A NORTH-EAST electric vehicle firm is launching a new venture targeting the multi-billion pound agriculture market.

Sevcon, in Gateshead, has unveiled products for the tractor and machinery market.

The move has created an initial 10 jobs and was supported by a £300,000 grant from the Government's Regional Growth Fund.

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Bosses say the company wants to take advantage of the agricultural sector's shift from hydraulic to low carbon systems.

Existing tractor trailers and accessories, known as implements, are powered by a hydraulic pump mounted on the tractor.

However, bosses say the industry is moving away from hydraulic equipment to electric motors, with Sevcon revealing high-voltage, low-power inverters for the market.

Matt Boyle, Sevcon president and chief executive, said: “The agricultural equipment and machinery industry presents us with high volume and high value opportunities.

“New tractor sales are predicted to be around 1.4 million globally by 2015, with equipment sales set to be even greater.

“Motor controller sales into the market could ramp up to many thousands a year by the end of the decade.”

Earlier this year, Sevcon, which employs more than 100 workers, launched a joint venture with a branch of Chinese automotive company Risenbo Technology.

Operating as Sevcon New Energy Technology Company, the move means Sevcon's products are being sold to Chinese electric and hybrid vehicle suppliers.

Sevcon designs and makes controllers for on and off-road vehicles, including Renault's two-seater Twizy quadricycle, as well as motorcycles, trucks, buses and forklift trucks.