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Unipres plugs-in as it prepares for UK Nissan LEAF production

A North East car parts giant is getting behind electric vehicles by installing a new £6 million state-of-the-art press machine to help manufacture components for the latest eco-friendly cars.

Sunderland-based Unipres which produces steel components for carmakers including Nissan and Honda, is also installing five charging posts at its premises in the hope that it will encourage staff to switch to electric driving.

Graham Baines of Unipres and Josey Wardle of Charge your Car try out one of the new charging posts

The company’s newly delivered 3,000 tonne press, which will be operational by the end of 2012, will allow Unipres to significantly increase its capacity and fulfil orders for parts to be used in eco-cars including the Nissan LEAF, which will be produced at Nissan’s Sunderland plant next year.

The company, which specialises in the manufacture of components using high-tensile - stronger but lighter – steel believes that components made specifically for EVs will represent an increasingly significant part of its business over the next two to three years.

Switching to electric

As part of its commitment to low carbon vehicles, the firm teamed up with the North East’s Plugged in Places scheme, Charge your Car, to install the new charging points and make them freely available to both employees and visitors.

And, through Switch EV trial, staff from its 950-strong workforce are currently trialling a fleet of five EVs and will provide feedback to the Technology Strategy Board-back scheme.

Graham Baines, finance director at Unipres, said: “There is little doubt that electric vehicles will play an increasingly important role in transport in the future, but already – today - we are seeing a significant step change in the volume of orders for parts suitable for use in eco-friendly car models produced by our customers – and particularly on Wearside where the Leaf will be produced in 2013.”

Through Charge your Car, North East businesses are eligible for grants towards the installation of charging posts at their premises. To date, the programme has been responsible for the installation of almost 500 charging points at business premises, homes and public locations throughout the region.

Josey Wardle, project manager at Charge your Car, said: “Unipres is a company that is genuinely leading the charge when it comes to electric vehicles, as part of the supply chain that helps put them on the roads in the first place.

“They, of course, know more than most the benefits that EVs can bring, so to have them on board is fantastic, and it really does send out a strong message that eco-friendly cars represent not only a viable, but a valuable, means of transport for businesses in the North East.”

For further information on EVs and the funding available towards the installation of charging posts in the North East, visit www.whynotelectric.com

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Faye Sunderland

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