The E-Revolutionary – Inside Industry Article

1st April 2021

Grayson Thermal Systems  – Link to Article Page

The e-revolutionary

Leading global innovator in the design and manufacture of cooling and HVAC products for transportation, Grayson Thermal Systems is at the forefront of a revolution that has seen global electric vehicle usage increase dramatically over the last decade. “With challenges OEMs have not had before, we can provide innovative systems to help them grow their products into new markets,” said Sales Manager Matthew Hateley. Colin Chinery reports.


Thanks to an eight-week bespoke cab ventilation retrofit of 1,200 buses by Grayson Thermal Systems, London bus drivers are now better protected against Covid-19.

Commissioned by Transport for London and with expert advice from University College London (UCL), Grayson Thermal Systems (GTS) came up with a way of changing air conditioning recirculating systems into units that circulate fresh air into the driver’s cab from outside the vehicle.

“The loss of London bus drivers to the pandemic has been tragic, and using our HVAC expertise, we were part of the solution to build on TfL’s existing safety measures,” said Matthew Hateley, Sales Manager of the Birmingham-headquartered business.

“It has also resulted in mandatory vehicle specification changes offering driver protection in the future as well.”


The go to brand

Grayson Thermal Systems is a leading innovator in the design and manufacture of original equipment and aftermarket driveline cooling and HVAC products for buses and coaches, selling to major manufacturers and operators across Europe and North America.

“As far as awareness and standing in the bus and coach sector is concerned, we are seen – in Europe in particular – as the go to brand for HVAC and cooling,” stated Mr Hateley. speciality

With its advanced speciality in battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, Grayson is at the forefront of a zero emission revolution that has seen emerging technologies within the transit industry increase dramatically over the last decade.

In February 2020, the UK Government announced £5 billion of new funding to overhaul bus and cycle links for every region outside London. As part of this five-year funding package, at least 4,000 new zero emission buses will be introduced to Britain’s roads in a bid to make greener travel the convenient option and drive forward the UK’s progress on its net zero ambitions.

Within London, TfL, plans to add a further 78 electric double-deck buses as part of its ambition to have all-electric buses by 2037. Just to the South-East of England’s capital, Surrey County Council is spending almost £50 million on ultra-low and zero emission buses, and in November 2020, a first-of-its-kind fleet of all-electric buses came into service in Tyne and Wear in the North East of England.

Grayson can also count successful OE installations onboard hydrogen buses in Aberdeen and Birmingham operated by Wrightbus – who also recently won a £66m contract with the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland for 100 zero-emission buses (80 powered by electric battery and 20 by hydrogen fuel cell) in addition to a further 45 low emissions buses for Ulsterbus services.

In continental Europe, Grayson’s battery thermal management systems (BTMS) have been installed on buses for one Europe’s leading electric, hydrogen bus and trolleybus manufacturers, Polish-based Solaris Bus and Coach.

Meantime, the UK Government is dangling a £50 million carrot to local authorities applying to become the UK’s first all-electric bus town, while signalling its intention to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, a move welcomed by Matthew Hateley.

“We think this will bring a huge boost to our product range. It will accelerate technology and the change, and hopefully drive up our production volumes. System efficiency will be critical to our success and an advantage of our products is the fact that we have been in the e-mobility sector for over five years.

“The announcement could also see a larger pool of supply chain components leading to better costs for the system and enhanced competitiveness.”


e-mobility ground breaker

Five years ago, the Birmingham headquartered family company launched its e-mobility range of products for zero or low emission vehicles, including BTMS for high energy battery cells, heat pumps for passenger and driver HVAC, lightweight driveline cooling for electric motor power inverters and hydrogen fuel cells.

“Traditionally, we have always been a diesel powertrain and HVAC supplier for bus and coach passengers and drivers. And with the electric vehicle sitting in the middle of our traditional products, we decided to launch the e-mobility brand to complement the new range of products we were developing,” explained Mr Hateley.

The Grayson Thermal Systems 24V electric water ethylene-glycol pump, for example, has been developed specifically for hybrid and electric vehicle applications, while our heat harvesting system uses waste energy from the battery or fuel cell to generate efficient heating to the interior of a vehicle.

“We continue to develop an ever-increasing range of products to suit our markets which are moving to battery electric and fuel cell vehicles, a significant technology change that is really starting to accelerate now. And this is bringing an ever-growing demand for our new range of e-mobility.

“So far as e-mobility product innovation is concerned, I would say we are at the very front.”


Target zero

With cleaner and zero-emission vehicles hugely beneficial to the planet, Grayson is “very well positioned to support all vehicle manufacturers to help them achieve that goal,” said Mr Hateley.

Closer to home, Grayson has modified over 600 buses belonging to the National Express West Midlands fleet in Birmingham, Walsall, Coventry and Wolverhampton, to comply with the Euro 6 Diesel emission standard required for vehicles to operate in Clean Air Zones. 2021 will see a number of UK cities – including Birmingham – launch Clean Air Zones, meaning vehicles exceeding certain emission standards will be charged to drive within them.

A new, quieter electric fan drive cooling module for the engine, has also led to less noise, and fuel savings of up to 10% for the West Midlands bus operator.

“We have products that can be fitted to the zero or low emission vehicles now being built, to make sure that people walking in the streets of our towns and cities have a cleaner environment, and are not breathing in dirty fumes,” revealed the Sales Manager.

With three production facilities in Birmingham, a fourth in Indiana, USA, a satellite office in Hong Kong, and a Research Test and Development (R,T&D) office in Prague, Grayson itself has undergone a revolution since 1974, when Chairman, and Mathew’s grandfather, Graham Hateley, opened a radiator repair business from a small shop in Hay Mills, Birmingham.


Rapid expansion

Expansion was rapid, and by 1994 Grayson was one of the largest re-manufacturers of service exchange radiators in the UK and entered the UK bus and coach market three years later.

Today, this market accounts for 70% of turnover, with rail on 10%, followed by refuse collection vehicles, mining, military, and specialist segments.

40% of output goes for export, a third to the EU. The USA and Canada are the biggest markets outside Europe, with significant penetration into Hong Kong and a growing market in Australia and New Zealand.

“Our challenge now is to maintain the market share we have in the bus sector, and break into, and grow our market share in these others,” outlined Mr Hateley. “Over the next five years, we hope to see the rail percentage growing vastly. We entered the rail sector as an OEM four years ago and are starting to establish the brand and win more contracts.”

Grayson has always been dominant in the aftermarket and service sector, and with 35 fleet engineers across the UK, it is especially strong in London, where it maintains HVAC for over half the capital’s fleets.

Moving forward, Mr Hateley sees remote diagnostics as the key, meaning an issue in say Milan or Edmonton could be resolved from the Birmingham headquarters.

“We can advise the customer of the problem, how to fix it, and get the vehicles back on the road as fast as possible.”


Solutions people

He continued: “We pride ourselves in being able to develop and supply solutions to specific business issues. We are flexible in design and work with a sense of partnership.

“When a customer comes to us with a problem, nine times out of ten we can achieve what they want.”

With consistent re-investment into R&D, Grayson is targeting battery electric, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as the main drivers for further expansion.

“These are going to bring challenges to OEMs which they have not had before. We have had these products for five years in our e-mobility range, so the opportunities for us lies in the fact that we can provide people with established products to help them grow into new and emerging markets.

“We pride ourselves on offering our customers a bespoke solution that suits their exact needs, rather than saying ‘this is what we have got available on the shelf and it’s what you can have.’”

Innovation and anticipation of future customer needs are at the heart of the Grayson success story, said Mr Hateley.

“We like to go on a journey with our customers, so it is not simply a customer-supplier relationship. If we can offer a better product to our customer, then they can offer a better product to the market.”

He concluded: “I have been with Grayson Thermal Systems for six years, and the future business pipeline across all markets is the most buoyant we have seen. The next five to ten years are going to be very exciting.”

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