UK pushes low-carbon vehicle tech

UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the trade promotion arm of the UK government, recently organised an Advanced Engineering seminar in Oxfordshire in the UK, with the focus on development of low carbon or green vehicle technology.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 04 Mar 2009 Views icon5426 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the trade promotion arm of the UK government, recently organised an Advanced Engineering seminar in Oxfordshire in the UK, with the focus on development of low carbon or green vehicle technology. At the sessions, held on February 3 and 4, the discussions centered on how Indian and UK companies could work together on the development of these environment-friendly vehicles.

The event was held at the RBS Williams F1 Conference Centre, with the first day dedicated to the UK-India Low Carbon Vehicles Forum. It was jointly chaired by Robert Evans, chief executive officer, Cenex (Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell Technologies) and Dilip Chenoy, director-general, SIAM. Both Chenoy and Shrikant Marathe, director, ARAI, were optimistic about the prospects for the two countries working together on the development of new vehicle technologies. However, they felt that the major hurdle to closer cooperation was that development costs in the UK are on the higher side and needed to become more competitive. They also felt that development times needed to become shorter, so that the technology could be introduced into the market sooner rather than later.

Keynote speakers at the event included Professor Julia King, vice-chancellor, Aston University. The idea behind the conference had emerged after the publication of the King Review authored by her and Lord Nicholas Stern. The document is an independent review examining the vehicle and fuel technologies which over the next 25 years could help to decarbonise road transport, particularly cars, in the UK. It drew on expertise from across both industry, in the UK and internationally, as well as the Government. Part one of the Review was published on October 9, 2007 and set out the potential for reducing CO2 emissions from road transport. The report had a positive message: that there is significant potential to reduce CO2 from cars, both in the next few years and in the medium and longer term, and that this could bring considerable benefits for the UK. It set out the role that more efficient vehicles, cleaner fuels and smarter consumer choices need to play in reducing emissions. Part two was published on March 12, 2008 and picked up on these challenges, making a series of recommendations aimed at ensuring that government, industry, the research community and consumers all contribute to realising the potential for reducing CO2 emissions. The report highlighted the importance of setting a long-term direction for policy that has CO2 at its heart, ensuring that new technologies and fuels are developed sustainably and the global nature of the effort required. Representing the Indian government at the event was Dr Shrikant Mitra, additional secretary, Ministry for Heavy Industry, who addressed the workshop by teleconference link from New Delhi. From the UK side, Lord Mervyn Davies, Minister for Trade and Investment, emphasised the strong bilateral trade links between the UK and India and said the UK is well positioned to work with India to develop low-carbon vehicle technology. Davies said, “As demand for vehicles picks up in countries such as India, it is more important than ever that we satisfy that demand without damaging the environment.” On the second day of the seminar, a wider international research and development brokering event was held focusing on advanced materials, advanced manufacturing, sensors and instrumentation as well as low-carbon technologies. Aside from the Indian delegation, over 100 UK organisations and 32 international delegates from the USA, Russia, Central Europe, Canada and South Korea, attended the event. They held 326 business-to-business meetings that were interspersed with UK capability presentations on the technology areas, and an overview of UK government support to research and development activities. According to Margaret Porteous, director of Energy and Advanced Engineering, UKTI, “We have put together a very strong group of Indian companies who are involved in the automotive design engineering, low carbon and advanced materials sectors. The size of the visiting delegation underlines the commitment India has in forming business relationships and partnerships with UK companies.” The seminar was part of a week-long programme that offered the Indian delegation an opportunity to meet UK companies and organisations that are keen to form business and R&D partnerships with India. The week started with an academic research conference at the BERR Conference Centre in London on February 2, where Indian delegates got the opportunity to hold one-to- one meetings with UK companies. Later they attended the Advanced Engineering event and then visited the automotive testing and research institute MIRA at Nuneaton on February 5, where they also met other UK companies. The visit concluded with a visit to the North West region on February 6. According to the UKTI, the goal for companies should be to develop low carbon vehicles at low cost, since this new generation of vehicles have to be affordable if they are to sell in large numbers. Secondly, collaboration among countries like India and the UK is essential in the development of these vehicles, since no one country has both the technology push and market pull required to achieve this goal. Also, it believes that both the UK and India are well placed to collaborate on this strategic challenge, due to their common interests, as well as complementary skills and capabilities, including the success of past collaborations between their automotive industries. The big challenge for automotive companies in both countries is to identify and develop the relevant green technology in a cost-effective manner, with the conference seeking to translate these challenges into opportunities. One of the major opportunities that emerged from discussions among participants was the development of low-carbon two-wheelers, which they felt should be an area of focus, since India is the second largest two-wheeler market in the world. Another suggestion that emerged was for increased cooperation among OEMs in order to reduce costs and make technologies more feasible. Companies were also urged to pursue various different types of green technologies, since no single technology can provide a complete solution to future emission challenges. Regarding the limited range of the current generation of hybrid and electric vehicles, delegates felt that these vehicles needed to have a range of at least 120km to become practical for everyday use. Technologies like Stop Start and fuel blends using ethanol were thought to be particularly suitable for India given its current driving conditions. UK companies were also urged to produce a demonstration vehicle, utilising the latest green technologies to show how they could help Indian manufacturers meet the challenges of the low-carbon future. To popularise electric vehicles, one suggestion that emerged was that batteries should be leased to buyers, rather than making them purchase the battery pack upfront Lowering the weight of vehicles using advanced materials and innovative thinking also emerged as a suggestion to lower vehicular emissions. UKTI will be following up Advanced Engineering 2009 with an outward trade mission to the International Conference on Environmentally Friendly Vehicles being organised in partnership with SIAM in New Delhi in November 2009. It will also hold another major research and development event in the UK, focused on Materials Technology, in February next year.
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