A GOVERNMENT Minister hailed the work at a Peterlee company after it was chosen to help create a more fuel-efficient vehicle.
A green scheme worth £40m at Caterpillar in Peterlee, has been launched by Business Secretary Vince Cable to create a truck which will be more environmentally friendly with less CO2 emissions.
The plant, on North West Industrial Estate, will head up the first part of the project, which is worth £3m and involves designing a range of land and marine vehicles.
The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) programme was launched by Dr Cable during a visit to the plant yesterday.
He championed the North-East’s strong tradition in manufacturing and said the project would help the country’s engineering future look bright.
Dr Cable was given first hand experience of what it was like to travel in one of the trucks on the factory’s test track as part of his tour.
He said: “I think the North-East has very strong manufacturing traditions and we’ve been through a bit of a hard time, but this comes to a very successful company and I think we’ve got extremely good signs for the future of British engineering.
“There’s plenty going in to low carbon work, particularly here at Caterpillar and Nissan.
“So though the North East, it’s encouraging companies will be making these parts for the motoring industry with new technology.”
The exciting new research and development project will not create jobs immediately, but it will lead to new technology for HGV lorries, coaches, buses and tractors across the country.
Experts say vehicles which incorporate the new technology will be on sale by 2020 and Caterpillar’s Peterlee base was chosen because of the company’s worldwide reputation.
Mr Cable announced an initial £3m investment. Caterpillar is also the preferred supplier of a later £9m demonstration phase, out of the £40m set aside for the project.
The scheme will use a Caterpillar 725 Series articulated truck during the demonstration phase to show how the predicted benefits translate into the real world.
Five other private sector members will play a part, BP, EDF Energy, E.ON, Rolls-Royce and Shell.
Dr David Clarke, chief executive of the ETI, said: “We were looking for a company with vehicles that we could use for a demonstration platform for a wide range of trucks that are going to be developed across the UK and also Europe.
“What attracted us to Caterpillar was that it provided a range of articulated vehicles as well as the design side of manufacturing.”