Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Transport, announced a new project last week called the Ultra Low Carbon Car Challenge, inviting the UK motor industry to submit proposals for a new car which is capable of being mass-produced in the next four to eight years.
Audi's A2 1.2 TDI nearly meets the Government's criteria already, although the car is not imported to the UK because, according to Audi, the main stumbling block to bringing it to here is the lack of Government support.
At least one proposal may be taken forward under the Department for Transport's New Vehicle Technology Fund which has a budget of £10 million over three years, which will go towards the cost of building a demonstration vehicle.
The criteria for the proposed vehicle are that it should be a full-sized family car, affordable and capable of being mass produced within a short to medium term timescale, have carbon dioxide emissions of less than 90g/km, be fuel efficient and travel about 1,000 miles between refills while capable of returning 80mpg or more.
But for the past two years Audi has offered the A2 1.2 TDI in some European markets and it fills most of the criteria.
The Audi has ultra-low drag aerodynamics, a special transmission and other technology to help it achieve fuel consumption of 94.6mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 81g/km. An Audi spokesman said: 'The difficulty we have is that the kind of tax incentive drivers in Germany receive for choosing this vehicle are not available in the UK.
'Although it would qualify for the new AAA band for vehicle excise duty, the technology used on it is quite expensive. I would suggest that faced with the choice of having a less powerful car that is more expensive than the one using conventional technology just to benefit the environment, most people would go for the cheaper car.
'However, if the Government was to agree to support this vehicle, we would review our decision not to bring it to the UK.'
Darling is keen to provide a stimulus to the UK car industry towards more environmentally friendly cars. He said: 'Climate change means we must change the way we make and use energy. And it is also an opportunity for this country to exploit our technology and skills to build a competitive advantage in the global market place – including the multi-billion pound automotive sector.'
|Economy vehicle fact file|
|Proposed vehicle||Audi A2 1.2 TDI|
|Size:||Family car||Five-door, four-seater|
|Price:||Affordable||£12,300 (Euro 18,700 in Germany)|
|On sale||4-8 years||Since April 2001|
|Range:||1,000 miles||707 miles (with 34-litre tank)|