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Better, Faster, Safer Roadside Assistance

New freewheeling hub transforms roadside rescue for electric vehicles and 4x4s

AE Oscroft, the Midlands-based presswork and prototyping specialist, has partnered with the AA to develop a game-changing innovation – one that will transform breakdown service for thousands of drivers.

The new freewheeling hub is a new way for AA patrols to safely tow vehicles that can’t normally be ‘lifted’ and towed on two wheels

Previously, it was impossible to tow some vehicles with seized brakes, failed wheel bearings, or electric handbrakes – as well as 4x4s or many electric vehicles (EVs). Some manufacturers recommend EVs not be towed because the car’s motor is always mechanically connected to the wheels and doesn’t have a true ‘neutral’ gear. This means they typically require flatbed recovery vehicles when they break down – which is time-consuming and expensive.

This innovation from the AA and AE Oscroft solves the problem

The freewheeling hub is a significant advancement in roadside rescue, as one in five breakdowns involve 4x4s or heavier vehicles.

Patrols can fix the freewheeling hub to the rear wheels of stricken vehicles so they can be towed by a standard van rather than having to wait for a flatbed recovery vehicle. The freewheeling hub has its own high-speed bearing, enabling the wheel to turn independently from the car. It works in conjunction with the Multi-Fit wheel and a new heavy-duty Multi-Fit wheel for larger vehicles, both of which were developed with AE Oscroft. 

As a result, AA patrols can fit a temporary spare wheel to almost any vehicle and then tow it away. This reduces potential delays for drivers and gets them on their way sooner.

The freewheeling hub has many benefits

  • Quicker recovery: EVs, 4x4s, and vehicles with certain issues can now be towed by standard patrol vans instead of having to wait for specialist recovery trucks. Plus, the new heavy-duty Multi-Fit wheel allows the broken-down vehicle to be towed at a faster speed of 50 mph
  • Increased safety: Less time at the roadside is safer for drivers and recovery teams
  • Lower emissions: The innovation allows the AA to streamline its fleet and reduce its reliance on higher-emission flatbed vehicles. It’s also lightweight, helping optimise the fuel efficiency of AA patrol vans

Chris Oscroft, Managing Director of AE Oscroft, said: “This was a true collaboration between AE Oscroft and the AA. We took the AA’s concept created by AA Chief Engineer Steve Ives and developed it into a workable, cost-efficient solution that will make roadside assistance faster and safer for so many people. This success shows what we can achieve when inventors, engineers, prototyping, and production work together.”

James Hosking, AA Roadside Chief Operating Officer, said: “We tasked the team to come up with a cleaner, safer, smarter solution to towing certain categories of vehicle. This fantastic innovation will help to future-proof our service and rescue customers more quickly than our competitors.”  

This innovation builds on AE Oscroft’s ongoing successful partnership with the AA. The original Multi-Fit wheel – which AE Oscroft developed and AA launched in 2016 – fits 90% of vehicles and is an essential tool in AA patrol vans. The new freewheeling hub and heavy-duty Multi-Fit wheel are being piloted by 200 patrols and will be rolled out to all patrols in the coming months.

The original Multi-Fit wheel fits 95% of vehicles and is an essential tool in AA patrol vans

Midlands-based AE Oscroft is an expert in presswork, prototyping, welding, tooling and bespoke metalforming solutions. For more than 70 years, it’s provided specialist services for supply chains across automotive, rail, construction, industrial, medical devices and more. The company is known for its value-add approach and extensive plant range, which includes a 630te DSF MXC Progression Servo Press. 

Press contact: Chris Oscroft, c.oscroft@aeoscroft.co.uk, 01527 502 203 Image: The freewheeling hub alongside the AA’s Multi-Fit wheel

Our Free Value Added Service

Here at AE Oscroft, we use our expertise in pressings and tooling to support our customers with cost reduction, without compromising on quality, thanks to our free value-added service.

Working with design teams we look to support our customer’s gain a competitive edge through new designs and development, reviewing current designs, assessing manufacturability and looking to reduce component weight, minimise the quantity of operations and optimise material types.

We supply a total service, from concept to design, through to prototype manufacture, tooling, and pressings development; providing a high-quality value-added service and encouraging close working partnerships throughout every project.

Take advantage of our Free Value Added Service, contact the team today for more information.

When it comes to attention to detail and superior value added services, we go the extra mile and welcome even the most challenging of projects.

Apprenticeships and Investing in People

We encourage young people into engineering with our toolmaking apprenticeship programme, through Incom Training services,  who have a purpose built facility based in Aldridge.  Out first tool room apprentice completed his first year gaining distinctions in all results.

Our training programme develops the whole person to build on existing talents and develop new skills, cultivating apprentices who are;

  • Self-confident
  • Positive in their outlook
  • Critical thinkers
  • Able to evaluate performance
  • Actively engaged in the learning process
  • Safety conscious and risk aware
  • Creative and innovative
  • Adaptable
  • Organisationally aligned
  • Effective communicators
  • Effective team workers
  • Punctual and resourceful with their time

They join our team of experienced toolmakers who support and guide them through all the skills they need to become a proficient toolmaker within a manufacturing environment.

During their apprenticeship they will  learn the following:

  • Skills regarding tool design, build and maintenance.
  • Ability to use hand, machine and computer controlled machine tools.
  • Competence to read/follow technical drawings.
  • Ability to produce metal components from detailed drawings.
  • Learn to work to tight tolerances.

Developing our own people is paramount to our continued development and growth and it is important that we invest time, resources and money into our employees, giving them equal opportunities to grow both individually and professionally.

All staff have attended a half day Lean awareness course of which have already had an impact on the business with improvements in productivity, quality and efficiencies.  The development of other staff includes NVQ’s in team leading, CNC training on our HAAS machining centre and Robot weld programming.  We are currently looking to enrol our production engineers on Diplomas for Mechanical Engineering.

We will continue to identify and develop innovative opportunities for both new and existing staff and look forward to a bright future ahead.

Welding Solutions at AEO

Our in-house welding solutions & facilities, some of which are automated, give greater control and tracking of finished articles to enable on-time deliveries to our customers. Our workshop is equipped with fully automated MIG, Robot MIG and TIG, Projection, Spot and Rotary welding systems, providing a flexible range of assembly options.

Nut Verification Systems (NVS) are installed on all resistance welders to ensure:

Up to 30 nuts per minute
Single or dual feeding
Prevents welding the incorrect nut and welding upside down nuts.
Detects missing nuts/workpiece
Detects double workpiece under nut
Each welder is also equipped with:

Computer controlled quality system, recording every weld
Digitally controlled pressure regulation
We are currently investigating a PQS system for each welder. This will give an instant reduction in material and labour costs, as in process inspection intervals can be significantly reduced; cost-effective quality and process management, availability of all key process and QA data for quick response in the event of an error.

For more on our welding solutions here at AEO, please see our Welding Services page.

GOLDMAN SACHS PROGRAMME

The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK Programme is designed to provide high quality, practical support to the owners and leaders of established small businesses and social enterprises as they seek to grow.

Chris Oscroft said; “There were many business leaders on the programme from various different industries and it was interesting to learn how other companies were progressing.

The programme created unique networking and peer learning opportunities. The core of the programme was a high quality, practically-focused business and management education, designed by world-class international, national and local experts in entrepreneurial learning.

The course was held at Aston University, who gave me valuable support and opportunities. During the course I developed a customised Growth Plan to direct the Company’s business strategy and expansion.”

Since the 10,000 Small Businesses Programme.

Chris Oscroft further explained “AEO has defined its Vision for the future; the intention now is to completely re-launch the Company to its Employees and clearly define the Company’s growth aspirations. The Business Growth Plan created during the programme has enabled other family members working within the business as well as the senior management team to see clearly, not only the goals for the business, but the actions required to achieve a strategic path forwards and realise Our Vision. This has brought an understanding and a unity to the family and the business, not experienced previously, something that in the past seemed rather elusive. The external views and support of tutors and peers have helped me enormously in understanding the issues experienced within our business and how to tackle them. The ability to openly debate issues with experienced academics, has given me not only enlightened perspective and renewed confidence, but also the tools to make strategic advances at every opportunity. Our business is experiencing better results daily, KPI’s are improving and GM is improving in the first quarter. My personal experience with Aston University has been life changing”

Karen Lumley MP visits AEO

Karen Lumley MP recently visited the site to acknowledge these investments. Karen was introduced to the apprentices and graduates, and was given a guided tour of the manufacturing facility by Chris Oscroft (Managing Director).

A brief insight into the new machinery was part of the tour which included their largest investment so far, of just over £1.2 million for a new Aida 630T Servo Power Press.

Karen Lumley MP said; “The investment in machinery and staff is incredible and I was very impressed with what I saw.”

Chris Oscroft, Managing Director said; “We were delighted to welcome Karen to the factory and to have the opportunity to show her the investments we have made to continue to support the growth of the company. It was great to see the local MP genuinely interested in the progress that we have made and our plans for the future.