Funding boost helps switch to low carbon vehicles

10 September 2009

The switch to low carbon vehicles in the UK received a further boost yesterday when two multi-million pound investment programmes backed by Government and industry were unveiled.

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB), which supports technology and innovation in business, announced the successful applicants in the first round of funding in a £200 million five-year programme that aims to bring innovative low carbon vehicle technologies from research stage to market.         
Meanwhile, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), whose aim it is to accelerate the deployment of secure low carbon energy technologies, said it was investing £11 million in a nationwide 'plug-in' electric and hybrid vehicle plan. In July, the Government pledged £30 million to help a number of cities and regions in the UK trial and adopt electric vehicle recharging infrastructure later this year, and the plan unveiled today is intended to "compliment" that, said the ETI.

Both initiatives were unveiled at the LCV 2009, a low carbon vehicle exhibition being held at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, in the presence of Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson.

The TSB funding amounts to £10 million and is in being match funded by the companies whose technologies are being supported – making the entire funding of this round total £20 million. It is managed by the TSB's Low Carbon Vehicles Innovation Platform (LCVIP) and is specifically targeting electric systems for low carbon vehicles. Projects receiving funding include one that involves the retrieval and storage of kinetic energy from deceleration and braking; another that will enable ultra cost-efficient powertrains for hybrid vehicles; and another that produces a lighter, smaller and more efficient battery with faster charging and a higher range than those currently on the market.

John Laughlin, manager of the TSB's Low Carbon Vehicles Programme, said the funding was targeting electric systems because one of the major barriers to the widespread acceptance of low carbon vehicles was the difficulty in balancing the range of the vehicle against the available stored energy.

"The work we are funding will focus on developing ultra-efficient electric and hybrid vehicle motive and ancillary systems that will make the best use of this energy," he said.

Another barrier to the take up of low carbon and zero emission vehicles in the UK is the lack of re-charging sites. The ETI hopes its 'Joined-Cities Plan' announced yesterday will help to address this gap. The £11 million plan is targeting nine cities initially, including Glasgow, London, Newcastle and Birmingham, and has brought on board the expertise of global companies such as IBM and Siemens to help with systems integration, and vehicle recharging network providers such as Elektromotive.

"Enabling plug-in vehicles to compete effectively in a market alongside petrol and diesel vehicles with their extensive infrastructure is a challenge," said ETI ceo David Clarke. "These plug-in vehicles are currently unknown to most consumers [...] Through the Joined-Cities Plan we will help to enhance the versatility and ease of recharging."

Lord Drayson added: "Our aim is for the UK to be a world leader in ultra-low carbon vehicles which is why we welcome the ETI's pioneering plan to support and enhance the infrastructure and market growth of plug-in electric and hybrid electric vehicles."

Although separate, these latest TSB and ETI initiatives are linked. In June, the TSB announced the Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstrator (ULCVD) programme, a £25 million initiative involving vehicle manufacturers and power companies in 'real life' trials of 340 vehicles in regions around the UK. The Joined-Cities Plan will build on the ULCVD.

The TSB said it would be unveiling a second competition round through the ULCVD programme later this year.

Louise Bateman

10th September 2009