Last month marked a special occasion for Allison’s Vantage Power team in London as they turned 10 years old! A brief recap of the story is shared below, showing a young start up building up its team, technologies and products, and ultimately being acquired by Allison and joining a global team focused on delivering exceptional value to its customers as the world transitions towards an electric future.

The origins of Vantage Power actually started long before the company was founded. As early as 2007, Alex Schey and Toby Schulz were bitten by the electrification bug while studying mechanical engineering at university. Along with a group of recently graduated engineers, they decided to build the world’s longest range electric car, and drive it down the Pan-American Highway - the longest road in the world. Against the odds, this project was successfully completed in November 2010 - but what next?

Alex and Toby thought it would be exciting to start a company, and Vantage Power was founded on 26th January 2011. At this point in time the idea of growing the company to where it is today – at the forefront of Allison’s technology developments in the EV space – was nothing but a vague and distant dream. The idea that kickstarted the company was to design and manufacture novel electrification technologies to enable existing heavy-duty vehicles (initially London’s double-decker buses) to be retrofitted to hybrid power.

Before work could really begin in earnest, significant funding was needed. Two years later, the first round of investment was complete, and the most important part of the company could now be built: the team. Over the course of 2013, the first of what would become a group of incredibly talented, enthusiastic and dedicated team members were recruited, and in just 12 months the first prototype was built and ready for testing.

2014 to 2016 was a whirlwind time of rapid team, technology and product growth as the company moved from its first prototypes to the first batch of customer buses. These buses had been selected from customers’ fleets and retrofitted with a novel series hybrid powertrain - comprising an industry-leading battery pack, control and telemetry system, and vehicle integration. 

In 2017 the fleet of customer buses hit the road, and despite many challenges, the team did a heroic job of supporting the customers and demonstrating the technology’s potential. This led to Vantage Power being selected by London’s transport authority to design a completely new hybrid system to power the first vehicle of its kind in the UK: a triple-axle double-decker hybrid bus.

Perhaps as a portent of things to come, this vehicle incorporated a dual motor e-axle, and the largest battery pack of its class at the time. This prototype vehicle - which started operating in London in 2018 - still runs today with one of the UK’s largest transit operators. During this year, Vantage Power also directed its technologies towards other exciting applications including a megawatt-hour battery storage system for use on the electricity grid, and pioneering telemetry projects in the truck, train and yacht industries.

Building a start up in the hardware space was an exhilarating experience, and while filled with many highs, also comprised many obstacles and challenges. As the electrification industry matured from start-ups taking the initiative and action to larger corporations throwing their resources into play, the timing was right to shift the thinking from independence to how the biggest impact could be achieved. In April 2019 Vantage Power became part of the Allison family to continue its electrification and digitalization journey.

The 22 months following acquisition have seen Vantage Power’s digital technologies incorporated into engineering tools and  demonstration projects  such as the Flex EV. Control algorithms have been developed for electric vehicle master level controls and helping the e-axle development program with the design and build of test vehicles. Innovative battery technology for electric vehicles is also being explored at R&D level to help define what Allison can offer to the market going forward.

If 2020 proved anything it’s that the future is by no means certain, and predicting what will happen is often a fool’s errand. But it now seems beyond reasonable doubt that the electrification trend is well and truly on its way, and the next 10 years will likely see increasingly strict legislation around emissions controls, and an international push towards cleaner and more sustainable technologies. In this regard, and as we embark on this epochal shift from old to new, Allison’s group of companies and global team are well positioned to tackle the next 10 years. From the whole team in London, we look forward to documenting the story of our collective journey to 2031!