The UK’s first ever eco-car rally took place on World Environment Day, Tuesday 5 June 2007. Organised by Revolve, a collection of low emission cars started the day in Brighton and finished up in Trafalgar Square in the afternoon.
Taking part were low emission vehicles that you can buy today, together with other cars that offered a glimpse of the future. The event was designed to demonstrate that hydrogen, in particular, can be a viable source of power for vehicles in the UK.
There was much involvement from celebrities and high profile figures, with HRH The Prince of Wales attending the pre-rally launch the previous day, helped by the likes of Stirling Moss. The rally itself was launched in Brighton by Quentin Willson, TV personality and motoring journalist. At a pit-stop en route in central Croydon, the Minister for Science and Innovation, Malcolm Wicks MP, led a public address. And London’s Deputy Mayor Nicky Gavron welcomed the vehicles into the city at the Trafalgar Square finish line.
Lisa Rogers, of Scrapheap Challenge fame, drove a Saab BioPower 9-3 convertible, which she seemed to be hoping to hold onto, and even Vicki Butler-Henderson made an appearance, in a very (visually) loud Honda Civic hybrid.
In total, the vehicles included:
BMW Hydrogen 7
The world’s first flex-fuel hydrogen internal combustion engine production car, which can run on either petrol or liquid hydrogen. In very limited production, built alongside conventional 7 Series BMWs. For our road test, click here
Opel Zafira HydroGen 3
GM’s hydrogen fuel cell prototype.
Ford Explorer FCV
Hydrogen fuel cell prototype. European debut, driven by Quentin Willson.
Ford Focus FCV
Hydrogen fuel cell prototype.
REVA G-Wiz AC Drive
Electric – “the world’s best-selling electric car” – in production and available to the general public
Electric, in production and available to the general public
Modec Box Van
Electric (“the van was hard at work providing logistical support!”). Other Modecs are currently being used by organisations such as Tesco.
Vectrix Maxi Scooter
Electric – makers of the world’s first fuel cell/electric hybrid scooter
Honda Civic Hybrid
Petrol/electric, driven by Vicki Butler-Henderson, in production and available to the general public
Saab 9-3 Vector 1.8t Biopower (convertible)
Turbocharged and capable of running on E85 (bio-ethanol) or petrol. The only car company in the UK to offer an alternative-fuel engine in every model in its line-up. Driven by Lisa Rogers, well-known as a presenter of a variety of TV programmes including Scrapheap Challenge and Channel 4’s Big Breakfast with her baby daughter Florence as co-pilot!
Ford Focus Flexifuel
Bioethanol/petrol, in production and available to the general public
Gaseous hydrogen fuel cell prototype. Intended for use as an inner-city taxi. Static display all day at Trafalgar Square
Intelligent Energy ENV fuel-cell motorbike
Gaseous hydrogen fuel cell battery hybrid. The world’s first purpose-built fuel cell motorcycle (prototype), designed by Seymour Powell Product Design Consultancy.
Cycles Maximus, Electric-Assist Pedicab/cargo-trike
”The only trike capable of moving 250kgs up any hill”. Propelled by human-power and batteries, in production now. No, someone didn’t pedal from Brighton! – it was just on display in Trafalgar Square.
Which vehicle ‘won’ the rally? Well, the Vectrix Scooter was first to roll onto Trafalgar Square – but it only joined the party in London rather than starting in Brighton.
Revolve founder Steven Glaser explained the point of the event. “Revolve’s mission is to promote and encourage the take up of sustainable transport technologies. We aim to demonstrate that solutions for a sustainable future are being sought, and to reclaim the positive aspects of personal mobility. Our event showcases a range of vehicles – from scooters to vans to limousines – that use potential future fuels and technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen internal combustion engine, hybrids/batteries and biofuels. The events will also promote car-sharing, through WhizzGo’s chauffeuring of our celebrities and dignitaries in their hybrid and LPG vehicles.”
Nicky Gavron, London’s Deputy Mayor, said: “The Brighton to London eco car rally is a great way to showcase the vehicles of the future. As the Chair of the London Hydrogen Partnership I want to demonstrate that new vehicles using alternative fuels and new technologies can offer the potential for lower carbon emissions and help to prevent runaway climate change. While these vehicles are being developed, you can still make choices to reduce your carbon emissions – I would urge Londoners when they next change their car, to choose the most fuel efficient car they can. CO2 emissions from road transport would fall by as much as 30 per cent if people simply bought the most fuel-efficient version of the car they want.”
Anyway, even if hydrogen cars aren’t available to buy right now, the purpose of the event was to make people think about the vehicles they drive in London today, and there are an increasing amount of low emission choices that you can buy. And just watch this space for new cars coming over the next twelve months – the race really is now on!