Government ministers launch electric car trials

UK government ministers drove electric cars on to the forecourt of London's historic Guildhall today to launch trials of low-carbon vehicles.

Transport secretary Lord Adonis was at the controls of a Smart car, while science minister Lord Drayson drove a Mini E.

The Mini E will be tested in Oxford and south east England in one of eight trials in Britain in which members of the public and businesses will be invited to take part.

Other areas where tests will take place include Glasgow, Coventry, Birmingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Hillingdon, west London. Cars being tested include a Ford Focus, and Nissan and Peugeot electric vehicles. The trials involve a mix of battery-electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) - the criterion for inclusion was a CO2 footprint of under 50g per km.

The government is putting £25m into the project, which is being organised by the Technology Strategy Board. Its aim is to get 340 demonstrator vehicles onto UK roads in the next six to 18 months.

Lord Adonis said today: "People have doubted that electric and ultra-low carbon vehicles would come on to the market soon, but they are available and the public will be able to drive them.

"We hope it will only be a short period of time before these vehicles come on to the market. We want Britain to be at the forefront of ultra-low carbon automotive technology, blazing a trail for environmentally friendly transportation."

Lord Drayson said: "This is the world's largest ever trial of electric vehicles."

He added that it was important that hard data on just how the vehicles worked and were driven was gathered in.

Lord Drayson went on: "If we can make the UK the best place to do the research and development into these vehicles, we can help secure the future of the UK motor industry."

Technology Strategy Board chief executive Iain Gray said: "The journey towards low-carbon transport will not be easy but the demonstrator programme which we are launching is a major step in the right direction."

AA president Edmund King said today's announcement was "a great leap forward on the road to a lower-carbon future", while Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Paul Everitt said ultra-low carbon vehicles were "now mainstream business for the motor industry". 

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