THE dream of an electric car outside every home is a step closer to reality – thanks to a defence firm based in Fife.
A new £3.5m facility will turn a material from meteorites into a substance that could dramatically extend the range of electric cars.
Most current models run out of power after 100 miles or so but scientists based in Glenrothes, Fife, may be able to extend that by hundreds of miles.
If successful, motorists are likely finally to give up on their diesel and petrol cars and buy electric vehicles.
Raytheon, a leading supplier of defence equipment and training to the military, is opening a foundry at its Glenrothes factory.
They will be working with silicon carbide, a material that can be found in meteorites.
The foundry will heat the silicon carbide to up to 400 celsius.
The result, the team hope, is a material that can be used in engines without the need for heavy cooling systems.
And that means the range of an electric car could be significantly extended. The technology could also be applied to jet engines, saving on fuel bills.
Raytheon hope the technology will be ready for use in as little as five years.
Neil MacTavish, business development executive with the company, said: “Electric cars will be able to handle more power, operate at a higher power and at higher temperatures.
“There would be no need for the heavy cooling system that currently exists.
“The electric car would weigh less, and this could make the batteries last longer.
“The product is in the development stages, but we would hope to see this material appear in electric cars in five years.”
He added: “Silicone carbine can run an aero engine at slower speeds. Potentially this could mean savings to fuel economy. Improving the efficiency of aeroplanes could lead to savings for passengers.
“We have had a lot of interest from the oil industry, as silicone carbine could extend the life of oil drill tips by 50%, which could potentially save days, and millions of pounds of work.
“We are probably the most advanced in how to implement the technology in the world. What we are looking to do is stretch the boundaries.”
The Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, officially opened the foundry today.
He said: “The silicon carbide foundry is the first of its kind in the UK. This scientific and engineering endeavour born out of Raytheon Glenrothes has placed Scotland in a unique leadership position globally, enhanced by universities across the UK.”
Electronic vehicles are popular with green campaigners, but can only travel around 100 miles before needing a full recharge, which can take hours.
Last year it was revealed that Edinburgh Council had spent £70,000 on three electric cars but the vehicles had proved unpopular.
The expensive cars only did 1,500 miles in their first six months, compared with the council average of 3,600.