Sunday 21 January 2018

Dunleer-based Swift Composites plans to build 1,000 electric sports cars before 2017

Rethought from the ground up, this is an Alex eroadster, which will retail for around €30,000
Rethought from the ground up, this is an Alex eroadster, which will retail for around €30,000

Harry Leech

Irish company Swift Composite Prototypes is to start a production run of up to 1,000 electric sports cars at the end of 2016.

The plastics company said that their design has rethought the car "from the ground up", with a car that is lighter, faster and crucially has a much greater range than rivals in the market.

Named the Alex eroadster, it will retail in the region of €30,000. Swift Composite Prototypes is a composite manufacturing company based in Drogheda, Co Louth. The company primarily manufactures products for use in the green energy and aeronautics industry, including parts for windmills and commercial jets.

The company now aims to follow in the footsteps of Tesla in the US by going back to the drawing board and designing a 21st Century vehicle from scratch. Not content with swapping out a traditional petrol of diesel engine for two lightweight 15Kw/80Kw batteries in the design process, the car's chassis and body will be built from a composite made from carbon and Kevlar.

The idea for the car came when inventor and project manager Tom Finnegan moved to Roscommon and had "too much time on his hands". With a background in engineering and green energy, he designed a prototype electric car based on a Lotus body. The project has grown from a hobby and now aims to end the main barrier to consumers considering green automobile - range anxiety.

"If you ask 100 people why they won't buy an electric car, 99 will say that the car couldn't get them from Dublin to Galway. We've taken this on board and re-thought the car from the bottom up. The use of a lightweight carbon-fibre chassis saves energy as it is 30pc lighter, and also allows us to store more batteries," he said.

Finnegan says the car will have a range of 250km between charges, which will take between 20-30 minutes at a quick-charge point, and will accelerate from 0 to 100km in less than 10 seconds.

The project is receiving input and support from a EU-supported Structural Funds Programme managed between Queen's University Belfast, Dundalk IT and DCU. The company also works closely with the University of Limerick's Institute for Composite Research.

The genesis for the car's name came as the academics and inventors were brain-storming a name and one of the academics believed the cars body-styling was reminiscent of an Alexander McQueen design. The Alex eroadster was born.

While Swift Composite Prototypes initially began working on their own custom-designed chassis, they were put in contact with Danish company EcoMove, which was already producing an award-winning composite chassis that had been tested and rated by the European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP).

The Danish company was five years ahead in the design process and had a sound product that ticked all the boxes, so the companies agreed to collaborate. The chassis is one of the few parts of the Alex eroadster not being designed and assembled in the country, however.

The body of the car is being designed in Belfast by graphic-design company BigSmall Design, while the suspension is being custom-designed by Co Wicklow-based TDP Suspension.

The Rathnew company has traditionally custom-designed suspension and manufactured suspension for racing cars, and is well placed to meet the challenge of producing a high-end suspension system that can work with a chassis which has no metal in it.

Swift Composite Prototypes aims to have a prototype ready next year, with the first cars going on sale in early 2017. While Finnegan says that the company has already decided to cap production of the model at 1,000, it hopes to use the car as a launching pad for a larger-scale production of a five-seat family car.

When it goes into production, the Alex eroadster will be the first car produced in Ireland for the commercial market since the DeLorean DMC-12 in 1983, but it's not a comparison that bothers Finnegan.

"We don't mind the comparison really - it has already been dubbed the 'Dun Leerean' by some people, which we think is great as long as it raises awareness of the car. The difference is that the DeLorean was a glorious failure - and this car won't be."

Sunday Indo Business

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