UK automotive R&D to share in £38m emissions grants

Regional awards for low-emissions vehicle technology could improve fuel economy and electric vehicle range

The UK Department of Transport has announced the projects that will share a £38m award to improve the fuel efficiency of conventional cars and increase the range of electric vehicles. Among the projects to benefit is an effort to bring weight-reducing technology from Formula 1 and space engineering into the mainstream automotive sector.

More than 130 companies will share the funding, announced transport minister Andrew Jones. The competition for the funding, earmarked for emissions reduction technologies, was announced in September 2015. The £38m total is comprised of £30m from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (which operates under the Departments for Transport, Energy and Climate Change, and BIS) and £8m from Innovate UK, which is supporting the projects.

The largest single winner is a £7.6m award for a 36 West Midlands companies, to investigate and develop mass production technologies for composite materials. As part of this, a consortium led by Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan UK has been awarded £1.7m, and is looking at lightweighting steel components for cars such as the Nissan Leaf , which it claims could increase its range by up to 25 per cent. The consortium will begin unveiling prototypes by 2018, and could be incorporating the technology in road vehicles by 2020.

Other regional grants include £4.4m in Yorkshire and the Humber, including £1.3m to a group led by Sheffield-based Faradion to use sodium-ion technology, which is cheaper than lithium-ion, in vehicle batteries; and a collaboration between the university of Sheffield and Magnomatics to develop a more efficient transmission mechanism using magnets. In the South-East, 20 organisation will share £5.6m, including a commercial vehicle fuel cell project led by Ceres Power; while in the East Midlands, a project led by Far-UK in Nottingham to replace steel in vehicle bodies with lighter materials is among 23 organisations sharing £7.5m.

Andrew Jones said the grants “will help Britain become a world leader in this exciting and valuable technology sector, creating skilled jobs of the future as part of our long-term economic plan. It will also mean lower running costs for motorists and less fuel consumption, which is good for the environment and our economy.” Roland Meister, head of transport for Innovate UK, added that the grants could help boost the economy by “at least £532m.”