Programme seeks to prepare UK for hydrogen vehicles

Companies developing hydrogen vehicles and infrastructure are to collaborate with government and establish a UK roadmap for deploying the technology.

Business minister Mark Prisk launched the new programme — named UKH2Mobility — at the Royal Society on 18 January in front of 13 industrial partners, including Air Products, Vauxhall Motors and Johnson Matthey.

The programme aims to ensure the UK benefits from the anticipated commercialisation of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in 2014–15 by creating a plan to encourage the manufacture and sale of the technology in this country.

Addressing the audience, Prisk said: ‘You all know that hydrogen fuel-cell technology has long been talked about. It has been tipped by many of the technology experts as being the genuine long-term alternative to conventional fuels.

‘UKH2Mobility’s role will be to identify the key barriers [facing the technology] and to help co-ordinate how they can then be surmounted.’

Prisk revealed that he expects to have a full roadmap in place by the end of this year.

He said: ‘The government is supporting this market by investing £400m to support the development, demonstration and deployment of these vehicles.’

In addition, he explained that £7.5m from TSB’s £24m low-carbon vehicle competition would be specifically aimed at the development and commercialisation of hydrogen fuel cells.

‘The very fact that we have already attracted some of the world-leading companies to this scheme is testimony to the character, strength and capabilities of this country, and the fact that people already see the UK as one of the best places to design, engineer and produce this new form of technology,’ said Prisk.

Industry signatory partners include companies from the utility, gas, infrastructure and global car-manufacturing sectors. All of the participants have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to agree to share their knowledge and expertise.

Jerry Hardcastle, vice president for vehicle design and development at participating company Nissan, said: ‘Engineers do not readily collaborate across companies. To get us to collaborate we need a catalyst and the announcement of this government-supported UKH2Mobility project is just that catalyst.’

UKH2Mobility will deliver its evaluation of the potential of hydrogen as a transport fuel by the end of 2012. If the results are positive, an action plan will be developed to work through the steps needed to get the UK ready to be one of the first markets for the global commercial roll out of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.

Hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles themselves share a large proportion of their electric motor and drivetrain technology with other electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles; it is the storage and conversion devices that are different. The fuel cell is an electrochemical device that can be refuelled quickly and will continue to generate power so long as it is fed with hydrogen fuel.

They are claimed to be highly efficient devices (50–60 per cent efficiency compared with an average of around 20 per cent for internal combustion engines) that emit no pollutants from the tail pipe.