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The future of green cars – and a green car political leader

The future of green cars for the UK has been on show, all in one place, on one day – and a potential green car political leader has emerged.

Cenex, the UK’s first national centre of excellence for low carbon and fuel cell technologies, in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board, hosted the UK National Low Carbon Vehicle Event at Millbrook Proving Ground on 28 October 2008. The event comprised of a conference, exhibition, and a display of the latest low carbon vehicles.

Perhaps most significantly, a potential green car political leader emerged. Lord Paul Drayson, Minister of State for Science and Technology, heads up the department that includes the Technology Strategy Board, which is inviting motor manufacturers to bid for the opportunity to participate in a £10 million project to run electric car and ultra low carbon vehicle demonstration projects.

As part of this project, 100 electric cars will be provided in UK towns and cities to allow families and other motorists the opportunity to feedback the practical steps needed to make greener motoring an everyday reality. This is part of the recently-announced £100 million Low Carbon Vehicle Integrated Delivery Programme – a commitment by the government to accelerate the emergence of the greener vehicles of tomorrow.

Why should we be excited about Lord Drayson heading the drive towards lower carbon vehicles? – because the father of five is also known for motor racing – particularly in a (sustainably) biofuelled Aston Martin.


Lord Drayson

In an interview with Beating Spirit.com, Lord Drayson confirmed that he shared our views about cars – they need to be significantly more efficient, but they also must be great to drive. This gives us hope that UK motorists will be able to get their hands on exciting green cars in the not too distant future.

Despite all the relentless media focus on the doom and gloom of recession, there’s a huge potential for the UK to grasp the opportunity to become a world leader in the area of low carbon vehicles – and our interview with Lord Drayson confirmed that he is genuinely committed, determined, and with his successful business background in exploiting innovation, seemingly capable, of making this reality.

He is also aware that the motor industry needs clarity about government intentions in relation to CO2 targets and legislation. The traditional British motor industry has been virtually killed off over recent decades – it would be great to see Lord Drayson revive the industry and transform it into a jewel in the crown of the low carbon economy.

So what were some of the vehicle highlights on display?

In terms of Lord Drayson’s stated vision of low emission cars that are great to drive, the Mitsubishi i MiEV was the most well-sorted electric car available to drive on the day. Based on the currently available petrol-powered Mitsubishi i, it was smooth and quiet, its steering, suspension and brakes worked perfectly, and it felt like it was a real car combing all elements that were designed to work properly together. It’s not available here yet, but it’s likely to be here in around 18 months, and it’s certainly a taste of the benchmark that electric vehicles will have to aim for.


Mitsubishi i MiEV

The i MiEV seats four; it can reach 80 mph, and has a range of 100 miles. When taking electricity generation at the power station into account, Mitsubishi reckons that the i MiEV emits only 28% of the CO2 of an equivalent sized petrol car. The downside is that it may be up to around three times the price of current electric cars. The way forward is to lease the batteries separately, which may help to bring down the capital cost.


Think

Other electric cars on display included the new Think. Due to be
available soon, and certainly before the i MiEV, it has better
performance than the current crop of electric cars such as the G-Wiz,
being able to reach 65mph and has a range of 125 miles. This is also
more expensive than today’s typical electric cars, expected to sell at
around £15,000. The car we drove had no power steering, which would be
hard work to manouevre in city centres.


Smart ED

The Smart ED was also on show, with a range of 72 miles. The Smart is an ideal candidate for electrification as it’s small and trendy, but this is a development vehicle currently on market trial, for lease only, and a new, improved version is here soon. This is a good job, as it didn’t feel properly ready for market; elements such as the feel of the brake pedal needs more development.


Dynasty iT

A new electric vehicle was on display, called an ‘iT’. This is a four door, four seat vehicle currently in use in Canada. With plans to be imported by Dynasty Electric Vehicles, it comes in saloon, van or pick-up style. It’s also available without doors or roof, and in ‘Sport’ guise – although the Trade Description Act may have something to say about this, as with its current powerpack it can only manage 25mph and a range of 30 miles.


Land Rover Freelander hybrid

Other exhibitors included the Land Rover Freelander hybrid, the Oaktec Honda Civic rally car, the Lotus Exige Tri-Fuel, a Tesla Roadster, and an electric Ginetta. There were electric vans from Modec, Smiths and ZEV, along with Connaught’s hybrid van retrofit kit. Clean Air Power showed its Natural Gas Dual Fuel HGV, and a range of low emission rental cars were on display from Green Motion.


Tesla Roadster


Electric Ginetta


Green Motion


Modec


ZEV


Smith Electric Vehicles