UK car manufacturer Axon Automotive has used the Milton Keynes Science Festival to preview its plug-in hybrid lightweight passenger car. The car combines carbon fiber composite construction with a full electric mode for short-run local travel and a petrol or bioethanol-powered engine for longer distances or highway travel.

Axon Automotive says its use of carbon fiber technology delivers excellent power-to-weight ratio and reduces pollution.

“By designing light cars and giving them good aerodynamics you can radically lower vehicle emissions,” says Axon’s Managing Director, Dr Steve Cousins.

“As a plug-in hybrid we have no limitation on range but we can maximize the benefits of electrics day-to-day without the cost and weight of large batteries,” he added.

The company’s car also has a recycling angle. Axon says that the carbon fiber it uses can be recycled, and this car has fashion house-designed seating made from recycled fabrics (jeans and recycled pinstriped suits) and door panels made from recycled carbon fiber.

The Axon car is a multipurpose vehicle built for two adults and has generous amounts of luggage space. Axon says that electric-powered vehicles should be clear about the emissions needed to make the electricity they use. “We have had our greenhouse gas emissions calculated to include typical UK powerstation emissions when driving in electric mode. The result gives us just under 50g/CO2 per km for the mix of electric and petrol used in the Government test. This is just half the level needed for free annual road tax in the UK for this car,” (band ‘A’ is below 100g/CO2 per km = zero road tax in the UK).

Axon Automotive is so far the only UK-owned car company making a plug-in hybrid EV and is funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board and private investment. Axon says the first cars will be on sale in 2011 with full production in 2012.

The manufacturing roll-out will be via small factories in UK and in Europe including Spain, France, Ireland, Denmark, and Holland.