Researchers from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), a collaboration between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the University of Bristol, are eagerly awaiting the delivery of an electric sports car that is being donated by Ecotricity .
The car will arrive at the BRL on 20 June 2013 during Green Transport Week .
One of a handful of prototypes, the car was designed by Westfield Potenza (WP), as part of Ecotricity founder Dale Vince’s electric car programme that created the ‘Nemesis’ supercar which beat the UK electric vehicle land speed record in September 2012.
The vehicle has been valued at around £65,000 and will help the researchers to influence the future design of transport using robotics technology.
A great champion of electric cars as a way of cutting carbon emissions from transport, Dale Vince said he could not find a decent electric car to buy six years ago – so decided to build one himself. Two avenues were pursued: forming his own crack-team of former Formula 1 engineers to build the Nemesis; and teaming up with Westfield Potenza to convert an existing Westfield sports car into a 100% electric Westfield Sport-e. In the meantime the motoring world has caught up and Ecotricity is now in possession of a small fleet of Nissan LEAF electric cars.
Dale Vince said, "We are always looking to see where the next cutting edge developments in the field of green technology may be found. We can see some really exciting possibilities in merging electric vehicles and robotics. We are keen to quite literally drive green technology where we can and we believe that the brilliant research team at the BRL will make good use of the Westfield Sport-e in helping to develop the transport of the future.”
Dr Matt Studley from UWE Bristol has worked with Ecotricity on a range of projects over the past few years. He says, "This generous gift from Ecotricity will enable us to move into a new area. We will be taking the robots out of the lab and into the real world. We believe that the future of transport lies in the coming together of electric vehicles and robotics.
"The electric car is extremely valuable to us since it will enable us to kick-start our research work in this area. It will also be extremely valuable for students studying our Automotive Engineering programmes . I firmly believe that the future of the car lies in the development of vehicles that are driven by robots rather than humans; I believe we will soon be passengers in our car and we will no longer need to learn how to drive. At the moment human drivers are left guessing others' intentions from brake and indicator lights, but soon when cars wirelessly talk with each other traffic will flow faster and smoother with fewer accidents.
"Of course the driverless car is not an entirely new idea, the Google car retrofits have been plying routes in the state of Nevada for the past nine years. As far as we see it the only thing that is preventing the development of the autonomous electric motor car in Europe is legislation that defines vehicles as carriages with a driver. This will, I believe, be challenged.
"The electric autonomous vehicle is where the future lies in terms of safety and sustainability. We are all looking forward to getting to work on the car and to exploit possibilities to the full.”
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