Oztek Niche Will Ride a Bus

Publication: New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, NH)

By MARK OUELLETTE Union Leader Correspondent

MERRIMACK -- At a time when manufacturing plants are struggling to make ends meet and, in some cases, shuttering their operations, OZTEK Corp. is thriving, especially after recently landing its biggest contract in the company's 12-year history.

OZTEK develops and manufactures electrical components, and received a $3 million, 150-unit order for its Twin Drive units to be installed in the ECOSaver IV hybrid electric buses made by North Carolina-based DesignLine International, according to Bob Mills, director of sales and marketing for OZTEK.

"We've been working with (DesignLine) for a couple of years in development, and originally started working with them when they operated out of New Zealand," he said. "The Twin Drive unit is a pretty complex piece of equipment and we built some prototypes, but now we're actually to the production stage." Delivery is just beginning for the first production models that are coming out of North Carolina.

During a recent tour of the 12,000-square-foot OZTEK facility at 11 Continental Boulevard, John Moisan, senior hardware director, said the Twin Drive unit consists of a traction drive inverter and a brake resistor.

"You're DC voltage is coming in from a large battery bank they have underneath the bus to provide the electric power, and there is an interface to drive the two motors and the brake resistors," he said. "The purpose of the brake resistors, in addition to being a heat source for the cabin that they can actively turn on, is they are also in the protective mode, so that it's a fully regenerative process.

"When the driver hits the brake of the bus, you get back EMF voltage drives, which actually works to charge your batteries and that's why they are so good in a city, stop-and-go environment," said Moisan. He added that the unit's redundancy allows the bus the ability to still operate with reduced performance on a single unit (a limp-home feature) if a field fault should occur.

Other OZTEK products include technologically advanced inverters and other motor drive controls for industry.

DesignLine, which has manufacturing plants in Charlotte, N.C., and New Zealand, makes coaches, buses, and specialty vehicles worldwide since 1985. OZTEK's parts are for the ECOSaver bus, which features improved gas mileage and lower emissions. DesignLine's customers include the New York Transit Authority and Disney, and they are talking with Chicago and Los Angeles transit authorities, according to Mills.

"It's so futuristic-looking that they did a big golf tournament in North Carolina and they had a whole series of buses to move people around, and no matter where this bus was in line, people would always get on this one first because it just looked cool," Mills said of the ECOSaver IV.

While some companies have struggled and had to lay off personnel, Mills said OZTEK is looking to hire more engineers to add to its 26 employees.

"Being involved in alternative energy sources -- wind power, solar power, hybrid vehicles -- those types of markets right now are extremely popular ... and well-funded because they produce real tangible results," he said. "Wind power, for instance, has gotten to be huge. It's huge in the rest of the world and now it's moved here and, again, it's all about managing power and that's what we do.

"We allow whatever the device is to create power and manage it so that you can do different things with it by putting it to a battery, a motor, and a grid," added Mills.

Mills estimated that the company could grow as much as 25 percent over last year's revenue figures.

OZTEK was recently ranked No. 16 in INC. magazine's fastest-growing computer and electronics companies.

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