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How UK car makers are leaping into action in the war against coronavirus


With car production grinding to a halt due to factory closures as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, don’t think that Britain’s manufacturers are simply sitting on their hands waiting for the pandemic to blow over. 

Auto operations have shifted from assembling hundreds of motors each day to developing and manufacturing technology to save lives on the frontline, while also providing much-needed services for those in greatest need during the lockdown. 

And with Britain’s car industry including Formula 1 teams and luxury car makers, this has meant the likes of McLaren, Williams and Mercedes building ventilators for hospitals and making face masks for the NHS, and Rolls-Royces and Bentleys ferrying essentials to vulnerable people in isolation. 

Here’s how members of Britain’s motor sector are putting their strength into the cause…

How the UK automotive sector is changing gear during the lockdown: From Mercedes F1 creating ground-breaking ventilators (pictured) to Jaguar Land Rover donating Defenders to the Red Cross - here's how the motor industry is helping the fight against coronavirus

How the UK automotive sector is changing gear during the lockdown: From Mercedes F1 creating ground-breaking ventilators (pictured) to Jaguar Land Rover donating Defenders to the Red Cross – here’s how the motor industry is helping the fight against coronavirus

Car industry at the forefront of developing ventilators 

Some 29 product manufacturers have teamed up to answer the UK Government’s call for 20,000 new ventilators for the NHS to supplement the 8,000 in hospitals before the pandemic.

They’ve grouped together as part of the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium to boost the availability of the devices required to treat patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms who can no longer breathe for themselves.

Almost a third of these companies are automotive firms. 

Ford is part of the efforts alongside seven Formula One teams with headquarters in the UK.

This includes Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, BWT Racing Point, Haas, McLaren, Mercedes-AMG Petronas, Renault and ROKiT Williams Racing.

Days ago it emerged that reigning World Champions, Mercedes, based in Brackley, Northamptonshire, and academics at University College London had developed the first ‘continuous positive airway pressure’ (CPAP) device – 100 of which are now going into clinical trials at a hospital in north London.

The equipment – which pushes air and oxygen into a mask to inflate a patient’s lungs – is an alternative treatment for people too frail to undergo invasive ventilation procedures and has been signed off as safe for medical use by the MHRA safety watchdog.

Williams Advanced Engineering – a division that’s an extension to the F1 squad some 35 miles from Bracknell in Grove –  has also helped to re-engineer the ParaPAC300 ventilator unit, producing a number of prototype components within a fortnight of joining the consortium. 

Mercedes-AMG's F1 team is based in Brackley, Northamptonshire

The team, with the help of University College London, has created equipment that pushes air and oxygen into a mask to inflate a patient's lungs as an alternative treatment for people too frail to undergo invasive ventilation procedures

Mercedes-AMG’s F1 team is based in Brackley, Northamptonshire (left). It, with the help of University College London, has created equipment that pushes air and oxygen into a mask to inflate a patient’s lungs as an alternative treatment for people too frail to undergo invasive ventilation procedures

Williams Advanced Engineering - a separate division to the F1 squad - has helped to re-engineer the ParaPAC300 ventilator unit (pictured)

Williams Advanced Engineering – a separate division to the F1 squad – has helped to re-engineer the ParaPAC300 ventilator unit (pictured)

And it’s not just ventilators being developed by British car makers.

Engineers at McLaren F1 have developed a respirator prototype to protect frontline NHS staff.

The personal respirator, which consists of a fabric hood connected to an air filter, could soon be used in UK hospitals by those attending patients on coronavirus wards.

The device, developed in partnership with University of Southampton medical staff, is connected to a small portable unit that supplies clean air.

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It uses readily available components and has an open-source design, meaning it could potentially be modified by medical teams globally.

A prototype of a personal respirator McLaren's F1 team has developed for frontline healthcare staff tackling the Covid-19 pandemic

A prototype of a personal respirator McLaren’s F1 team has developed for frontline healthcare staff tackling the Covid-19 pandemic

The mask consists of a fabric hood that covers the head with an integrated plastic visor to protect the fact

It connects to a small portable unit that straps around the wearer's waist that supplies clean, filtered air

The mask consists of a fabric hood that covers the head with an integrated plastic visor to protect the fact. It connects to a small portable unit that straps around the wearer’s waist that supplies clean, filtered air

McLaren’s Automotive arm – which usually creates seven-figure supercars – is also designing bespoke trolleys specifically for ventilators.

Not just that, but the exclusive vehicle maker is also crash testing the trolleys to ensure they can move valuable ventilators around hectic hospitals safely and without being damaged. 

Mike Hawes, the chief executive at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in the UK, described the efforts as ‘essential and extraordinary work’. 

He added that it is a ‘beacon of hope to our NHS and all of society, and is a shining example of how the wider automotive and other manufacturing sectors can help in this time of crisis’. 

Jaguar Land Rover is using it's leading 3D printing technology to rapidly create a stock of comfortable visors for NHS staff to wear during prolonged shifts

Jaguar Land Rover is using it’s leading 3D printing technology to rapidly create a stock of comfortable visors for NHS staff to wear during prolonged shifts

From 4X4s to facemasks at Jaguar Land Rover

Demand for facemasks has boomed since the virus outbreak, with conflicting reports claiming the effectiveness of wearing one to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

As such, supplies have been running thin globally. And it’s car makers that have been at the forefront of increasing their availability.

Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD has become one of the world’s biggest producers of mask, making 5 million a day to fight the coronavirus pandemic. 

Even Lamborghini, better know for making supercars like the Huracan and Aventador, has changed tact and started turning out face masks and 3D printed plexiglass protective medical shields for a local hospital near the iconic brand’s Sant’Agata Bolognese factory in Italy.

And there are similar efforts in the UK, too. 

The company is has repurposed its Advanced Product Creation Centre in Gaydon into one that makes visors for doctors and nurses after images emerged of medical staff showing bruises caused by wearing uncomfortable masks during shifts

The company is has repurposed its Advanced Product Creation Centre in Gaydon into one that makes visors for doctors and nurses after images emerged of medical staff showing bruises caused by wearing uncomfortable masks during shifts

The resusable visors are the first of their kind and have been designed following feedback from a team of NHS healthcare professionals

The resusable visors are the first of their kind and have been designed following feedback from a team of NHS healthcare professionals

The nation’s biggest car producer, Jaguar Land Rover, has switched attention from premium SUVs and 4X4s to making protective visors for NHS frontline workers.

The company has repurposed its Advanced Product Creation Centre in Gaydon into one that makes more comfortable visors for doctors and nurses after images emerged of medical staff showing the bruises and injuries caused by wearing masks during shifts.

The reusable visors are the first of their kind and have been designed following feedback from a team of NHS healthcare professionals.

The equipment is produced using the 3D printing technology usually used for part design, which is one of the most advanced facilities of this type in Europe. 

A spokesman for JLR said: ‘Using rapid prototyping technology, has enabled the engineers to work through several iterations of the design in under a week, allowing for medical staff to feed back and improvements to be made. 

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‘It is Jaguar Land Rover’s intention to make the open source CAD [computer aided design] files available to Additive Manufacturers and suppliers, so many more protective visors can be printed over the coming weeks.’

Ford is also ramping up efforts to provide personal protective equipment where needed. 

Its research and development facility in Dunton, Essex, is trialing the fabrication of face shields for the NHS and medical staff.

The soon-to-close Bridgend engine plant has also donated 13,500 pairs of gloves, 150 one-piece disposable suits and a significant quantity of safety glasses to local health authorities.

Bentley, based in Crewe, has allocated a number of Bentayga SUVs - worth in excess of £133,000 - to a local charity

It has been helping The Wishing Well in Cheshire to deliver meals to the vulnerable using the powerful 4X4s - and professionally trained drivers

Bentley, based in Crewe, has allocated a number of Bentayga SUVs – worth in excess of £133,000 – to a local charity. It has been helping The Wishing Well in Cheshire to deliver meals to the vulnerable using the powerful 4X4s – and professionally trained drivers

Meals, groceries and medication delivered to your door…via a Bentley or Rolls-Royce

The coronavirus hasn’t just closed the plants that mass produce mainstream cars – it’s also paused efforts at bespoke vehicle makers creating six- and seven-figure sum motors, such as Bentley and Rolls-Royce.

But the fleet of vehicles both legendary UK brands have at their disposal are being put to good use while tools are down.

Bentley, based in Crewe, has allocated a number of Bentayga SUVs – worth in excess of £133,000 each – to a local charity.

As of March 20, it has been helping The Wishing Well charity in Cheshire to deliver meals to the vulnerable using the powerful 4X4s – and professionally trained drivers.

Rolls-Royce has provided its unused fleet of 30 luxurious vehicles - including the latest Phamtom pictured - to provide grocery and medication deliveries to the vulnerable

Rolls-Royce has provided its unused fleet of 30 luxurious vehicles – including the latest Phamtom pictured – to provide grocery and medication deliveries to the vulnerable

Rolls-Royce, based in Goodwood (headquarters pictured with a Cullinan SUV in the foreground) is offering its vehicles and drivers to those in most need in and around Chichester

Rolls-Royce, based in Goodwood (headquarters pictured with a Cullinan SUV in the foreground) is offering its vehicles and drivers to those in most need in and around Chichester 

And if you thought that was flash, Rolls-Royce has also been using its fleet of 30 luxurious limousines to deliver groceries and medical supplies for free to those in need in and around Chichester, close to the brand’s headquarters in Goodwood.

Motors being used for the service should include the Phantom, Cullinan SUV, Ghost, Wraith and Dawn.

Priority for deliveries is being given to local charities and the NHS services Rolls-Royce already has partnerships with. 

A spokesman for Rolls-Royce told the Chichester Observer: ‘Rolls-Royce is determined to demonstrate its commitment to the people and organisations on its doorstep in the service of the greater good. 

‘We have taken the unprecedented decision to place our entire fleet of cars at the disposal of local charities, hospitals and other essential services.’

JLR has distributed a total 27 new Defenders and 30 other vehicles to the British Red Cross to deliver medicine and food to vulnerable people across the UK who now need additional support during the lockdown

JLR has distributed a total 27 new Defenders and 30 other vehicles to the British Red Cross to deliver medicine and food to vulnerable people across the UK who now need additional support during the lockdown

New Land Rover Defender gets its first UK test

Land Rover’s new Defender 4X4 is arguably the most hotly-anticipated model arrival of 2020. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed its debut in UK dealerships as the lockdown hits the motor trade.

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But the car company has put some of the first UK deliveries from Slovakia to good use already, distributing 27 new Defenders to the British Red Cross to deliver medicine and food to vulnerable people across the UK who now need additional support due to social distancing rules.

The Defender’s already proved it has go-anywhere capabilities, having only recently returned from a trek across Namibia to prove its offroading credentials – which you can read more about here

Jaguar Land Rover has deployed more than 160 vehicles globally to support emergency response organisations during the coronavirus crisis – 57 of these in the UK.  

Finbar McFall, customer experience direction at JLR, said: ‘Our partnership with the Red Cross goes back 65 years and we will work hand in hand with them to do all we can during this global health emergency. 

‘We will also provide help to those closer to home in our local communities. We can all play a part in helping the vulnerable during this global pandemic.’ 

Jaguar and Land Rover have deployed more than 160 vehicles globally to support emergency response organisations during the coronavirus crisis - 57 of these in the UK

Jaguar and Land Rover have deployed more than 160 vehicles globally to support emergency response organisations during the coronavirus crisis – 57 of these in the UK

And the rest….

Lotus’ Chinese owner, Geely, is supplying thousands of items of personal protection equipment to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, close to the brand’s factory.

Ford is also supplying some 170 vehicles to the emergency services, local authorities, volunteer groups and other critical services to support transport needs.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT said the automotive sector 'stands ready to help the national effort in every way possible'

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT said the automotive sector ‘stands ready to help the national effort in every way possible’

‘This includes working with ambulance services to provide additional non-emergency support vehicles and providing fleet management expertise’, a Ford spokesman said.

‘We are also responding to requests from local authorities close to our main facilities to support with the distribution of food and medication to vulnerable and shielded groups and transport for key workers and community support.

‘Press vehicles are also being loaned out to support local community actions,’ he added.

Fellow volume-selling car firm Vauxhall is also supplying free roadside breakdown assistance to all NHS staff who own one of its models.

Aston Martin is helping by offering NHS workers at Milton Keynes University Hospital emergency car repairs when required. 

Speaking of the industry’s response to the pandemic, Mike Hawes from the SMMT said: ‘The entire sector stands ready to help the national effort in every way possible, from production of critical medical equipment, to supporting delivery of essential supplies, maintaining emergency service vehicles and providing transport for key workers to support the most vulnerable in our communities.’

Nigel Stein, Automotive Council chairman, added: ‘Such collaboration has helped make this vital sector globally competitive, with a highly skilled, dedicated and productive workforce that will be essential to getting the economy back on its feet once this crisis is over. ‘

 

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