The firm’s new ‘Blue Ocean Home Delivery Pods’ offer temperature-controlled and dry freight fleets the ability to increase payload by up to 50%, and cubic capacity by as much as 30%.
This significant increase is credited to an aerodynamic design and the use of both carbon fibre and plastic for the panels. They are press formed and take just minutes to construct, making the end product a commercially viable alternative for home delivery fleets for the first time. Typically, carbon fibre panels have taken hours to manufacture in an autoclave, pricing the solution out of the fleet sector.
And while the company’s launch-to-market seems timely given current conditions, its development of a cost-effective lightweight composite solution for high volume transport has been the result of more than 10 years of research and a £16.3 million investment – half from Penso and half from government matched-funding via the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) and Innovate UK.
A large proportion of this investment has been in developing a flexible automated robot assembly line housed in a brand new 50,000 ft2 facility in Coventry which can produce a finished body every 42 minutes.
Production is ramping up this month and next with two initial models – an e-Grocery Pod as an upgrade for supermarket deliveries and an e-Delivery Pod, based on a Luton van. Ultimately, 30 different LCV body variants will be built across different wheelbases and vehicle platforms to suit a variety of applications and fleets. Both initial pods have been configured for a 3.5-tonne medium wheelbase, front-wheel-drive, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
Daniel Hurcombe, manging director of Penso says that the facility is designed to build up to 10,000 vehicle bodies per year, and the plan is to ramp up production steadily over the next five years to fill that capacity.
Volume production began in May; several hundred units are expected to be built in 2020.