Top motoring innovation: Why Catesby tunnel is all but boring

Knowing it was the ideal spot, the painstaking work of making Catesby a reality began. “The inspiration was 10 minutes,” says Lewis. 

“The rest took forever. You go to a bank or an investor and they say: ‘It’s never been done before and you’ve got no purchase orders.

“So the thing that really unlocked it was the local growth fund from Semlep [South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership]. They gave us £4.2 million and did it with a lot of faith in us, and that then unlocked a deal with Subaru [which Totalsim was working with via Prodrive] to sell them some shares and some time in the tunnel. Right at the end, we managed to get a small bank loan from NatWest.”

Part of the challenge is that aerodynamics, despite how much more efficient it can make cars, is not perceived as a key area for investment. “In the UK automotive tech world, aerodynamics isn’t well funded,” says Lewis. 

“If we were doing things to do with lightweighting electrics and batteries, smart connectivity, or autonomy, there would have been many more grants available.

“The one we took was for economic development rather than tech. If you look at the Automotive Council and what they fund in the propulsion centre, aero development barely gets a look-in.”

And yet the advantages are key. “In a typical road car, half the petrol is burnt by overcoming the aerodynamics and you’d think that would be a priority but it’s not yet,” says Lewis. 

Meanwhile, in an electric car, “if you can take 30% off the drag, then the car will go further for the same battery, so you can reduce the battery and the weight, and by doing that make it more efficient and go further again”.

There have been issues. Bats have needed looking after and it took longer to certify fire regulations than was hoped, but Catesby is now up and running, with a £4m innovation centre in development near the tunnel entrance, and the tunnel is getting busier and proving its worth.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top