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We need more green cars, quickly and Prodrive’s David Richards says motorsport can help

The Eco-Friendly Vehicle Exhibition 2007, hosted by Prodrive, was an event to showcase hybrids and other green vehicles. The overall message from keynote speaker Brendan Connor, Chairman of CENEX, was that we need more green cars coming to market sooner.

David Richards, Chairman of Prodrive, and new owner of Aston Martin, saw motorsport as being a solution to this problem, as it’s an excellent opportunity to demonstrate new green technologies, just as Audi’s quattro demonstrated the benefits of four wheel drive for everyday motoring in the rallies of the 1980s. David Richard’s presentation carried even more weight due to his bio-fuelled Aston Martin having won its first race the previous weekend (see ‘Bio-fuelled Aston Martin makes British motorsport history’)

The event at Prodrive took place on the day when climate change was the focus of the world leaders’ G8 summit. The G8 outcome was for 6 of the 8 nations to agree to cut CO2 emissions in half by 2050. That puts even more importance on the need for serious CO2 reductions to start now, so where are we up to with CO2 emissions from road transport?

We need more green vehicles – Brendan Connor, CENEX

Using the recent LCTIS (Low Carbon Transport Innovation) White Paper as reference, Brendan Connor had the following observations and comments:

  • New car CO2 emissions have levelled out at around 164g/km.
  • Concern that the EU targets, that require manufacturers to reduce CO2 emissions to an average of 130g/km by 2012, won’t be met
  • The introduction of new technology is slow – car makers can’t change what they do quickly enough to get new green technology to market
  • In particular, it’s disappointing that diesel electric hybrids are so slow to appear
  • UK policy will continue to encourage low carbon vehicles through mechanisms such as road tax, congestion charging and road pricing
  • In terms of the UK transport carbon footprint, all transport (including road, maritime and aviation) is responsible for 28-32% of UK carbon emissions (46.3 million tonnes of carbon)
  • Road transport emits 32.7 million tonnes per year
  • 31 million cars are registered in the UK (virtually 1 car for every 2 people)
  • 19 million tonnes of carbon are generated by cars
  • HGVs emit 17.7 tonnes per vehicle per year
  • Buses emit 10.1 tonnes per vehicle per year
  • Vans emit 1.8 tonnes per vehicle per year
  • Cars emit 0.6 tonnes per vehicle per year
  • Therefore HGVs and buses need to become lower carbon products!
  • There are 500,000 HGVs and buses in the UK and they have an 8 year replacement cycle
  • If green technology was applied to HGVs and buses, by the time of their normal 8 year replacement cycle, there would be a 60% cut in their CO2
  • However with buses in particular, the current bus operators grant needs to be changed, as it does nothing to encourage the take-up of more efficient technologies, or even the filling of buses with people.

What’s seen as the way forward?

  • Electric vehicles, when ranges reach 150 miles
  • Non-food biodiesel
  • Diesel-electric hybrids (especially with HGVs and buses)
  • More CNG (compressed natural gas) HGVs
  • Hydrogen? Not yet, due to no infrastructure

CENEX exists to help companies develop low carbon vehicles – and the organisation has millions of pounds of money to give away for low carbon transport innovation! But they need more companies to be developing such technologies.

Modec was held up as a great success story. As a producer of electric commercial vehicles, and also present at the event offering drives of their box van, the new company has more orders than it can keep up with – proof, if any was needed, that there is a big demand for low carbon vehicles.

Brendan Connor summed up his presentation by saying that there is a desperate and urgent need to speed up the technology loop.

Motorsport as a solution – David Richards, Prodrive

Prodrive’s David Richards offered a solution to this problem, when he concluded the event by suggesting that motorsport could help to bring green technologies to the attention of the public and so help speed up the adoption of low carbon vehicles.

Motorsport is a £5bn industry in the UK and it employs 40,000 people. However he felt that motorsport could be in danger because of the ever-progressing green agenda, and it had to move with the times to ensure it isn’t at risk from losing support in areas such as advertising and marketing. Formula 1 has big changes happening in 2009 and 2011 with the adoption of technologies such as kinetic storage systems, and biofuel and diesel technologies are being developed in the touring cars arena. He suggested that if the time, money and effort that is put into testing a car’s aerodynamics in a wind tunnel was put into green technologies, then this would speed up the development of technologies that could be applied to road cars, and it would be a high profile showcase to raise public awareness.

A real live example of how motorsport can help with the rapid development of technology was provided by the Green-Car-Guide sponsored Oaktec Honda Insight hybrid rally car, which David was interested to take a look at, and which provides a successful model for the concept of energy recovery, the idea that F1 cars will be adopting.

Vehicles on display – and the 130mpg Prius

A number of vehicles were on display at the event and were available for test drives around Prodrive’s track. These included cars such as the Saab Biopower and the Ford Focus flex-fuel range, all of which can run on bioethanol, the BMW Hydrogen 7, and the Honda Civic hybrid – information about all of which can be found elsewhere in this site and in our Green-Car-Guide.

One car that you should know about is the Plug-In Prius. This starts life as a standard Toyota Prius, but it has been adapted so you can plug it in overnight to add additional charge to its enlarged battery. This means that you can potentially achieve up to 130mpg, and over 35 miles in full electric vehicle mode (ie without the petrol engine working). One customer in London has a wind turbine on his garage which he uses to generate electricity to recharge his ‘Plug-in Prius’ overnight. The conversion costs £8500 plus VAT, so this is something that should be of interest to businesses that need a car of this size and want to make a green statement. London private hire company Green Tomato Cars are currently trialling one of these vehicles. For more details on this car e-mail us.