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Helix: Powertrain specialist powering a new growth spiral

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FROM AN AUTOMOTIVE and engineering consultancy to one of the world’s leading manufacturers of power-dense electric motors and inverters, Milton Keynes-based Helix is marking the 25th anniversary of the company’s inception as Integral Powertrain Limited which was later rebranded as ‘Helix’ in 2022.

The Helix brand builds on the company’s world-class heritage and almost 15 years in electric motor and inverter design as it powers into the next quarter century.

Its 59,000 sq ft Shenley Technical Centre at Shenley Wood pictured below – the company’s brand new, purpose-built headquarters since its move from the Denbigh West Industrial Estate in Bletchley in 2021 – is a key part of Helix’s plans to continue its growth trajectory as a global electric propulsion heavyweight with facilities around the world. Helix is targeting emerging requirements in sectors including aerospace, marine and commercial and off-highway vehicles, while continuing to serve its traditional high-end automotive and motorsport markets.

Integral Powertrain Limited was established in 1998 in Northampton but moved to Milton Keynes within a year and from 2009 developed a manufacturing capability suitable for short production runs of motors and inverters. Its technology helped power the world’s pioneering hybrid-electric hypercars such as the Aston Martin Valkyrie and VW IDR – which broke the record for the prestigious Pikes Peak challenge in Colorado in 2018. It shattered the previous record of eight minutes 57 seconds when it became the first car to complete the hill climb in under eight minutes – 7:57, to be precise – at an average speed of 150.9 km/h.

The company also won the Dewar Trophy for its electric motors and inverters in 2018, following in the footsteps of Keith Duckworth for the Cosworth DFV engine and Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains for the company’s Formula 1 Hybrid powertrain.

That spirit remains in the company’s ‘X-Division’, where Helix’s engineers are developing tomorrow’s technology.

Chief Technical Officer Andrew Cross pictured left  joined the company in 2000 and has seen its Integral e-Drive division transformed into Helix, launched as a new corporate brand in 2022 including a new website and logo.

“For me it is all about the shift from being a consultancy to a product-focused company,” he says. “It is the clarification of a journey we have been on for more than a decade and I am super excited to see us strengthening the brand and targeting new sectors.”

The Helix brand embodies the company’s unique motor and inverter offer, based on scalable core technology that defines three levels of electric propulsion unit application, all suited to full-scale production. Scalable core technology includes bespoke manufacturing techniques, designed and implemented in house.

Helix machines are helping designers and OEMs explore new opportunities in markets far removed from Integral Powertrain Limited’s reach 25 years ago. Helix offers full scale motor and inverter manufacturing capability based on almost 15 years in high-end electric propulsion system engineering.

“The future is growth,” says Mr Cross. “Automotive is still one of the key sectors and we focus on the High Premium space.” By that he means the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, Bentley, Lotus, McLaren and Lamborghini, brands selling models at £100,000 or more. But for Helix diversification is key in order to keep ahead of its competitors. Which is why the company is branching into the marine and aerospace sectors as electrification spreads its wings to water and the air.

“The world does not stand still,” says Mr Cross. With that in mind, Helix is preparing to open an office in the USA to cover the booming market in the Americas. International business is already coming from Europe, the Middle East and Africa as well as Asia and forms a significant part of Helix’s expansion plans.

“The Americas region is an enormously active area in terms of electrification across all sectors and having a footprint in the US is a great strategic opportunity for Helix to capitalise upon our position as a performance leader in this market,” says Neil Tyagi, Helix’s Chief Commercial Officer.

Helix’s research and development activity will also keep it ahead of the game, adds Chief Operating Officer Alan Cherrington pictured above with guests on a factory tour . “We plough millions into R&D to develop new technology,” he says. “One of the things about working in the motorsport sector is that you cannot deliver late. You have to operate at the cutting edge of technology and you can guarantee that there are companies working extremely, in order to catch us up. Nobody in motorsport wants to be behind.”

“Electrification is so exciting and so fast developing,” says Darren Cairns, Director and Helix’s Chief Executive Officer. “I do not think anyone anticipated it would grow at the rate it has but Helix is perfectly placed in the market. We have never had such a strong order book or so strong a pipeline for new business. We are ready and we intend to own this space.”

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