We launched Cleantech magazine five years ago, in the summer of 2007, with a special issue on ‘Clean Motoring’. We return to the theme – not for the first time – on our fifth birthday, in conjunction with the Investing in Future Transport conference and the Eco-Rally. As part of our birthday celebrations, we are launching an interactive e-magazine version, which is available here.
Over the past five years I’ve personally learnt a lot about automotive cleantech – and have also had the opportunity to drive some great cars. These have included the Hyundai ix35 FCEV. This fuel cell vehicle is available for ‘ride and drive’ sessions from behind City Hall in London during the Investing in Future Transport conference on 16 August. I was lucky enough to drive it around Aberdeen at the All-Energy event in May this year.
Fuel cell vehicles seem to have become a theme in my life. One real highlight for me was to drive the Lotus/Intelligent Energy hybrid fuel cell/battery London taxi in the 2011 Bridgestone Eco-Rally. My co-driver was Gary Spinks, the Lotus test driver also known as the ‘Norfolk Stig’. We ran into something of a technical problem during the rally – nothing to do with the car itself, but with Gary’s satellite navigation system. To cut a long story short, we found ourselves headed off on the wrong direction on the M25 (the London orbital motorway). A bit of range anxiety set in when we realised what had happened. Gary kept hinting that I should drive more slowly to save power. I thought this was a bit rich, coming from the man who had been responsible for providing me with my first experience of g-force, just a few months before, during a ride with him in the Lotus Exige trifuel around the Millbrook testing circuit at a Cenex event. There had been no need for Gary to worry. We eventually hit London on a very low battery and with no hydrogen for the fuel cell – but at that point the regenerative braking kicked in. By the time we reached our destination – the Eco-Rally finish line on the Mall – the stop-start London traffic had recharged the battery.
The Lotus engineering team in Norfolk work independently from the Lotus F1 team in Oxfordshire – but it was the Oxfordshire Lotus which was the scene of another recent highlight for me. This time I didn’t get to drive a car – but got to see the solar powered simulator used by Mika Häkkinen and the other drivers in action. This amazingly powerful simulator uses Trina Solar panels. Elsewhere in the Lotus F1 research centre I gained some amazing insights into the development work which goes into Formula One cars by Lotus F1 Team CEO, Patrick Louis. There’ll be more on that – and in particular the innovative technologies such as KERS which have spinoff benefits for automotive cleantech – in a future issue.
Founder and CEO, Cleantech Investor, August 2012
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