STAFF AT University College Cork will be test-driving Toyota’s new hybrid electric car this week before it hits production lines next year.
Members of staff will have the use of the plug-in hybrid for a four-month trial phase and will report back on its performance.
The tests form part of an international conference examining energy-efficient forms of transport at UCC.
The ESB will be showcasing the latest offerings in electric vehicles from Mitsubishi, the iMiev and its Japanese rival, the Nissan Leaf.
Compressed natural gas (CNG) alternatives for future freight transport will be on display in the form of a Mercedes Benz sprinter van.
The vehicles will be on display for the conference opening today while staff members plan to test the Toyota hybrid over short, medium and long journeys to rate its performance.
Conference organiser Dr Aoife Foley of the School of Engineering said driver profiles among staff at the college would give a good indication of the car’s capabilities.
“We are taking delivery of a demonstration model to see how it copes in different situations. We have a wide range of driver profiles here, with staff coming in from different areas allowing us to test the car in short commuter runs to longer journeys,” she said.
The hybrid car runs on a petrol engine and a battery, giving motorists the option to fuel up for longer journeys. “It’s exciting to see how it will perform, the petrol engine element removes a lot of the anxiety about using the car over longer distances,” Dr Foley said.
Some 200 delegates are expected to attend the three-day Irish Transport Research Network conference, including Minister for State at the Department of Transport, Tourism Sport Alan Kelly; UCC president Michael Murphy, and John Mullins, chief executive of Bord Gáis Éireann.
Keynote speakers will focus on the viability of alternative fuel vehicles and energy efficiency in transport. Sessions have been dedicated to pedal power and saddle power to discuss cycling as a growing alternative form of transport and a total of 80 specialist papers on diverse international topics related to energy saving transport will be discussed.