Britain is uniquely placed to develop the lightweight electric car of the future, according to the man who introduced the `hypercar’ concept. But he warned that the opportunity could be squandered by a lack of industry collaboration.
Speaking exclusively to The Engineer, Amory Lovins, co-chief executive of research foundation the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), said: `I don’t know any other country that has the ingredients to such a degree.’
Lovins said the UK has world-class capability in all the relevant skills: automotive design – especially the UK’s Formula One design teams; aerospace; boat building; software; electronics; polymers; and the textile industry. He said the latter has the technology required for automated lay up of reinforcement fibres for advanced composites, which would be an essential element in the mass production of body panels.
But, Lovins added, many of the industries which would have to collaborate on the hypercar don’t communicate. `I don’t think most of them realise what mutual advantage they could get from combining their forces,’ he said.
The RMI has been developing the hypercar – a lightweight, low-drag electric vehicle five times as efficient as current cars, with no loss of performance – since the early 1990s, along with companies including Lotus Engineering.
Earlier this year it set up a subsidiary, Hypercar Inc, to speed up development.
If the UK were to become world leader in hypercar development, `it could mean a renaissance of many industries based on engineering’, Lovins said.