ELECTRIC vehicles manufacturer The Tanfield Group will have a new factory in the region within four months as it gears up to triple production, The Northern Echo has learned.

The company, from Washington, Wearside, is aiming to increase production of its electric vehicles to more than 3,000 next year, but capacity at its site is only 1,500.

It is close to signing a deal on a new North-East factory, which could create 300 jobs by next year - part of the group's previously-announced intention to have 1,000 staff in the region.

The group is also expected to break through the £120m sales barrier this year.

Tanfield, the world leader in zeroemission vehicle production, signed a deal with supplier Enova yesterday to bring in parts for 4,000 vehicles during this year and next. It is expected to manufacture about 1,000 this year and 3,000 next year, at both its North-East site and in North America.

Tanfield is considering asking for a grant from regional development agency One NorthEast for its expansion.

A Smiths Electric vehicle can travel for up to 150 miles between battery charges, and reach speeds of up to 50mph.

Tanfield's Smith Electric Vehicles business is the world's oldest electric vehicle manufacturer. It is also the world's largest producer of roadgoing commercial electric vehicles.

A spokesman for the company said yesterday: "We have got capacity at our current site for up to 1,500 vehicles, so going forward we will probably need extra floor space.

"That is all I can say at the moment."

Tanfield, which was founded by Roy Stanley in 1996, was floated on London's junior stock market, the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in 2003.

The new plant will leave space in Tanfield's present factory - the former LG Electronics site in Washington - to expand production of its aerial platforms in its Upright Powered Access division.

Yesterday, chairman Mr Stanley floated North-West bus company Darwen, formerly known as East Lancashire Coachbuilders, on AIM.

He bought the Blackburn company out of administration last summer and doubled production.