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Transport Secretary sees huge progress at LCV2010

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond (right) with Robert Evans, CEO, Cenex

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond witnessed some of the latest cutting-edge green cars, such as a 94 g/km CO2 Range Rover Sport, at LCV2010, as well as making an announcement about a new £24 million investment.

Vehicles on display at the 2010 Low Carbon Vehicle Conference, the UK’s leading event for low carbon vehicles, included the 120 g/km CO2 electric Jaguar XJ Limo Green and the 94 g/km Range Rover Sport plug-in diesel hybrid. Very few people would have thought, at the first LCV Conference in 2008, that we would see such low emission Jaguars and Range Rovers at the same event only two years later.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond

In fact the Jaguars and Range Rover on display, although only technology demonstrators at the moment, were the perfect evidence to support what the key speakers were saying: that there has been huge progress with reducing the emissions of cars over the past few years.

In 1997 the average CO2 emissions of cars in the UK was 190 g/km. This has now dropped to around 145 g/km. There was a 6% drop just between 2008 and 2009.

And Professor Julie King reminded us that we need to see such emission reductions, as the UK has to achieve an 80% reduction in CO2 levels, compared to a 1990 baseline, by 2050. If we don’t achieve this, and ‘business continues as normal’, then the predictions are for an average global temperature rise of 4 degrees C by the end of the century, or possibly by as early as 2060. Europe could be 8 degrees warmer, or 12 degrees on the hottest days.

To encourage the motor industry to achieve significant carbon reductions, EU targets exist which mean that a manufacturer’s average fleet emissions need to drop to 130 g/km by 2015 and 95 g/km by 2020 – otherwise hefty fines will be imposed.

Both the Jaguar XJ ‘Limo Green’ and the Range Rover Sport plug-in hybrid have been developed with Technology Strategy Board (TSB) funding. This was an initiative developed under the previous government, and the conference speakers were in unanimous agreement that huge benefits have resulted from the way in which different companies involved in the motor industry in the UK have collaborated together in low carbon projects over recent years, thanks to government funding to ‘kick-start’ new technologies, in order to lower emissions (Jaguar Land Rover worked on the TSB project with Lotus, MIRA and Caparo).

The good news is that at the event, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced a further £24 million investment to continue to develop the UK’s low carbon vehicle sector. Projects in the next round of funding from the TSB include the development of new engines for plug-in hybrid versions of Jaguar Land Rover, Lotus and Nissan cars.

This means that Lotus has got the funding to build two more Lotus Evora 414E hybrid concepts. This car uses a similar technology concept to the Jaguar XJ – it’s an electric Evora with the same 1.2-litre range-extender engine.

Interestingly, the Evora hybrid also builds on the technology demonstrated in the Toyota Prius ‘HALOsonic’ car, which is most noteworthy for being a hybrid that is able to simulate the noise of a V8, V12, or pretty much anything else that is desired. The Evora has a ‘synthetic’ Formula 1-style paddle gearshift, which can simulate gearchanges using changes in noise and ‘torque’. As impressive as electric cars are, they’re all quite similar to drive as they effectively have only one forward gear, so with the Evora, Lotus is making an effort to cater for drivers who prefer more interaction with the car.

It was extremely reassuring to hear Philip Hammond say “cars are one of the greatest enhancers of the quality of life over the last few decades.” With 84% of all journeys in the UK being undertaken by car, the Transport Secretary recognises that cars are essential for the majority of people in the country, saying that “it’s not the car that’s the problem, it’s the carbon”.

Of course Philip Hammond, who, incidentally, is very switched on about the subject of green cars and their technology, was also instrumental in ensuring that the £5000 electric car grant, promised by the previous government, was confirmed by the coalition to start in January 2010. To achieve this in advance of the October spending review was quite a coup. Philip Hammond also announced that the government has today published the detailed criteria for this grant.

SMMT Chief Executive Paul Everitt sees this £5000 consumer inventive as a good thing and that supporting the growth of the low carbon car industry can help the government ‘re-balance’ the UK economy.

As well as such key messages as those above coming out of the conference, the LCV event also included a display of the latest green cars, the majority of which were available for drives. The electric Jaguar XJ ‘Limo Green’ with range-extender, and the Range Rover Sport plug-in hybrid, both just technology demonstrators at this stage, were a far cry from the cars that were there two years ago – the most newsworthy at that time was the production-ready electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV (which, incidentally, was here again this year).

The Jaguar XJ ‘Limo Green’ is an electric car. However if the battery runs low, then the car has an on-board 1.2-litre petrol engine that can take over to power the car. This is known as a ‘range extender’ as it allows the car to keep going. The engine is a bespoke, lightweight unit that has been developed by Lotus. The emissions of the XJ are 120 g/km CO2, which is an incredible achievement for a car of this size. The car is also targeted to achieve 30 miles on electric power alone, achieve 57 mpg overall, a top speed of 112 mph, and a 0-60 mph time of under 8 seconds.

The key question has to be “does the XJ, with an electric motor and a 1.2-litre petrol engine, perform adequately for a car of this size?” The answer is yes; the XJ had perfectly adequate acceleration and it felt very competent cruising at high speed around the Millbrook bowl.

The Range Rover Sport is a different technical solution; it has a diesel V6 as its primary power source, but this is mated to a hybrid system with a battery and electric motor, and you can plug it in to recharge it and provide greater range on the battery – so lowering emissions and improving fuel consumption.

The Range Rover Sport emits just 94 g/km, which is extremely low for such a vehicle, and strangely for a diesel SUV, lower than the electric Jaguar. This is put down to the fact that slightly different ways of calculating the emissions are used for both types of technology. The Range Rover can also drive 19 miles on battery power alone.

Jaguar Land Rover has learnt much from the initial XJ and the Range Rover project, and the technology of both vehicles will now be refined and improved before coming to market. A V6 diesel hybrid model is due from Land Rover in 2013, with a plug-in hybrid expected in 2015.

Although the XJ and the Range Rover show how much progress has been made by manufacturers who weren’t on the green car radar at all just two years ago, there were also cars from other manufacturers on display, including the new electric Nissan LEAF and the Vauxhall Ampera. Unlike the demonstrators from Jaguar Land Rover, the LEAF, which we’ve already tested, is production-ready and the first cars will be on sale in the UK shortly after this Christmas.

Our easy-to-digest photo summary of the key green cars present at LCV2010 follows below.

LCV2010 was organised by Cenex and sponsored by the SMMT, TSB and UKTI and was held at Millbrook Proving Ground.

Lotus was out in force, but unfortunately only with cars that you can’t yet buy.

Lotus Exige Biofuel – can run on petrol or ethanol

Lotus Exige Trifuel – the successor to the above, can run on petrol, ethanol or methanol

Lotus Eco Elise – uses environmentally-friendly materials in its construction

Lotus Evora 414E hybrid concept – electric with a range-extender engine

HALOsonic – demonstrated on a Toyota Prius

Nissan LEAF – electric, on sale in the UK in early 2011

Vauxhall Ampera – electric, with petrol range-extender engine, due in the UK in 2012

Mitsubishi i-MiEV – electric, due on sale in the UK at the end of 2010 (also available without Police livery)

Smart ED – electric, due on sale in the UK in early 2011

MINI E – electric, currently on trial but not on sale (see MINI E trial results ); the next trial car, a rear-wheel drive electric BMW 1 Series ‘Active E’, is due next year; both cars are acting as testbeds for BMW’s Megacity electric car, due in 2013

Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid – currently on trial

THiNK City – electric – due on sale in the UK in early 2011

THiNK City – electric – this is the EV Cup ‘racing’ version

Electric ECC C1 ev’ie – a car you can buy today

Something a bit different – an all-electric 4×4 from Avid

Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel call car – see our separate review coming soon

Keywords: LCV2010, 2010 Low Carbon Vehicle Conference, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, 120 g/km CO2 electric Jaguar XJ Limo Green, 94 g/km Range Rover Sport plug-in diesel hybrid.