Zac, the Prince, and the eco-cars

On Monday, Zac Goldsmith and Prince Charles test drove a series of environmentally friendly vehicles at an event arranged by Revolve, a charity which promotes sustainable transport.

Ecologist photographer Rosalie Portman was there to get an angle on green cars...

'Why do I get the flowery one?!'

HRH Prince Charles steps into a sleek looking hydrogen fuel cell Ford, which features a battery back-up to provide extra thrust much like a Toyota Prius, whilst Zac Goldsmith gets the keys to colourful looking Honda Civic Hybrid, capable of 49 miles to the gallon during city motoring.

'How do you turn it on, then?'

Prince Charles gets behind the wheel of the Saab BioPower flex-fuel car. This model is able to run on a blend of ethanol and petrol at any ratio up to 85 per cent ethanol. Unfortunately, despite the good looks, it only achieves 24 miles per gallon during city driving, and its emissions are some 80 grams per kilometre above what the EU says will be legal by 2012.

'She's a beast...'

The boys look under the hood of the new Honda Civic Hybrid. Its predecessor consistently won environmental awards, and the latest model sports an equally impressive array of efficiency features, including a super-sealed fuel tank which avoids the evaporation of harmful aromatic hydrocarbons. It also only emits 109 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre, meaning it gets an EU thumbs up.


The Prince gives the digital dash-board a dubious look.

'That's gonna cost ya', mate....'

The Prince puts himself the place of a white van driver as he inspects the Modex Box Van (right) and the Nice MEGA Multi-truck (left). Both are electrically powered, and both are currently in production. The Modex delivers goods for Tesco, and can allegedly carry two tonnes of load at 50 mph for 100 miles. Insulting messages scrawled into the dirt on the rear doors come as an optional extra...

'Buckingham Palace? Right you are, guv'nor...'

Charles checks out the inside of a Micro Cab, an ultra-light alternative to the Hackney Carriage which is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. On a full tank, the Micro Cab can travel 100 miles, at up to 45 mph. Just in case the word 'hydrogen' makes you think of Hindenberg news-reels, don't worry - the Micro Cab comes with a built in hydrogen detector, which would warn you in the event of a leak.

'Maybe in my younger days...'

Charles was not to be tempted onto a Vectrix Scooter, which is a shame, as the bikes were some of the most efficient vehicles on display. Accelerating at a hair-raising 0-50 mph in 6.8 seconds, and able to sustain a speed of over 60 miles per hour, it's not a machine that even die-hard petrol-heads can sniff at. Drive it slightly more sensibly, however, and you can eek some 68 miles out of a full charge. The manufacturers claim this equates to five hours of drive time. Possibly the most eco-friendly you can be on the tarmac without pedal clips and a Raleigh chopper, it's time to hang up the hair shirt and don the leathers...

This article first appeared in the Ecologist June 2007