An computer generated image of the new driverless pod project in Milton Keynes

New �75m fund for low-carbon vehicle technologies

Automotive companies are being offered a slice of £75m to come up with new low-carbon engine technologies.

During a visit to Northampton today, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced a new £75m fund to support a limited number of pre-production projects that will strengthen the UK’s capability and develop its supply chain in the field of low-carbon vehicles.

Those selected will be the pilot projects of the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), which was announced in July, with those entering the competition required to form a group which includes at least one vehicle manufacturer, an SME and at least one supply chain company.

Projects are expected to begin from April 2014 and will have to deliver significant emissions reductions compared to the current best-in-class technologies using primarily on-vehicle powertrain technologies, as opposed to off-vehicle technologies such as charging infrastructure.

Cable said: “By 2050, very few, if any, new cars will be powered solely by the traditional internal combustion engines, so it is important that the UK car industry is at the cutting-edge of low-carbon technologies.

“The Advanced Propulsion Centre, launched as part of our industrial strategy, will help to position the UK as a leading innovator while securing jobs and strengthening supply chains.”

During his visit, Cable also announced £1.5m of government funding for a project in Milton Keynes that will test driverless cars in a pedestrianised area for the first time.

The £2-a-trip battery-powered ‘pods’ will be able to carry two people and reach speeds of 12mph. They will be hailed and paid for via a mobile phone app and will use GPS technology and sensors to steer around objects, people and each other.

An initial batch of 20 pods to be introduced in 2015 will be driver-operated and will run on lanes separated from pedestrians in Milton Keynes city centre, but by mid-2017 100 pods that are fully autonomous will be running on pathways alongside people.

“Driverless cars are another invention that have the potential to generate the kind of high-skilled jobs we want Britain to be famous for, as well as cutting congestion and pollution and improving road safety,” said Cable.

The early collaborators on the project are engineering consultancy firm Arup, Transport Systems Catapult, The Automotive Council, and Cambridge and Oxford Universities.

John Miles, programme director and Arup Consultant, said: “With the continually increasing number of people living in cities, city authorities are facing some real challenges with regards to ensuring future levels of mobility.

“This project has the potential to deliver a truly autonomous low-carbon transport option within the context of a city centre and we’re delighted to be using this funding to take the project into the first stages of design.

The competition to find the pilot projects for the APC opens on 2 December 2013 and will be run by the Technology Strategy Board. Visit the Technology Strategy Board website for more information.

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