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UK offers £10 million prize to green car developers

Competition aimed at everyday vehicles that will be affordable for general public to buy and operate

There are currently around 15,000 electric cars on British roads, but they are held back by a lack of range and driving time (Pic: Telsa)

The UK government is offering a £10 million prize to any engineer, business or university who can get ultra-low emissions vehicles to compete with oil or gas powered cars.

The competition will start at the end of 2013, and is aimed at technological improvements that could make electric or hybrid cars run for as long and as far as fossil fuel vehicles.

The technology must be for cars that are “comparable in price to conventionally fuelled cars”, to ensure it can be applied to a wide variety of makes and models.

“We want more companies to invest in this cutting-edge research so that Britain is the global leader in ultra-low emission vehicles,” said the UK’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.

The minister launched the award at the headquarters of Formula 1 team McLaren, which unveiled an electric-hybrid supercar at the Geneva motor show in March.

The £866,000 McLaren P1 weighs 90kg, and accelerates from 0 to 300 km/h in less than 17 seconds.

Alexander said the Office for Low Emission Vehicles will work with the Technology Strategy Board on designing the prize, along with other partners from industry and the academic world.

Earlier this month the government revealed it planned to invest £500 million in an Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), to research, develop and commercialise the technologies for the vehicles of the future.

In a statement Alexander also said £400 million had been committed in this parliament to help increase take-up of ulta-low emission vehicles, through subsidised unit prices.

Electric cars are relatively rare in the UK, accounting for less than 1% of total light vehicle sales in the country.

Government attempts to stimulate the market include “plug in” grants that offer discounts up to 25% off the cost of new cars, although as of the end of 2012, it had received only 3,236 applications.

In February it said it would cover up to 75% of the cost of installing charging points in garages and driveways; an attempt to overcome the chicken-egg scenario holding investment back.

Last month Toyota Europe said it could walk away from the electric car market unless it is confident that electricity supplies would be decarbonised in the future.

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