Mass Movers

Including buses, trains, trams and vans

In 2016, two billion tonnes of goods were moved in the UK - and 89% of this was moved on road by freight haulers. The total mileage of light commercial vans has increased by 35% since 2004.

Moving goods and people from port-to-place and from place-to-place is ever more important and is forecast to grow by a further 51% by 2050. Around 45% of the costs to run a fleet of taxis are the drivers. Similarly, 60% of the costs of running a bulk hauler is associated with their drivers.

Class 3-7 trucks use approximately 7% of all highway fuel. Trucks and light commercial vans that apply light-weighting technologies can save two-thirds of their fuel and transport for the same fleet cargo with less vehicles, resulting in lower operational cost. Fedex expects the hybrid drives deployed onto its 30,000 OptiFleet E700 to save 33% off fuel and 90% of emissions

Around 4.1 million vans were registered in 2019 and 55.5 billion miles were driven on UK roads in the same year, the equivalent of driving around the world over 2.2m millions. So the need to decarbonise these vehicles is crucial in the UK is to meet its net zero ambitions by 2050. 

Composites for mass movers

Composites are essential for lightweighting structures. Reducing the "unsprung mass" or weight of the suspension or wheels of light commercial vehicles will enable them to carry carry more payload and reduce their fleet size to carry the same gross payload. This reduces fleet operators costs as well as CO2 emissions. 

Composite materials maxmise stored energy and enable structural efficiencies to transport more good to more places efficiently, economically and with reduced impact on the environment. 

What we do

At the National Composites Centre, we are assessing biomaterials and resin systems to support the adoption of bio-sensitive materials that reduce the potential environmental impact for OEMs. The overarching aim is to accelerate the route to net zero, helping UK companies to innovate and create a green ecosystem for the mass mover vehicle industry. 

Lightweighting to increase payload and reduce emssions

Read more about Lightweighting to increase payload and reduce emssions

Lightweighting to increase payload and reduce emssions

Creating composite compound parts that reduce curbside weight and increase payload carrying capability is key to support the light commercial vehicle market with last mile delivery. Being able to carry more enables the fleet size to be reduced and therefore the impact on our roads and ecosystem to be reduced. 

The National Composites has delivered projects that have taken significant mass out of unsprung vehicle components to enable this to be realised. 


Biomaterials for vehicle body panels and interior trim is ever more important as legislation and societal norms start to focus the minds of many OEMs. The National Composites Centre has developed the tools and processes that assist OEMs achieve their goals and enable a faster adoption of biomaterials and resin systems into their products.

We are currently focusing on innovation in composite interior trim for for passenger vehicles and light weight biomaterial body panels for the truck market.

Energy storage systems

We're focusing on the development of the design tools and the manufacture of hydrogen pressure vessels to operate at 700b and 350b for the automotive sector. It is critical that the industry can reduce emissions and accelerate the introduction of new low emission technologies into the market. For many years, the National Composites Centre has been investing in tools that reduce the design time and accelerate design iterations to provide a quicker route to market and commercialisation for OEMs.

Composite battery enclosures are becoming ever more important in distributed vehicle energy systems. Having the ability to reduce sealing surfaces and welds that are often porous in traditional metal enclosures is key. By using composites, we can increase the ability to contain thermal events and ensure that we can control thermal propagation into neighbouring structures.

Work with us

Access our world leading R&D facility

Read more about Access our world leading R&D facility

Access our world leading R&D facility

As one of the seven centres that make up the UK's High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the NCC has more 450 composite experts (and an additional 200 at the University of Bristol) that can support you with solutions for your business and product challenges.

We've invested over £200 million in cutting edge technologies within our two Bristol-based facilities since we began in 2011. Our portfolio has grown extensively: we’re working with companies of all sizes from micro-organisations and start-ups to some of the world’s largest and most respected innovators. With links to over 60 universities and academic institutions, we are in a prime position to accelerate your product development from low technology readiness levels towards a robust commercial offering. 

Collaboration and funding opportunities

Read more about Collaboration and funding opportunities

Collaboration and funding opportunities

Working with the National Composites Centre could not be simpler. We can work with you and support your business through a variety of ways: from a standard contracting commercial basis through to supporting or leading bids into wider funding calls, and as a part of major collaborative research programmes.   

Our SME team offers dedicated support to help small businesses with innovation, giving access to our facility and expertise to increase the technology readiness level (TRL) of your products. In 2021, we secured over £7.5 million of grant funding and supported 169 SMEs. 

As part of the wider Catapult Network, the NCC fosters collaborations between industry, government, research organisations, academia and many others. Through this extensive network of organisations, we can help create the best environments for innovation, working with thousands of innovative businesses across a wide range of sectors, such as manufacturing, space, health, digital, energy, transport, telecoms, the urban environment and many others. 

NCC membership opportunities

The National Composites Centre offers a range of membership opportunities that give you access to 'beyond' state-of-the-art technology and the best composites engineering capabilities in the world, as well as expert advice from specialist engineers. Our Members are our closest customers – helping to steer our major R&D activities with multiple partners, allowing them to share the benefits of the programme outputs that have greater value as a collaboration. Find out how membership with the NCC can bring you added benefits. 


Book a consultation with the team

Our dedicated Surface Transport team has specific industry expertise that can help you to innovate and decarbonise your products and services. We can help you to shape your R&D, collaborate with you on your projects, offer training and skills development, and advise you on what is required to increase the technology readiness level of your product and get ready for market. We're here to help. 

Get in touch

News, projects and case studies

  • Read more about UK hydrogen fuel cell electric HDV supply chain review

    UK hydrogen fuel cell electric HDV supply chain review

    The NCC and Arcola Energy carried out a survey to explore the supply chain opportunities for hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrains, which will play a significant role in the transition of heavy duty vehicles (HDVs) to zero emissions. 

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