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    Event review: Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle (LCV2017) event

    The NAA, along with a number of member companies, had a presence at the Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle (LCV2017) event which took place at Millbrook in Bedfordshire on 6-7 September, but the reason for the event’s existence came in a statement from Jaguar Land Rover at the TechFest event in London.…

    On 7 September JLR announced that all its new vehicles will be electrified from 2020, and told us: “We’d love to build EVs in the UK and make the UK a global centre of excellence for battery research and development. However, this is entirely dependent on overcoming infrastructure and capacity issues. Electrification is front and centre of Jaguar Land Rover’s future – but it needs government, academia and business to bolster infrastructure and progress.”

    Back at the LCV2017 event at Millbrook, what JLR wished for in its statement is exactly what was happening. LCV brought together the leading innovators in the UK’s automotive industry, to share best practice through conferences and seminars, and to showcase the progress that was being made via exhibition stands and demonstration vehicles. But perhaps the most important aspect of LCV is the networking.

    Documenting all the vehicles, products, services and presentations from the two-day, tenth running of the LCV event would take many, many pages, so here’s a summary of some key highlights.


    The UK has been busy aiming to bridge various ‘valleys of death’ in the automotive industry over recent years, as Green Car Guide has reported extensively in previous LCV reviews. A number of organisations have been supporting the development and commercialisation of new low carbon technologies through funding competitions, and Jaguar Land Rover has been a central player in many such collaborations.

    Two years ago, at LCV2015, Jaguar Land Rover displayed three Concept_e research demonstrators, with battery electric, plug-in hybrid, and mild hybrid technologies. Since then, the company has been involved in various other projects such as AMPLiFII, a project led by WMG and bringing together Jaguar Land Rover, JCB, Alexander Dennis (ADL), Ariel Motor Company, PAISEU, Vayon Group, Delta Motorsport, Potenza Technology, RDVS, Trackwise, HORIBA MIRA, The University of Oxford, and Axion Recycling.

    The AMPLiFII (Automated Module-to-pack Pilot Line for Industrial Innovation) project is a £14 million consortium funded by Innovate UK to create a complete battery pack assembly research facility to help develop the next generation of vehicle batteries. JLR has designed a high energy module using 18650 cylindrical cells, with parts procured in the UK and assembled at the WMG pilot plant. The project has enabled Jaguar Land Rover to improve its understanding and skills base in cells, module and battery technologies, which has allowed further insight into the development of the associated assembling/manufacturing processes and methods. Integrating cells into modules and packs accounts for more than half of the cost of batteries. By developing skills in design and manufacture, capability and a supply chain can be built in the UK.

    In terms of a vehicle you can buy in the near future, the big JLR electric car news is the Jaguar I-PACE, which is due for launch in 2018. The I-PACE is an all-electric SUV with a range of around 300 miles. You could view the I-PACE interior at the LCV2017 event using virtual reality technology, and the interior looks as highly desirable as the exterior.

    So is the Jaguar I-PACE evidence that the UK is finally manufacturing an aspirational electric SUV? Unfortunately not. Due to lack of capacity in the UK, the I-PACE is being built in Graz, Austria, by independent contract manufacturer Magna Steyr. So although many organisations and initiatives, supported by the automotive industry and government, are beavering away to develop the low carbon vehicle supply chain in the UK, it seems that we’re not quite there yet in terms of mass production of UK electric vehicle technology.


    In order to demonstrate new ultra-low emission vehicle technologies, there have been many UK industry projects, with one of the most newsworthy items being the Ariel HIPERCAR (High Performance Carbon Reduction). Unveiled at the LCV event, the electric HIPERCAR is a 1200bhp, four-wheel-drive electric two-seater with a revolutionary turbine range extender powertrain. Developed by project partners Ariel Motor Company, Delta Motorsport and Equipmake, the HIPERCAR is claimed to be one of the world’s fastest accelerating vehicles, with a 0-100mph time of just 3.8 seconds.

    The HIPERCAR is currently a technology demonstrator, which is why it doesn’t have any bodywork. The collaborative partnership has so far has received early-stage funding of £2 million from Innovate UK. The aim is for the technologies on the HIPERCAR to be developed for use in the wider UK automotive industry. The project will now progress to production with further funding of £6 million.

    Delta Motorsport, one of Ariel’s key partners in the HIPERCAR project, is an engineering company that developed the electric E4 Coupe, which we first drove in 2011. Delta has already worked with JLR on the Concept_e research demonstrators, displayed at LCV two years ago in 2015.


    The recent announcement from the UK government about the 2040 petrol and diesel ban wasn’t news to the UK automotive industry, but it seems to have finally woken up many people, media included, to the fact that electric cars really are the future. However to manufacture the numbers of electric cars that will be needed over the coming years, the UK needs to transform itself from manufacturing very low numbers of batteries for electric cars, to manufacturing millions of batteries (as well as all the other components for EVs such as motors and power electronics). So how are we going to achieve that? Although many new automotive support organisations and initiatives have been created over recent years, the latest is the Faraday Challenge, which aims to develop the UK’s battery capability, scaling up production to build a battery supply chain for the UK.


    There are various companies manufacturing vehicles in the UK, but there are no large, wholly UK-owned car brands that are conducting extensive research and development in the area of ultra-low emission vehicles. But what we do have is a number of smaller manufacturers, and many of these are receiving support for low carbon projects through the Niche Vehicle Network (NVN). Thirty new projects for the niche vehicle sector, recipients of £3.9 million of funding, were announced at LCV2017.


    One project that has been developed with support from the NVN is OakTec’s Rage Buggy, which features an innovative low emission Pulse-R engine. The Rage Buggy aims to demonstrate the new engine, which is currently receiving interest from various markets around the world. The Pulse-R gas engine is a low cost internal combustion engine that has been prototyped, developed and extensively tested using a range of gas fuels, including bio-gas, with exceptional results in terms of efficiency and emissions. Pulse-R has the potential to become a global game-changing technology in small to medium-sized industrial engines and hybrid vehicle range-extenders, in particular for gas fuelled and bio-gas applications.


    As an example of another niche company, with a background in motorsport, Williams Advanced Engineering demonstrated a new lightweight platform for electric vehicles at LCV2017. The new concept is designed to make EVs lighter, safer and greener, with longer range and better performance. The platform features innovations in battery pack design, cooling systems and lightweight structures, which have been integrated into a single, scalable platform.


    Despite the name, Detroit Electric is a new UK-based company (with a Chinese engineering hub) that’s planning on bringing a range of new EVs to market. The company’s current electric vehicle concept is based on a Lotus Elise (which may sound familiar). Detroit Electric didn’t reveal any new vehicles at LCV, but instead it launched a recruitment drive for staff, on the back of securing funding of $1.8 billion.


    Motorists and the media in the UK at last seem to be waking up to the fact that we’re heading for a future of ultra-low emission cars, but attention is also being paid to trucks. The LowCVP had a ‘truck stop’ with a range of low emission powertrains including biomethane and hybrid trucks from Scania, a battery-electric truck from Magtec, and a range-extended hydrogen fuel cell panel van from Arcola. The Truckstop also featured the ‘Ingenium Powercube’ from Off-Grid Energy, a zero-emission off-grid power-supply solution that is currently providing battery-storage systems for UPS’s London distribution depot.


    Magtec is the UK’s largest designer and manufacturer of electric drive systems and components for commercial vehicles. Magtec had a range of electric trucks and buses on show at LCV2017, including a refuse collection vehicle, and the UK’s first electric double-decker bus – a ‘repowered’ York sightseeing bus, which was developed as part of the Clean Bus Technology Fund in 2013.


    Tevva produces EREVs (Electric Range Extended Vehicles) in the 7.5-14 tonne weight category, both new builds and re-powering of older vehicles. The motor is powered by a Lithium Iron Phosphate battery pack that charges from mains electricity in approximately three hours to give 100 miles of range. The battery pack can also be charged on the move, if needed, via an on-board generator that’s driven by a small capacity internal combustion engine.


    There has been much progress with low emission buses, with an increasing range of models available. LCV2017 visitors were able to hitch a ride in four battery-electric buses provided by Magtec and Optare. Buses with electric and other low emission powertrains are now in service around the UK, to find out more see the Green Bus Reports on the LowCVP website.


    With the increasing numbers of vans on our roads due to more deliveries of products purchased online, another focus for the UK has to be on lowering the emissions of vans. Although LCV2017 had a range of products on show from niche manufacturers, that term can’t really be used to describe Ford. The company has a Ford Transit Custom Plug-in Hybrid van under development, with trials, supported by Transport for London, starting in December 2017.


    Although battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles seem to be getting all of the attention, hydrogen is also seen as a key technology for the future. ULEMCo converts standard diesel commercial vehicles, such as vans, to run on hydrogen, as dual fuel hydrogen diesel vehicles, delivering more than a 70% reduction in carbon emissions for commercial vehicles.


    We have cars, trucks, buses and vans all demonstrating a move to lower emissions. Yet London has thousands of diesel black cabs having an adverse impact on local air quality. At last there is progress to report in this sector. LEVC, the London EV Company (formerly London Taxi Company), has developed the all-new electric TX taxi. With eCity technology comprised of a battery electric powertrain with a range extender, this provides over 400 miles of range between charges, including more than 70 miles with zero emissions.


    The future won’t just be low carbon, it will also be a world of connected and autonomous vehicles. LCV2017 had a number of autonomous vehicle projects on display including Streetwise presented by the consortia lead FiveAI, and the GATEway and DRIVEN projects presented by Oxbotica. The Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), a joint policy unit sitting across the Department for Transport (DFT) and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), has been established to keep the UK at the forefront of the development of connected and autonomous vehicle technology.


    Despite the disbelief of many motorsport fans, yes, even motor racing is due to become driverless. The Robocar is the world’s first driverless electric racing car. Roborace is bringing driverless electric technology to Formula E circuits as well as one-off events in global cities worldwide.


    Green Car Guide has been predicting the increased uptake of electric cars for over 10 years; now that lots of other people agree with this view of the future, will the UK’s electricity grid be able to cope? Although recent newspaper headlines might suggest otherwise, the UK’s overall electricity grid will be able to deal with increasing numbers of EVs, however the challenge will be with our local electricity networks, ie, the cables that run from substations to our homes. If clusters of EVs develop and everyone wants to charge their cars at peak times in winter, then some local electricity networks may need reinforcement. A solution to this is smart charging, which will allow the management of charging of EVs at peak times. This could mean that a car is plugged in from 6pm to 6am, and during this 12 hour period, charging might be deferred for 10 minutes at times of high network load. Such an approach could save or delay around £2 billion being spent on the reinforcement of electricity infrastructure.

    The Electric Nation project, hosted by Western Power Distribution and delivered by a partnership of EA Technology, DriveElectric and Lucy Electric Gridkey, is trialling if such a system might work, with trial participants getting a free smart charger. Recruitment for the project has been a huge success, with the 500-700 places on the trial now almost filled.


    As well as smart charging, vehicle to grid chargers are seen as a solution to the capacity issues on local electricity networks. If a million EV drivers were co-ordinated to put energy from their car batteries back into the grid at peak times, this would act as a huge decentralised power station, and would help to avoid the need for new power generation to be built, as well as avoiding the need for high carbon power generation to be used at peak times. Instead, by using EV batteries to balance the load, more renewable energy could be used. No home vehicle to grid chargers have been commercially available in the UK until now, but that’s all changing with the new V2G charger on offer from DriveElectric.


    LCV2017 showcased a huge variety of new vehicle technologies, but if you’re an automotive supply chain company, what are the opportunities for you from the changing industry landscape? And if you don’t currently supply to the automotive industry, are there any opportunities? The Northern Automotive Alliance, in partnership with Automotive Comms, launched a new service at LCV2017, to support companies to make the transition to gain commercial benefit from new Automotive Business Opportunities such as electric and connected vehicles. To find out more, visit

    To read the full LCV2017 review visit

    Paul Clarke

    European Regional Development Fund Northern Powerhouse
    Partners Department for Business Innovation and Skills Finance Birmingham