British Midlands thinks green tech

The United Kingdom-based regional development agency has launched a low carbon vehicle programme along with Jaguar Land Rover.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 19 Dec 2008 Views icon2662 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
British Midlands thinks green tech
Advantage West Midlands (AWM), the development agency for the West Midlands region in the United Kingdom with initial support from Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has recently announced an £80 million (Rs 640 crore) programme to encourage automotive companies based there to increase research and development activities in the area of low carbon or green vehicle technologies.

The programme which is called the ‘Low Carbon Vehicle Integrated Delivery Programme’ (LCVIDP) will co-ordinate the UK’s low carbon vehicle development activity from initial strategic research, through collaborative research and development, leading to the production of demonstration vehicles.

The LCVIDP was formally launched at the national Low Carbon Vehicle Event, which took place at the Millbrook Vehicle Proving Ground in Bedford recently, and was attended by major British Midlands-based automotive businesses and brands, including Jaguar Land Rover, Tata Motors and the Morgan Motor Company, as well as the University of Birmingham and Coventry University.

AWM is one of nine such agencies in the UK and whose aim is transform the regions through sustainable economic development. While AWM will contribute £30 million (Rs 240 crore), the rest will be funded by JLR and the figure is expected to grow over the coming months as other automotive businesses from across the West Midlands and the UK enter this programme.

The new programme will result in the creation of a ‘Low Carbon Vehicle Development and Proving Centre’, which will link high tech research with manufacturing and have a particular emphasis on developing new drivetrains and lightweight structures and will link up with similar programmes elsewhere in the UK. It also seeks to build on similar, successful programmes such as the ‘Premium Automotive R&D’ programme based at Warwick University and the £12.5 million (Rs. 100 crore) ‘Centre of Excellence in Lightweight Vehicle Technologies’ announced earlier this year.

Among the global automotive companies that have a presence in this region are Toyota, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, Nissan and Honda. In addition a number of leading global Tier 1 suppliers like Denso, Magna, Johnson Controls, Aisin Seiki, Lear, Valeo and TRW, among others, are also based here.

According to AWM, these companies and their supply chains will benefit from this initiative and allow the region to extend its international reputation as a world leader in innovative vehicle technologies.

Minister for the West Midlands Ian Austin, who announced the programme at the Land Rover plant in Solihull said, “I think this is really good news for the West Midlands and I am delighted to see firms like JLR make this serious commitment to clean technologies. I want this region to lead the way in developing new technologies and this initiative will also ensure that our region and the UK as a whole continue to lead the world in developing new automotive technologies”

According to David Smith, CEO, Jaguar Land Rover, “I am delighted by this initiative which will increase the international competitiveness of our automotive industry by focusing on the high skill levels we have in this region with vital future technologies. For Jaguar Land Rover, today’s announcement is a natural extension of the £800 million (Rs 6,400 crore) investment we have already made in developing environmental technologies, such as lowering the weight of vehicle components, electrification, advanced combustion and intelligent telematics. These and many other technologies that will become reality through such initiatives will greatly increase the efficiency of future vehicles.”

Speaking on this occasion Mick Laverty, chief executive, Advantage West Midlands, said, “The West Midlands is embracing the opportunities of the low carbon era and we are delighted to work with leading companies such as JLR in this area.” He added “the Low Carbon Vehicle Integrated Delivery Programme brings with it huge opportunities for the British Midlands and we have therefore made available up to £30 million to support our industry-led projects and our region’s needs.”

These investments are expected to be matched by additional private sector funding taking the total investment to £200 million (Rs 1,600 crore). In addition to this ‘British Midlands’, which is an organisation, dedicated to attracting international businesses to the region, announced that the University of Birmingham has unveiled a fleet of hydrogen- powered cars, making it the only university in the UK to run a fleet of vehicles powered in this way.

The cars are pollution-free, virtually silent in operation, can travel up to 160km on a full tank of hydrogen at speeds upto 80kph. The vehicles are being used as part of a study by the University’s School of Chemical Engineering to find out more about the viability of hydrogen in transport applications.

Birmingham engineers will be comparing the hydrogen-powered vehicles with the university’s fleet of petrol, diesel and pure electric vehicles, so that they can learn more about their efficiency and performance.

The researchers will determine how these vehicles need to be adapted in order to make hydrogen an attractive and cost effective option as a future fuel.

Professor Kevin Kendall, lead investigator for the project and head of the University’s Fuel Cells Group, said, ‘The cars will now start to carry out tasks on the campus, including postal deliveries, recycling of materials and duties around the estate.

This will enable us to test the vehicle’s components for reliability, get the cars to become road-legal and confirm their efficiency and cost effectiveness.’ These cars will utilise a hydrogen gas fuelling station which comprises an integrated compression, hydrogen storage and dispensing system, and is optimised to fuel up to six vehicles per day. Minimal onsite utilities are required for this station, which can be easily moved from site to site, making it ideal for hydrogen fuelling start up stations.

Among the Indian automotive companies that have already invested here are Tata Motors, Force Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra and AWM and British Midlands are expecting more Indian companies to set up shop in the region.

Given its mix of skilled labour, proximity to major markets in the UK and financial support by governmental and private bodies for new technologies, the region certainly shows plenty of promise for those Indian companies seeking to establish an overseas presence.
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