UK launches £25m e-car trial

Electric vehicle rentals used to test popularity

BMW Mini E

Leccy Tech The British government is to launch the "world's largest electric vehicle trial".

Kicking off towards the end of 2009, the £25m project will gauge e-car popularity across the UK by leasing around 340 leccy motors to private drivers and organisations over 12 months.

Several private car manufacturers have already set up leccy vehicle rental schemes in North America. BMWleases its Mini-Es to drivers in the US for around $850 (£520/€610) per month, including maintenance and insurance.

The UK government project comprises eight individual regional trials. For example, 40 Mini-Es will be leased out in Oxford and south-east England, while Mercedes-Benz will supply 100 electric Smart cars for rentals in the West Midlands and London.

In Glasgow, Peugeot will supply 40 leccy-adapted Expert TeePee mpv-cum-vans produced in partnership with battery maker Axeon. Scottish Power will install 40 charging points around the city, from which staff at Strathclyde University will analyse vital statistics.

The EEMS Accelerate Consortium - a small group of independent car makers including the Lightning Car Company, Westfield and Delta Motorsport – will also supply the government scheme with e-cars.

Delta Motorsport announced in April that it had been awarded an R&D grant by the Regional Development Agency for the East Midlands to help it bring a four-seater Ultra Low Energy Vehicle electric sports car with a 250-mile range to a working prototype stage.

Westfield is known to be working on a leccy car capable over making a 0-60mph dash in less than five seconds, but it remains to be seen how practical such a vehicle would be for the government.

Wind energy company Ecotricity plans to feature its leccy version of the Lotus Elise – which the firm claims is the world's first car charged using only energy from wind turbines – in the UK scheme.

Various power companies, regional development agencies and universities across the UK will also be involved in the project by building a charging infrastructure and analysing the way that rental e-cars are used.

Details about how much the various EV leases will cost or how drivers will be able to get themselves onto the rental waiting list haven’t been announced yet. ®

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