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Morgan’s LIFEcar

Where in the rule book does it say that eco-friendly cars have to be ugly?

The world loves the concept of driving without destroying the ozone layer any further, but not many want to be seen in the bulbous little contraptions that look as if they’re powered by remote control.

Let’s face it: the recent offerings from the designers of environment-conscious motoring haven’t been exactly easy on the eye – until now, that is.

British defence technology company, QinetiQ, collaborated with Oxford University and Morgan Motor Company to create the LIFEcar, an electric sports car powered by a four-stack hydrogen PEM fuel cell that emits only heat and water vapour as by-products.

The project is headed by Hugo Spowers of RiverSimple, a business concerned with developing environmentally friendly transport solutions for the future.

The LIFEcar (an acronym for Lightweight Fuel Efficient Car) is a sleek, sexy departure from what we’ve seen so far in the way of eco-friendly cars.

It features the kind of state-of-the-art technology that only an arms company and an A-list university can offer and promises to deliver in both performance and fuel economy. Based on Morgan’s Aero-8 roadster, it certainly looks like a roaring sports car from every angle with its aerodynamic lines and signature Morgan design elements like the round headlights and the extended, low-reaching grille.

The motor runs quietly and efficiently, capable of clocking 0-60mph in a respectable seven seconds. It’s easy on the pocket too: the LIFEcar will give you 250 miles on a single tank of hydrogen.

Here’s how it works: the fuel cell converts the hydrogen to electricity which is then channelled to four electric motors at each wheel. This energy is what propels the car forward. The same kind of engine design has been used in the engineering eco-friendly cars before the LIFEcar, but what makes this one different is what they call regenerative braking.

It’s simply this: every time the driver slow the car down, the energy expended during that action is scooped up for storage. Other hydrogen-powered vehicles store this power in onboard batteries usually made of heavy materials, but LIFEcar technology allows that this energy be diverted to capacitors where it stored for acceleration.

The LIFEcar was unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show in March this year to an expectant global motoring community and was treated to a lukewarm reception. Critics said that while the energy-saving technology was indeed revolutionary, the designers had sacrificed a great deal in the way of in-cabin comfort, taking away from the overall appeal of the car.

It appeared fragile and somewhat unfinished, they said about the aluminium, leather and wood finishing inside the car. Others had nothing but praise for the British eco car, saying that it takes the science of “green” automotive design several strides forward, driving yet another nail into the coffin of the internal combustion engine. What’s not to like?

It’s economical, attractive, environmentally friendly and could soon be in production if Morgan and its associates have their way. It’s definitely something to look forward to.

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