Low-carbon vehicle trials

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More than 100 ultra-low-carbon vehicles will begin year trials across the West Midlands in December 2009 after receiving a £2.5m regional development agency grant.

The funds were bestowed to CABLED (Coventry and Birmingham Low Emissions Demonstrators), a West Midlands consortium of manufacturers, academia and city councils, by Advantage West Midlands.

The consortium will test 110 road-worthy vehicles in and around the Birmingham and Coventry areas over the next 12 to 18 months.

CABLED was the largest of eight regional winners in the Technology Strategy Board’s £25m Ultra-Low-Carbon Vehicles Demonstrator competition announced in June 2009.

The combined project will see 340 cars from eight groups across the UK co-ordinate their tests over the next 18 months. The funds from Advantage West Midlands are designed to give the CABLED consortium a head start on the project.

CABLED is led by vehicle design, infrastructure and energy specialist Arup and includes 13 other companies, including Jaguar/Land Rover, Mitsubishi and Smart.

The vehicles will include four electric models  the Mitsubishi i MiEV, Mercedes Benz’s Smart Fortwo, LTI’s TX4E taxi and the Tata Indica Vista EV. It will also include the hydrogen-powered Microcab and Land Rover’s Range_e hybrid vehicle.

The consortium also includes partners E.ON, Birmingham University, Birmingham city council and Coventry city council. Their role will be to provide electrical charging points for vehicles across the two cities and access to the university’s hydrogen refuelling station, which is currently one of very few in the UK. The group will also help develop the infrastructure necessary to service the needs of electric vehicles.

Coventry University is managing the selection of users taking part in the trial of the low-carbon vehicles and Aston University will analyse the data generated by the vehicles during use.

Neil Butcher, project leader for the CABLED consortium and associate within Arup’s vehicle design group, said: ‘The CABLED consortium brings together some of the most advanced manufacturing and engineering capabilities in the world.

‘We believe that this, combined with our academic and public-sector partners, will push the West Midlands to the forefront in developing the next generation of road vehicles.’

Martyn Mangan, automotive cluster manager for Advantage West Midlands, said: ’The West Midlands is the largest regional automotive cluster in the UK comprised of more than 1,500 companies and conducting around 60 per cent of Britain’s annual industry research and development.

‘The work of CABLED demonstrates the region’s expertise at all levels: manufacturing, engineering and infrastructure as well as research and development. The consortium’s work will be key to ensuring ultra-low-emission vehicles become widely available to consumers and a regular sight on our roads.’