BIRD'S EYE VIEW: Electric Hooner reveals Tesla sportscar love
13 November 2008
Guy Bird is our editor-at-large and political columnist
We know about new transport secretary Geoff Hoon and his alleged love of cycling, but now he's revealed some go-faster auto dreams - and guess what - they're electric, writes Guy Bird
Could Geoff Hoon turn out to be less annoying than we feared as transport secretary? If his presentation at the Electric Vehicles International Experts meeting last month is any guide, there are a few positive signs.
In that speech he unsurprisingly 'bigged up' various low CO2 vehicle solutions, going for spins in both an electric van already used by Tesco and Center Parcs and an electric sportscar - "I thoroughly enjoyed my drive in the latest Tesla this morning" - but he also seemed to realise such vehicles are not yet the panacea other political types have suggested previously.
Here's an excerpt: "As we all know, we aren't going to get there overnight. For electric vehicles, we know many of the hurdles. Primarily, the cost of batteries but also their range, the development of recharging infrastructure and the upfront development and retail cost of new models."
These are not the words of a dreamer at least. He goes on with these not so impractical thoughts: "There's a growing recognition of the need to adapt - not just among environmental campaigners or the political elite, but right across the country. We can take advantage of that. For instance, here in the UK we now have more families with two cars than no cars. What if we can persuade them to make their 'runabout' their green car? Of course, there's still the issue of upfront cost for electric cars. But we already know that electric vehicles can be run at a fraction of the price of regular petrol models and the servicing costs are lower as well."
From a fleet angle, pool cars, urban depot-based delivery vans and low mileage fleet drivers could be some of the first real beneficiaries of electric power.
The reason why the 'electric experts' bothered to listen to the transport secretary's speech was no doubt the announcement of various cash pledges to help the 'greening' process.
The first is the Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Demonstration Programme. Through the scheme the Government will fund two or three electric vehicle demo projects across the UK, aiming to run up to 100 vehicles emitting under 50g/km of CO2 to test their wider viability. The second is up to £20m for UK research and development competitions to improve the performance of electric, hybrid and low carbon vehicles. And finally, as an added detail to the already established DfT's Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Programme - aimed at public sector fleets early-adopting such technology - Hoon announced more fleets getting involved and also the shortlisted companies competing to become the official eco vehicle suppliers.
The bigger fleet list now adds Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, and Newcastle City Councils along with the Coventry Low Carbon Fleet Partnership and those pitching to supply low carbon vans includes Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Land Rover, Nissan, Smiths and even LDV.
Maybe Tesla's first UK fleet deal could be just around the corner. You never know.