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Innovate UK EDGE speeds growth for electric transportation company

A person riding a motorcycle
coins
£300,000
in external investment

White Motorcycle Concepts (WMC) is on course to disrupt the motorbike and scooter transportation market with electrically-powered machines that are powerful and aerodynamically efficient. Supported by Innovate UK EDGE to develop its business, the company has created a hybrid motorbike with a central air duct, an invention that dramatically improves power and fuel efficiency. It incorporates a front wheel kinetic energy recovery and deployment system, an approach that is common in hybrid and electric four wheel vehicles, but not yet in mainstream motorbikes.

Grant funding from Innovate UK and the Niche Vehicle Network enabled WMC to build a proof of concept land speed bike which, when tested at high speed, far exceeded expectations. “The best way to prove aerodynamics is at high speed and that is what we did,” says Robert White, founder and CEO at WMC. “In that most extreme form, the bike was 70% more aerodynamically efficient than the best consumer bike available on the market at the moment.”

On the back of that success, WMC plans to break the current UK record for an electric bike, which is set at 198 miles per hour. And then it wants to break the international land speed record, which was recently set at 283 miles per hour at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

The commercial side of the business is already starting to take off. WMC has secured its first order from Northamptonshire Police. “They need to go green and want to do it but have a couple of barriers. The bikes need to be available all the time – they can’t have them on charge and not available. In addition, all forces (and fleet operators) require an upgrade to the electricity supply into their facilities to cope with future demand, a cost that could run into the millions.” 

WMC has been working with the force to create a bike that meets those needs. The end result is a hybrid bike that incorporates detachable batteries that can be charged on a three pin plug to work around the electricity supply issue. Using the bikes will have a significant impact on the force’s carbon emissions. The pilot phase is being rolled out this summer and WMC is now in discussions with other police forces, paramedic services, fire services and highways agencies about similar projects. 

Grant support from Innovate UK green and transportation competitions

White says support from Innovate UK and Innovate UK EDGE has been absolutely critical in getting the business to this point. WMC benefited from two lots of Innovate UK funding. In October 2020, it received £198,111 in funding from Innovate UK’s Catalysing Green Innovation: strand 2: Securing the future of ZEV (zero emission vehicles) programme, to explore the feasibility of incorporating the front wheel kinetic energy recovery and deployment system. And one month later it received a further £100k in funding from The Sustainable Innovation Fund to support the integration of the central air duct into a city centre motorcycle that was the genesis for the First Responder motorcycle. 

Innovate UK EDGE Innovation and Growth Specialists Martin Ellis and more latterly Steve Lyons have been supporting WMC, particularly with the commercial side of the business. White says their advice, coaching and business acumen have been invaluable, as have his knowledge and contacts in key areas such as licensing and market segmentation. “Steven and Martin have great networks for competencies that we didn’t have in the organisation, such as when we were looking to license the patent. And they acted as a critical friend – questioning why we were doing things and challenging us to think differently about certain aspects.” 

WMC is now garnering a lot of interest in the automotive community and from first responder services across Europe. It won a 2021 Collaborate To Innovate Award from The Engineer magazine. The company has recently secured external investment of £300k to enable it to deliver its ambitious growth plan over the next five years, by which time it plans to be selling 2,500 bikes a year.

Steven and Martin have great networks for competencies that we didn’t have in the organisation, such as when we were looking to license the patent. And they acted as a critical friend – questioning why we were doing things and challenging us to think differently about certain aspects.”

Robert White, Founder and CEO, WMC