The UK is to host the world's largest trial of electric vehicles, putting the kind of hi-tech eco-friendly cars you'd normally only see in CNET UK's award-winning Car Tech onto the streets of our green and pleasant land.
The £25 million scheme was unveiled on Tuesday by Lord Adonis, the transport secretary, and Lord Drayson, the science minister. Three hundred and forty vehicles will be loaned to people in eight locations around the country, including London, Coventry, Birmingham and Newcastle. Each area's trial will be run by a consortium made up of car manufacturers, power companies and universities, to test and study hybrid and all-electric vehicles.
The idea is to test the social aspects of the eco-friendly jam jars, as well as the technical, as the trial attempts to raise the visibility of electric and hybrid vehicles and change attitudes among the public. Drivers will be monitored by researchers from, among others, Oxford Brookes University and Coventry University, while the universities of Strathclyde and Aston will track the cars by satellite.
Power companies will also be involved, looking at the way infrastructure must be developed. Battery company Axeon has teamed up with Peugeot to offer 40 cars in Glasgow, while Toyota and EDF are putting up to 20 plug-in hybrid vehicles (pictured above) on London streets. Scottish and Southern Energy is considering putting a 32 amp charging box into homes, potentially juicing up a Mini E in less than half of the 10-hour time taken by a standard socket.
A range of cars will be tested, the only criteria being that the cars must emit less than 50g of CO2 per km. As well as 40 Mini Es, there'll be 100 of Mercedes-Benz' latest Smart Cars buzzing about. Twenty one electric sports cars will also be zipping about courtesy of the EEMS Accelerate consortium, made up of independent manufacturers, including Westfield, Delta Motorsport and Lightning. As if that wasn't enough, green energy company Ecotricity reckons it will build a car from scratch that runs purely on juice from wind turbines.
The government will recruit drivers from all walks of life, with different driving requirements. Confusingly, how you get involved depends on the consortium in your area. The trials won't start until later this year or even early 2010.
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