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Riversimple Hydrogen car to begin Leicester trials

Hydrogen fuel-cell powered cars will appear on Britain’s roads for the first time by spring 2012 through a trial in Leicester.

The city council and car manufacturer Riversimple have agreed to lease 30 of the cars to motorists under a 12-month pilot scheme also involving Leicester and De Montfort universities.

Leicester was chosen because its manageable size meant it would only need one hydrogen fuel pump. If successful, the pilot could lead to the city becoming the location for a Riversimple factory producing 5,000 cars a year.

The firm is expected to announce a second agreement with another city soon.

‘The age of fossil-fuelled cars may not be over yet but it is surely dying,’ said Riversimple founder Hugo Spowers at the car’s launch in Leicester yesterday. ’Contrary to what we usually hear, sustainable, near pollution-free transport is possible, here and now, using existing technology.’

Riversimple spokesperson Charlie Burgess told The Engineer the leasing model would help further reduce the cars’ environmental impact.

‘The whole model of how car sales run is completely unsustainable,” he said. ’Rather than buying new a car and then selling it and buying another one three years later, this will keep the original cars on the road for as long as possible.’

With costs estimated at around £200 a month plus fuel and with no initial outlay, the leasing system could also make driving cheaper.

The 350kg car is powered by a 6kW fuel cell and has a 240 mile range, a top speed of 50mph and energy efficiency equivalent to 300mpg of petrol.

The high level of efficiency is provided by the car’s separate systems for accelerating and cruising, and its lightweight design.

Most cars only accelerate for around five per cent of the time they are on the roads but use about five times the amount of power as when they are cruising, so the Riversimple car decouples energy production for the two processes.

Ultracapacitors capture waste energy from the brakes and reuse it for accelerating, meaning the fuel cell only needs to provide the smaller amount of power for cruising.

The smaller fuel cell and the removal of a gearbox and driveshafts reduce the weight of internal components. Under a principle known as mass decompounding, this means the car can also have a lighter chassis to support the engine and therefore needs even less power.

A lighter car also makes power-assisted brakes and steering unnecessary and so more mass decompounding and efficiency improvements can take place.

This effect is further magnified in the Riversimple car by the use of lighter, composite materials for the chassis.

Click here for a more in depth look at the concept from The Engineer.

Readers' comments (13)

  • What a great way of kick starting the change to zero emission hydrogen fuel cells.

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  • These vehicle are not zero emission. The hydrogen has to be generated somehow, and this involves some sort of fossil fuel input.

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  • From what source is the Hydrogen coming ? It can only be called zero emissions if it's wind/ tidal/ wave/ solar/ hydro (maybe nuclear ?). Otherwise, while interesteing, this is only a(nother) zero local emissions scheme, and may sadly therefore be irrelevant. Hydrogen only has credibility when zero emissions electricity comes on line, but please, keep trying, just don't pull the wool over the eyes of ignorant politicians all the time.

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  • Where is the Hydrogen coming from and how much Carbon Dioxide was produced in its production?

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  • Let us not forget that car fuel is a by-product of oil refinement. How are the plastic components replaced I wonder......

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  • Yes it may not be zero carbon as the hydrogen has to come from somewhere. However hydrogen produced electrically at night could be an excellent means of demand smoothing, resulting in greater efficiency of the grid.

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  • Hydrogen reformed from fossil fuels contains small amounts of sulpher that is poison to a fuel cell. Its much purer to produce hydrogen by splitting water, preferably using a renewable energy source such as solar or wind.

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  • Hooray for Leicester! My home town gets in front of the usual suspects to support something like this. If I was still living there I'd be interested in taking part.

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  • Of course Birmingham were doing this almost 2 years ago so they are not the first...

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  • To all of those complaining about it not being zero emissions --- the Only zero emission method of travel is Shankey's Pony ( otherwise known as walking - Shankey never had a pony!) & then it's only zero emission if you're bare foot !!! :-)
    But at least this is a step in the right direction.
    Who knows , maybe BMW, AUDI & MB might take notice!

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