Buses serve as the transportation backbone for cities all over the world, but the diesel variety are also responsible for large quantities of pollutants that contribute disproportionately to air pollution, health and quality of life.
The transportation industry has introduced hybrid buses to help reduce emissions and cut fuel costs, but purchasing a hybrid bus at a price more than 50 percent higher than diesel equivalents hasn’t proven to be popular. That’s where Vantage Power and its retrofit hybrid powertrain for buses come into play.
The London-based company leverages Autodesk Product Design Suite, featuring Autodesk Inventor 3D design software, provided by the Autodesk Cleantech Partner Program to develop the B320 System. The self-contained hybrid powertrain retrofits into existing bus models and reduces fuel consumption and emissions more than 40 percent. For its innovative technology, Vantage Power is being recognized as the Autodesk Inventing the Future recipient for July.
Autodesk seeks Inventing the Future candidates each month from its Manufacturing customer base through a brief Q&A interview on a company or individual addressing their business, products and inventive spirit. Here is what Vantage Power CEO Alex Schey had to say about developing their solution leveraging Autodesk software:
Autodesk: What does your company develop, and why is it important for the world?
Schey: Vantage Power designs and manufactures retrofit hybrid powertrains for buses, enabling operators to reduce their fuel consumption and emissions at a fraction of the cost of purchasing new hybrid buses. By designing the whole hybrid system — everything between the fuel tank and the wheels — we ensure optimal performance of every component. This results in higher fuel economy, lower emissions and greater reliability than other systems.
Our engineering team comes from the heavy-duty vehicle, Formula 1 and aerospace industries. We are continuously challenged to develop innovative solutions, and this has culminated in a truly unique product offering.
Autodesk: How has adopting technology helped your company evolve?
Schey: Having access to the right tools as part of the Autodesk Cleantech Partner Program enabled us to prototype our design in a very short amount of time, without the need for significant financial investment upfront. Vantage Power was founded in January 2011 and the first design was complete by early 2013. Subsequently, the first prototype was ready by the end of 2013 and the first model was put to the test in early 2014.
Being part of the Autodesk Cleantech Partner Program has been amazing since we wouldn’t have been able to afford the software without it. There’s not a 10-minute period that goes by without someone on our team using Autodesk software.
Autodesk: What Autodesk software do you use and why?
Schey: Our team uses Autodesk Inventor from the Autodesk Product Design Suite. Having access to Autodesk Inventor allowed us to not only dramatically reduce the time it takes to develop a prototype, but Inventor also provides user-friendly tools for 3D mechanical design, product simulation and documentation. The benefit of using digital prototypes to design products before embarking on the manufacturing process has been huge for us.
In addition, using the simulation tools provided in Inventor has allowed Vantage Power to avoid design flaws by amending and correcting elements of the system before it is manufactured, saving the company time and money.
Autodesk: How do you see your company five years from now? In 10 years?
Schey: Our long-term mission is to lead in the supply of electric and hybrid powertrains for heavy-duty vehicles operating in urban environments around the world. Today we are firmly focused on buses in the U.K. market. Within the next two years, we will commence sales abroad, most likely within select European countries. Within five years, we intend to have expanded our product line to include electric and plug-in hybrid powertrains — using greatly enhanced technology to what is currently being commercialized — and selling them into a diverse range of heavy-duty vehicles. Importantly, we will have built up a world-class team of engineers, innovators, makers and sellers with the belief that Vantage Power can help tackle some of the world’s biggest transportation challenges.
Autodesk: What does being an engineer and entrepreneur mean to you? [You fill in blank with your occupation.]
Schey: Look at the world around us. At every turn, there is pain, suffering, inefficiencies and disconnection. Engineering gives us the tools to invent solutions to some of the biggest problems facing the world today, and that is an incredibly empowering feeling. However, just inventing an amazing problem-solving device is not enough. It needs to be manufactured, publicized, distributed, serviced and ultimately recycled. This requires the development of a business in most cases, which includes developing a business plan, raising finance, building a team and getting down to the problem at hand. Having a hand in all of this is incredibly exciting, rewarding and fulfilling, and I feel privileged having been given the opportunity to pursue my dreams in this manner.
Do you think you have what it takes to be recognized by Autodesk for Inventing the Future? If so, send in your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org.