Businesses urged to adopt hydrogen and fuel-cell systems

The government is hoping to speed up the adoption of hydrogen and fuel-cell technologies to create viable end-to-end energy systems that can be readily scaled up.

A £7.5m funding package, delivered through the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), was revealed today at City Hall in London. Competition for funding is planned to open in January 2012 under the title of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells: Whole System Integration and Demonstration.

David Bott, director of innovation programmes at the TSB, said: ‘The new competition is designed to help business-led consortia develop innovative, large-scale application-led projects that integrate hydrogen and fuel-cell systems with key elements of our energy and transport systems and the wider built environment.’

The latest initiative follows an earlier £7m fund from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) via TSB for 15 hydrogen or fuel-cell projects launched in September 2009. Two of the finished projects were on display at City Hall at the announcement of the most recent grant.

ITM Power showcased Hfuel, its mobile, high-pressure hydrogen refuelling station for road vehicles and forklift trucks. It requires an on-site water and electricity supply, but is otherwise entirely autonomous.

The unit is made up of two modules — one containing a 15kg electrolyser to split water into hydrogen and a second to store the gas and dispense it to vehicles at 350-bar pressure.

Speaking to The Engineer, Dr Graham Cooley, ITM’s chief executive officer, said the advantage of the system was that it could be transported by road and set up with minimal site preparation.

‘The installation usually takes less than three days and you can then refuel [a vehicle] in around three seconds — and if the electrolyser is powered by a renewable energy source such as wind power, then the whole process of running a fleet is entirely emissions free,’ he said.

The hydrogen can be used for combustion or purified for use in hydrogen fuel cells. Indeed, the other demonstrator project alongside the Hfuel was a hybrid hydrogen fuel-cell black cab developed by Intelligent Energy. It has a novel proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell with an efficiency of around 65 per cent, as well as a lithium-ion battery.

Dennis Hayter, vice-president of business development at Intelligent Energy, said: ‘London is consistently failing to meet particulates targets set by the EU and taxis along with other vehicles are a major factor in this… Our demonstrator is designed with taxi drivers in mind and has a range of 250 miles with rapid refuelling — all with zero emissions.’

A fuel-cell hybrid black cab will be seen on the streets of London in 2012. Click here to read more.