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Government-Sponsored Research Aims to Make UK Leader in Green Cars

The Infiniti Emerg-E

The Infiniti Emerg-E

Americans drive on the right, the British drive on the left. You say gasoline, we say ‘petrol.’ There’s a lot that’s different about the British relationship with the car.

Perhaps the most important difference, though, is this: America still has a car industry, and one that’s rapidly reorienting itself to the need for greener, lower-carbon cars. Despite their recent woes, brands like Ford and GM remain leading forces in the world car industry, and with a range of hybrid options and the first all-electric vehicles arriving recently, the signs are that American workers will benefit — at least to an extent — from the coming low-carbon revolution.

In the UK, however, it’s a different story. Britain’s car industry is a shadow of its mid-20th-Century glory, with famous brands like Rover and Mini now owned and, in many cases, manufactured abroad. The remaining UK-based brands, like Lotus and Jaguar Land Rover, are luxury marques and not the kind of car company you’d expect to make hybrids or electric cars… right?

Well, maybe not. Thanks to some well-aimed government support, these two brands are at the forefront of a burgeoning British electric-car industry.

It’s thanks to the Technology Strategy Board, a government-supported body created “to stimulate technology-enabled innovation in the areas which offer the greatest scope for boosting UK growth and productivity.” This board has “invested £9.5m in a £20.5m project to develop green prototypes for Jaguar Land Rover, Lotus and Japanese luxury manufacturer Infiniti, a subsidiary of Nissan,” BusinessGreen reports.

The first fruit of the project were seen this week, when Infiniti — which, like the rest of Nissan, builds quite a few vehicles in the UK — showed off its EMERG-E plug-in hybrid concept. It boasts a top speed of 130 mph, does 0-60 in just four seconds, and, with the electric motors going, produces just 55 g of CO2 per kilometre.

Jaguar and Lotus are expected to produce low-carbon prototypes later this year, and provide support to smaller vehicle technology companies to help them develop low-carbon parts.

“We hope to put the UK industry in a fighting position,” Andrew Everett, head of transport at the TSB, told BusinessGreen, “so as the low-carbon vehicle market grows, the UK can grab as big a piece as possible.”

That’s welcome news for the UK economy, which is growing at a crawl and badly in need of new green jobs. But it’s also good news for the future of green motoring. The sooner luxury brands like Jaguar start producing attractive, high-performance, low-carbon models, the sooner we can get some of the more egregious gas-guzzlers off our roads.

Source: BusinessGreen | Picture: Infiniti

 
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is a London-based freelance journalist passionate about climate change, development and technology. He has written for the Daily Express, Excite.co.uk, and the Fly. He blogs at ravcasleygera.wordpress.com.

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