Car battery firm proves ‘kickass in Bluegrass’ with $25m deal
Cambridgeshire CleanTech business TRB Lightweight Structures has won a $25 million (£19m) deal in the US to export electric car battery parts made from organic waste.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) is supporting the company with logistical and financial advice as it continues to expand across the Atlantic from its HQ in Huntingdon UK.
The strong components, which are made from recycled plant waste and moulded into shape using high-tech machinery, are manufactured in the UK at a similar cost to heavier aluminium.
The joint venture with Toyota Tsusho America will see the enclosures shipped to and assembled at a new manufacturing facility in Richmond, Kentucky – America’s Bluegrass State. The finished products will then be supplied to a Fortune 500 global engine producer.
Andrew Dugmore, president at TRB said: “Sustainability is important to us and we are passionate about developing lightweight solutions for transportation, which will make vehicles more efficient and reduce CO2 emissions.
“Since setting up in the US, interest has been high and we are negotiating potential multi-million-pound deals with other clients.
“The UK and US trading relationship goes back decades and we hope that any new free trade agreement will make trading with the US easier for us.”
TRB started exporting in 2015 with 30 per cent of its turnover attributed to exports. The company plans to increase this to 70 per cent by 2021 and the Department for International Trade continues to provide financial and logistical expansion support, including by making introductions to the Kentucky Cabinet of Economic Development.
TRB opened the composites manufacturing centre in Kentucky as a joint venture with Toyota Tsusho America in the Spring. The 40,000 sq ft facility will be equipped with state-of-the-art robotics to allow high volume production of carbon fibre components using TRB’s unique press-forming process, initially focusing on the automotive sector.
Carbon fibre components offer a number of benefits for automotive applications, particularly in electric vehicles (EVs), where lightweight components can be used to increase vehicle range.However, use of this material has traditionally been limited to high-end, low volume products, due to laborious and costly manufacturing processes.
TRB has developed a revolutionary production process that allows carbon fibre to be press-formed using advanced industrial robotics, allowing components to be manufactured at a similar price point to equivalent aluminium parts.
The Kentucky facility complements TRB’s UK manufacturing operations, providing greater access to these materials for the North American market.
Founded in 1954, TRB has 140 employees at its UK headquarters; it has manufactured components for some the most iconic structures and buildings in London including the London Eye and Blackfriars Bridge, in addition to advanced healthcare machinery.
During the UK lockdown TRB diverted 20 per cent of its manufacturing output to making face visors for Great Ormand Street and the Nightingale Hospitals.
International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss said: “To see British companies like TRB Lightweight Structures trading with the US demonstrates the international demand for UK innovation and manufacturing.
“More trade and investment is crucial to the economic recovery from coronavirus, and deals like this will help deliver that.
“The US is our biggest single trading partner and I hope our ongoing trade talks will lead to a free trade agreement that will cut red tape for UK businesses.”
The US is the East of England’s largest export market, accounting for 15 per cent of the region’s goods exports in 2019.