehicle Development after acquiring Barmston Court, an existing 2,000sq m facility in Sunderland, originally built as the Nissan Design Centre in 1991.

Managed by Zero Carbon Futures, the firm which was set up by the college last year to oversee the development of the North-East’s low carbon vehicle industry, is raising funds to refurbish the building and link it to the performance track.

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The centre’s remit will include research and development to support the creation of new products and the development of existing vehicles and components.

The open access centre will be the hub for low carbon vehicle and associated technology development in the North East, forging new partnerships between industry, academia and the public sector.

Key areas of work will include infrastructure development, research into batteries and energy storage including battery second life and the development of home energy management systems (HEMS) linked to the vehicle.

The college is aiming to build on the success of its neighbouring Skills Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing and Innovation (SASMI), which opened last year.

Richard Thorold, principal and chief executive of Gateshead College, said: “Our investment in this centre marks the next phase in our strategy for low carbon vehicles. “Gateshead College has already achieved a global reputation as a leader in training and skills for the sustainable manufacturing sector that is so critical to our region’s future economic growth.

“SASMI has been a huge success and is already operating at full capacity. We believe this new centre will echo that success but in different ways, supporting high level research and development and training in the low carbon vehicle sector in north east England.”

Barmston Court lies within the designated A19 Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Enterprise Zone, which the Government recently expanded by a further 40 hectares. With its proximity to the Turbine Business Park and the UK’s only LCV Performance Track, it is hoped the centre will form strong links with the automotive industry. The site is adjacent to Nissan’s Sunderland plant and the new £22m Vantec warehouse facility.

Dr Colin Herron, managing director of Zero Carbon Futures, said: “Low Carbon Vehicle development and research is an area of real economic growth for the area. We have a global reputation for low carbon innovation and this centre will bring together the specialist expertise to help us to maintain that position and drive it forward for the benefit of the North-East. The development of this centre is a cornerstone of our strategy to place us at the centre of worldwide product knowledge, development and research.”

Any low carbon vehicle companies interested in relocating to the new International Centre for Low Carbon Vehicle Development should contact Gateshead College on 0191-490-2206.