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There are more electric cars than you realise

posted on Nov 09 2010 by Gary Shapland

There are more electric cars than you realise

The future of motoring is taking a mass driving test. No fewer than 60 eco-friendly vehicles at the cutting edge of low-energy technology took to the roadsfor the first-ever RAC Brighton to London Future Car Challenge.

The number and variety of vehicles that took part included entries from leading manufacturers as well as pioneering designers, has far exceeded expectations.

It can claim to be perhaps the largest event of its kind and is a very public showcase for low-energy-impact vehicles. Open to the latest electric, hybrid and low-emission passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, awards were presented for vehicles judged to have made the least energy impact in their category during the 60-mile Brighton to London run.

It is a first for Britain andtook place the day before the Royal Automobile Club's world-famous London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. Starting at Madeira Drive in the Sussex resort, this unique event will use the traditional 60-mile veteran car run route in reverse.

The formal finish was in Pall Mall, followed by a special ceremonial presentation in Regent Street. Here, the vehicles joined the display of more than 100 pre-1905 motor cars in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run International Concourse in front of an estimated 250,000 audience. History was in the making here, with a number of world or UK debuts as manufacturers and designers use the event to showcase their pre-production electric, plug-in hybrid, hydrogen and low- emission internal combustion engine vehicles.

The industry is taking this inaugural event very seriously - leading manufacturers taking part include BMW, Ford, Honda, Mini, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, Skoda, Smart, Tata, Toyota, Vauxhall and Volkswagen. In some cases, several different models have been entered.

Among the innovations to look out for is Vauxhall's Ampera. This is an electric car fitted with a small "range extender" petrol engine - unlike a hybrid vehicle, it doesn't drive the car directly but tops up the batteries on the move to extend the vehicle's range to a claimed 350 miles.

Zero emissions

Meanwhile, the world's first pure electric 4x4 vehicle, the Liberty E-Range Range Rover by UK-based Liberty Electric Cars, has a battery range of around 200 miles and is claimed to cover 0-60mph in about seven seconds.

To make a real impact on cutting emissions, the commercial vehicle sector is crucial - and competition is hotting up. Ford has entered its Transit Connect Electric. UK companies, Nicholson McLaren, Interserve and RLE International, have entered their all-electric conversions of the Citron Nemo van and Volkswagen Caddy Maxi. Zytek Automotive will display its all- electric Mercedes-Benz Vito Taxi.

Sports cars, not generally known for low fuel consumption, will cause a stir with entries from Tesla, well known for its high- performance vehicles, plus privately entered Lotus Elise and MG-F, both recently converted to electric drive.

Excitementran high with the unveiling of Formula One's contribution to the development of the low-energy car of the future. After 17 years designing Brabham F1 cars and then 18 years designing the McLaren Group's F1 and high-performance road cars, Professor Gordon Murray set up his own company, Gordon Murray Design Ltd, in Shalford, Surrey. For the event, Prof Murray himself drovehis company's T.25 three-seater city car, which uses F1 technology.

Adrian Tink, RAC motoring strategist, says: "We're extremely pleased with the quantity and, importantly, the quality of the entries. As well as major manufacturers and specialist companies, private owners will also take part - something that we very much encourage.

"We're confident this was the largest, most public showcase for low-energy vehicles that has ever taken place in Europe."

The RAC Future Car Challenge could prove to be as historic as the pioneering Emancipation Run of November 1896, which the annual RAC London to Brighton Veteran Car Run has commemorated since 1930.

This demonstrated the capabilities of the recently invented horseless carriage.

Then, as now, different technologies competed for dominance. Once again the 60 miles between Brighton and London will point to the future.