The UK, like the world, is living through unprecedented times due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lockdown has required unity across all industries to help fight against the virus and step up to the challenge of supporting the NHS. Support has not ended at the frontline either, the social demands that have been caused due to the outbreak have also required help. The automotive industry has been a key player in bringing manufacturers together as part of the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium, to collaborate and utilise both expertise and technology to help support the NHS and other essential services.
Just when we thought we would see new model launches, there has been a pause on car production to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Rather than waiting for the wave to break, we have seen car manufacturers across all tiers producing state-of-the-art ventilator units, innovative PPE and providing necessary vehicles to support both the NHS and vulnerable people during lockdown.
World Champions, Mercedes, have collaborated with University College London (UCL) to develop ventilation equipment for the most vulnerable patients. The continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) is an alternative treatment that pushes air and oxygen into a mask to inflate a patient’s lungs if they cannot undergo invasive ventilation procedures. The CPAP has been approved and an order of ten-thousand units has been made by the NHS. The Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains technology centre in Brixton, has turned from developing and building the Formula 1 team’s power units to manufacturing one-thousand CPAP devices per day.
Infamous for seven-figure supercars, McLaren has also joined Mercedes in manufacturing the twenty-thousand new ventilators that were called for by the UK Government. McLaren turned to the University of Southampton medical staff to collaborate on developing a personal respirator prototype, intended for use by keyworkers treating patients on coronavirus wards. The respirator consists of fabric hood connected to a portable air filter, that is produced from readily available components making this open-source design available for global use. The supercar manufacturer has also designed bespoke trolleys for use in hectic hospitals, to ensure valuable ventilators can be moved safely without being damaged.
Face Masks & Visors
Face masks have become gold dust over the past few months, due to conflicting evidence surrounding wearing one for preventative measures against the spread of coronavirus. Luckily, Jaguar Land Rover along with Nissan have been at the forefront of increasing face mask and visor availability for those working on the frontline. Jaguar Land Rover have developed first of their kind, 3D printed reusable visors that have been based off feedback from NHS Healthcare professionals. Being the nation’s largest car producer, Jaguar Land Rover is home to one of the most advanced 3D printing technology facilities in Europe that can support both the development and demand for these pieces of PPE.
Nissan has seen a team of volunteers create a processing line to make and pack visors for direct shipping to the NHS, alongside producing protective aprons for NHS workers. It was estimated that seventy-seven thousand plus visors were expected to leave the Sunderland-based plant in the first week of operations, with approximately one-hundred thousand estimated to be distributed to the NHS the following week. Nissan have also implemented an initiative providing free vehicles to frontline healthcare workers, whose normal commute has been compromised by the coronavirus.
Help is not only being made through engineering of essential equipment, the likes of legendary UK brands Rolls-Royce and Bentley are also providing invaluable support to their local communities. Changing the face of meals-on-wheels, Crewe-based Bentley have been putting their disposable fleet to good use working with the Cheshire-based charity The Wishing Well. Bentley allocated a fleet of Bentayga SUVs and professionally trained drivers to help deliver meals to the most vulnerable- not your typical delivery vehicle standing at an excess of £133,000 each!
The epitome of luxury, Roll-Royce has been using their thirty-vehicle fleet of luxurious limousines to deliver groceries and medical supplies, free of charge for those most in need close to the brand’s Goodwood Headquarters. A spokesperson for Rolls-Royce has said, ‘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.’
It is unclear when the lockdown period will be over, and normality will begin again. It is, however, encouraging to see the key players in the automotive industry taking initiative and utilising the skills and technologies that are desperately needed at this current time. Keeping the automotive industries developing, innovating and manufacturing is not only beneficial in the short-term helping support the frontline, it will also help to rebuild the economy once this period of uncertainty is over.