Guest Blog: Smarter Regions - Collaborative Initiatives at London Metropolitan University

04 Apr 2014

Knowledge exchange and applied research is enabling drivers and firms to adapt to the innovative clean-air technology of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs), and to communicate the benefits to mainstream markets more effectively. The creative industries team (CIRCa) at the Faculty of Business & Law, London Metropolitan University, in collaboration with business and local authority partners, supports the government’s drive to stimulate ‘green growth’, enabling us to be in the vanguard of the ‘once a lifetime technology change’ in the global automotive sector.

Economic and employment benefits to regions arise, not only from production and export, e.g. in North East England, but also from Research and Development, e.g. in East Anglia. Furthermore, an emerging downstream industry is developing to ‘refuel’ ULEVs, ‘Source London' being a notable example. Empirical evidence suggests that early adopters have converted with relative ease and some enthusiasm to new routines for driving and recharging. However, a significant marketing challenge remains: how to convince the more cautious, perhaps skeptical mainstream users who must overcome their understandable ‘range anxiety’ and other concerns? 

Consumer surveys confirm that awareness remains low. Negative stereotypes persist, including associations with golf buggies, dodgem cars and milk floats. Transnational collaboration through the EU-funded the E-mobility North Sea Region Network ‘E-mobility NSR’ has underlined the significance of initiatives that offer would-be users hands-on experience, and advice tailored to personal and business requirements and practical support in each locality. Initiatives grounded at the local/regional scale and internet groups for ‘people like us’ are needed to complement national campaigns, such as the UK’s ‘Go Ultra Low’.

The  Faculty of Business & Law’s ‘Z-NET’ project led by Roger Bennett, Rita Kottasz and myself,  is facilitating exchange of good practice, and more joined-up marketing through partnerships between business and local government. Across Europe, city-regions are championing the economic as well as environmental benefits of the new generation ULEV cars, vans, buses and motorcycles.

In April 2014, the Faculty is proud to host the final E-mobility NSR international conference: ‘Electric Vehicles and Eco Cars: Solutions for Green Growth’. Such is the confidence of our delegates that three teams will be driving their Tesla sports ULEVs home to Denmark and the Netherlands in a real-world but controlled test drive.

Dr Stephen Shaw, Faculty of Business and Law, London Metropolitan University