by Richard Jordan
The 2012 Low Carbon Vehicle event, hosted by Cenex for the fifth consecutive year, made a welcome return to Millbrook Proving Ground on 5 and 6 September. This year’s show demonstrated the latest offerings from the vehicle manufacturers, charging solution providers and engineering consultancies, alongside some of the latest electric vehicle innovations and developments.
The now familiar Nissan Leaf, Vauxhall Ampera, Smart (Mercedes) Electric and plug-in Toyota Prius were all present and offering test drives around the various challenging tracks at Millbrook. The OEMs continue to refine and develop their vehicles, and in particular the third generation Smart boasts peak power of 55kW (compared with 30kW for the first generation) and an 87 mile range (up from 68 miles).
A popular newcomer to Cenex was Mia Electric, a Franco-German company producing small, urban cars and vans, which was represented by its new UK distributor. They hope to sell 1,000 of the funky vehicles prior to the end of 2012, following the formal launch on 1 October. The vehicles benefit from a central driving position, meaning it has not been necessary to change the layout for use on UK roads, although some changes were made for the purposes of UK homologation. David Carter, UK Fleet Manager, commented that the 20 test vehicles in the UK had received a good response from potential customers, in particular from fleet operators, who were interested in the Mia van for urban use. The van will cost £16,995 (including £8,000 plug-in van grant) and will come with a five-year warranty and five years’ roadside assistance. While significantly cheaper than offerings from the majority of the major manufacturers, the Mia will face stiff competition from Renault’s Kangoo ZE, which is priced at £12,912 (after grant) although a £60 per month battery rental charge applies.
Gracing Cenex again, following its launch in 2010, was Ecospin, the UK company behind the futuristic Raptor. Raptor is the brainchild of Paul Loomes, previously a designer for the likes of Ford, VW, Porsche and Jaguar. Paul dreamt up the idea whilst on holiday, and on his return set to work fashioning the clay model for the vehicle, which would subsequently be manufactured at the company’s Leicester workshop.
With the Raptor, Ecospin aims to take market share from Segway and other manufacturers of electric personal vehicles suitable for patrolling streets, university campuses and airports. At approximately £6,000, the Raptor is slightly more expensive than the Segway, but has significantly greater range, almost double the top speed, offers a more stable platform from which to work and is road legal. Reportedly, it will travel 12,000 miles on £100 worth of electricity. A quick spin revealed that the throttle works much like a scooter or moped, and there is a brake on the front wheel, alongside regenerative braking through the back wheels.
Since marketing started in April 2012, Ecospin has sold 62 Raptors, and hopes to hit 200 by the end of the year, with deliveries set to start from the end of September. Demonstrators have been sent to the US and interest has come from the UK, the US and the Far East.