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National Low Carbon Vehicle Event

Here’s the top ten things you need to know
about the
recent National
Low Carbon Vehicle Event, ranging from Lord Drayson’s view of green cars, to the electric Lightning GT
. Hosted by Cenex, it took place at the Millbrook
Proving Ground. Some of the latest low carbon vehicles were on display, along
with speakers from the industry.

1. Lord
Drayson


Lord Drayson,
Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, opened the seminar programme, and
talked placing the UK at the global forefront of ultra-low carbon vehicle
development, demonstration, manufacture and use.

Note that
we’re now talking about ‘ultra-low’ carbon vehicles rather than just low
carbon. This is a huge area of opportunity for the UK, as there is less
competition worldwide – however he said ‘radical approaches’ are required to
make the shift.

Perhaps not
surprisingly for someone who races (biofuelled) Aston Martins, Lord Drayson
also stressed that consumers don’t want strange-looking cars with poor
performance – so sharing our philosophy.

He saw a
clear role for government, for example in terms of providing subsidies. In case
this has passed you by, the government is creating a new ‘Office of Low
Emission Vehicles’ (OLEV) – a cross-Whitehall team dedicated to ensuring
support for electric and plug-in hybrid cars. This includes encouraging early
market introduction through consumer incentives worth between £2-£5000 per car,
as well as developing an infrastructure of recharging points.

Lord Drayson
took the Oaktec Honda Civic hybrid rally car out for a spin around Millbrook to
experience an innovative example of energy-efficient motorsport.

2.
Lightning GT


The Lightning
GT will be the UK’s first electric GT sports car – as long as the company gets
the investment money it needs to build the car. The prototype is still being
developed, but the aim is for a limited 130mph top speed, 0-60mph in under 5
seconds, and a 180 mile range from a 10 minute charge (from a three phase high
power charger). It’s hoped that this will be achieved by using a high power
battery using cutting-edge Nanotechnology, combined with electric wheel motors.
The car is expected to cost £120,000 and the aim is to start production in
2010.

3 MINI E


The electric
MINI was also on display. MINI recently announced that people were being
invited to apply to lease the car as part of a trial, but the offer was only
open to people in the South East. Read our full road test of the MINI E in two
weeks time.

4 ECC
Citroen C1 ev’ie


The ECC C1
ev’ie is an electric Citroen C1. The company ECC takes brand new C1s, removes
the petrol engine, and replaces it with a battery and electric motor. We’re
pleased to report that it drives very well, and it certainly feels like a real
car, unlike many electric cars out there. Also unlike many electric cars, you
can buy this today – but it costs £17,000. Many people will think this is
expensive for a car with a range of just 70 miles. It’s a shame that the
government’s grant to subsidise electric cars isn’t yet available.

5
Mitsubishi i-MiEV


When we drove
the Mitsubishi i-MiEV last year it was the most convincing electric car of its
type that we’d tested. One year on and nothing has changed; the steering,
suspension and brakes all feel excellent. However you can’t buy one yet, and
when you can, it’s likely to be expensive – over £20,000.

6 Smart ED


The Smart
fortwo looks like it was designed from the start to be an electric city car.
However the electric Smarts at this event weren’t production versions, but part
of the UK-trial fleet. More development work is still needed to get it ready
for sale.

7 Vauxhall
VX220 Diesel


A Vauxhall
VX220 diesel? Surely that’s a misprint? No – this is a Ricardo test-bed, the
company was just having some fun to see what would happen if a diesel engine
was put in a lightweight sport car. The result? Great to drive around
Millbrook’s Alpine route, with very low emissions and excellent economy – if
not quite as much fun as the petrol version. Volkswagen obviously thought this
was a good idea, as the forthcoming BlueSport is almost a spiritual successor
to this test car.

8 Lotus
Exige 270E Tri-Fuel


The Lotus
Exige 270E Tri-Fuel can run on either petrol, ethanol or methanol, or a blend
of all three if necessary. Alcohol fuel has a higher octane rating than petrol,
so it produces 270bhp – ie. 50bhp more than the 220bhp of the standard Exige.
The idea is to show that it’s possible to use hydrogen to power a car, by
adding CO2 and turning it into methanol. This could avoid the need to set up a
hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, as well as avoiding the need to produce
expensive fuel cells to power our cars.

9 Lotus
Eco-Elise


The Lotus
Eco-Elise is designed to demonstrate that cars can be constructed from
sustainable materials. The interior trim, seats and roof are made from hemp
(yes, as in cannabis) – as this can be grown, so it’s renewable, and it absorbs
CO2 as it grows, so it’s carbon-neutral. The car also has water-based paints.
The entire car is lighter than the standard Elise – which is light to start
with. This is despite having solar panels on the roof, to power the air
conditioning. Best of all, it’s still a Lotus Elise, so it’s great to drive.

10 Land
Rover LRX



The Land
Rover LRX is due to be Land Rover’s smallest, lightest and most fuel-efficient
model. In the last few days it’s also been confirmed that the car will go into
production. It’s due to debut next year and join the Range Rover line-up in
2011.