A senior Ricardo executive believes that the automotive industry can be a global leader in terms of delivering 'clean energy' technologies.

Speaking at an executive round-table session of the Cleantech Forum XVII in Brussels, Giles Hundleby, Ricardo UK Ltd project director for clean energy, said that the automotive industry is uniquely placed to deliver the cross-industry technologies and skills in design, engineering, development and testing, which could enable the rapid adoption of clean-tech solutions across all industries and sectors.

Hundleby cites the way that the automotive industry has reduced regulated exhaust emissions as an example and commends the engineering sytems and skills that the industry has put in place. "The automotive industry has the engineering competence and consumer product design and integration skills to make a significant contribution to the green tech revolution", said Hundleby.

"The established engineering processes, quality systems and manufacturing technologies of the automotive sector are probably amongst the most robust of any industry and have a proven track record in the cost-effective delivery of high value products world-wide," he said.

Ricardo is of course selling its own design and engineering skills to the automotive industry, but it is interesting to note that it has recently become much more involved with the renewable energy sector and is assisting in wind and tidal power projects. In the US, Ricardo is using its automotive engineering expertise to help a company harness and store wind power via a huge underground compressed air reservoir. The reservoir acts as an energy buffer, storing compressed air which can be passed through an expander plant in order to generate electricity whenever it's needed - not just when the wind is blowing. 

Another UK engineering firm, MIRA, this week showcased a removable battery pack concept for plug-in hybrids that could also have applications beyond vehicles.

Ricardo notes that with the advent of hybridisation, the auto industry has added electrical energy management and storage to its core competences and its advanced engineering community is currently reaching out to the energy sector as it considers the potential of plug-in and range-extended hybrids as a means distributed power generation and energy buffering.