In New Delhi, India’s second-largest commercial vehicle manufacturer Ashok Leyland announced that its fully-owned UK subsidiary Optare Group would be renamed Switch Mobility as part of an expanded focus on electric and sustainable transport.
The group now called Switch Mobility manufactures urban buses in the UK with an assembly facility near Leeds in Yorkshire. Ashok Leyland Chairperson Dheeraj Hinduja said in a statement: “Optare is adopting a new identity and logo as Switch, which signals our strategic ambitions in electric and green mobility. Towards this, the company is examining various options to bring its entire electric vehicle (EV) initiatives under Switch Mobility Ltd.”
The company is counting on the rapidly growing electric bus and light commercial vehicle markets globally. The electric bus market is projected to grow at a compounded annual rate of more than 25 per cent, and in the UK, Hinduja said, Optare is a leading player in the electric bus market. “To capture part of that market, we are considering EV initiatives through Switch that could include financial participation and strategic tie-ups,” Hinduja explained.
It appears that the Indian commercial vehicle-making giant has more in mind than just the UK market. Ashok Leyland Managing Director and CEO Vipin Sondhi sees that Switch is in a position to potentially become a global arm of Ashok Leyland saying that: “This proposed step will enable Ashok Leyland to focus on the development of new electric vehicle platforms through Switch, including next-generation buses, e-LCVs and swiftly scale up the EV business.”
It appears that the change in name and shift in focus will involve some reorganisation of the group, which the company says will still allow it to continue to serve the current customers. The company says they currently have around 150 electric buses in operation in the UK.
In Europe at a broad overview, Germany is painfully slow in the uptake on electric and fuel cell bus production, while the Netherlands and Poland dominate the zero-emission bus market with companies like Solaris and VDL. Optare, or Switch Mobility as it is now called, has, like Solaris and VDL, not sleeping through the bus boom and is – like Solaris and VDL as well as their British counterpart Wrightbus – also working on hydrogen-powered electric buses. In April this year, the company launched an H2 fuel cell double-decker bus. A recent order from London’s Tower Transit in February was for 37 electric double-decker buses.