A GRANGEMOUTH firm that specialises in converting vehicles into mobile homes has won a contract that will see it install its eco-friendly technology into Ford Transit vans.

Founded by former journalist Gary Hayes 14 years ago, Campers Scotland spent the last three years working on integrating greener fuels into its designs, patenting its work earlier this year.

“We started bringing the Mazda Bongo into the Scottish market 13 years ago and have always been looking to expand into new models,” Mr Hayes said.

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“The Japanese market is about 10 years ahead of the UK car market and three or four years ago they said that diesel would be kicked into touch and low-emission vehicles would be the future.

“Three years ago we looked at the Toyota Hybrid large people carrier and said ‘this is completely new technology, can we turn it into a campervan?’.”

Having engaged the services of a designer who had previously done interiors for airplanes, the company found it was possible to do the conversion, although the job was made difficult because part of the hybrid technology is housed between the vehicle’s seats, which need to swivel to create a dining area.

“It took a year to realise we could do it but when we did we went full steam ahead with the project,” Mr Hayes said.

“Because it is hybrid you can cook with a hybrid battery, which means no gas needs to be connected for cooking. Once you get rid of gas you free yourself from all the gas regulations and get rid of pipes so there’s much more space to deal with – we could completely redesign it.

“When we were in the middle of all this new LPG [liquefied petroleum gas] for cars came in, which has very low emissions, and we went from hybrid to tribrid.”

Having patented the technology, the business is now looking to expand, with plans to buy more machinery, take on more staff and move into servicing as well as selling and hiring out vehicles.

As a result it is expecting to see its turnover increase from £1 million to £3m within the next three years.

The deal with Ford will be crucial to this because transit vans, which are larger than the other vehicles Campers Scotland converts, will sell for around £50,000 once the eco-technology has been installed.

“At the moment our average retail price is about £15,000 to £20,000 and with hybrids that has moved up to around £25,000,” Mr Hayes said. “With the Transit van, even if we do the same number of vans we’ll see our turnover go up.”

This is vital, Mr Hayes said, because “the perennial problem for any business is getting funding.”

“To date we have not had any funding from any of the banks – they are simply not lending to businesses,” he said. “We were due to get funding for the hybrid project but it was withdrawn at the last minute because the Government’s Enterprise Finance Guarantee [provided through the British Business Bank] was withdrawn from the transport industry mid-application.

“We’ve been mostly self-funded, which has been extremely difficult – I’ve had to fund it myself and have dipped into my own pockets.”

The Scottish Government’s development agency Scottish Enterprise has become involved with the firm since it started the hybrid project, providing £30,000 of funding.