Transport Minister Norman Baker in a Ford Focus Electric at the LCV2013 exhibition in Bedfordshire (Credit: Joshua Tucker Photography)

Government set to support low-carbon vehicles

A Minister has set out how the government will support the automotive industry in developing and selling ever-cleaner vehicles.

The Minister launched ‘Driving the Future Today – A strategy for ultra low emission vehicles in the UK’ during a visit to the LCV2013 exhibition in Bedfordshire.

The government’s vision, he said, is that by 2050 almost every car and van will be an ultra-low-emission vehicle (ULEV), with the UK at the forefront of their design, development and manufacture.

The Office for Low-Emission Vehicles document sets out five areas for action: supporting the early market; shaping the required infrastructure; securing the right regulatory and fiscal measures; investing in UK automotive capability; and preparing the energy sector.

Baker said: “Successful strategies take full account of the views of the experts – those that take on the engineering and design challenges, those that squeeze every last efficiency out of the production line and know the amount of effort necessary to close a sale in the showroom.”

The government recently announced over £500m of new capital investment up to 2020 to support the development and adoption of ULEVs. The industry will be invited to say how that money should best be spent.

LCV2013 was organised by Cenex, the Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell Technologies.

Cenex chairman Brendan Connor observed that the first time he introduced the event the automotive industry was in “a global mess” and the outlook for low-carbon investment was grim. “We only had prototype vehicles, nothing you could buy,” he said. “Today you can buy 85 per cent of the vehicles on display here.”

One hall of the show was taken up by an organisation that only formally came into being at the beginning of 2013. The Proving Factory was set up to develop products and manufacture processes and provide low-volume ‘proving’ production.

The initiative is a collaboration of ten partners led by Productiv and Tata Steel and expects to have a pre-production facility ready for 2014, producing validation prototypes in quantities of a few hundred.

By 2015 there will be two facilities: component manufacturing at the Tata Steel site in Brinsworth, Rotherham, and an assembly plant in the West Midlands.

Explaining the initiative’s large presence at LCV2013, Richard Bruges, chief executive of Productiv, said: “The automotive industry faces a massive challenge in adopting new technologies. For internal combustion it has depended on its supply chain for innovation, but with something brand new it puts a lot more risk into the production cycle.

“Robust processes are needed, and the ability to make a few thousand and demonstrate they work. The Proving Factory is there to provide that industrialisation and low-volume production. We have selected six sample technologies that we think will have good traction in the market.  Now we need orders from OEMs.”

‘On board, on the move’ lab

Millbrook Proving Ground not only hosted LCV2013 but also showcased the organisation’s PEMS (Portable Emissions Measurement System) capability in an ‘outdoor laboratory’.

Visitors had the opportunity to travel on a New Bus For London and see PEMS operating in real-time, with large-screen displays demonstrating the changes in pollutants as the bus was driven around the test tracks.

‘In-use’ emissions data is already a requirement in the United States and will soon become part of European emissions legislation for heavy vehicles, creating a need for portable test systems that can show consistent and accurate results.

The ability to measure emissions ‘on board, on the move’ is particularly important for off-road vehicles such as construction equipment that may face restrictions on maximum as well as average emissions because of their impact on local air quality.

Neil Fulton, head of Millbrook's powertrain group, said the ability to take vehicles repeatedly over a number of representative drive cycles – which can include urban driving, alpine routes and higher speed motorway driving – means that PEMS results from Millbrook provide clients with data which is virtually impossible to replicate elsewhere.

Fulton said: “This technology combined with our knowledge of exhaust emissions and fuel consumption and the repeatability of our track-based test procedures will enable us to provide our clients with the most comprehensive, real-world emissions data available.”

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