UK examines viability of hydrogen cars

18th January 2012

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Car manufacturers and utilities firms are joining forces in a new government task force to assess whether widespread adoption of hydrogen-powered vehicles is a realistic prospect.

Launched by the business department (BIS), the UKH2Mobility project is aimed at examining the potential role of hydrogen fuel-cell technology in decarbonising transport and providing an area of economic growth.

Bringing together representatives from the automotive sector, energy companies and government bodies, including DECC, the task force has been given to the end of the year to compile a report analysing the emissions benefits of using hydrogen in comparison to other ultra-low-carbon-vehicle options, while considering the level of investment needed to develop the technology and supporting infrastructure.

The group’s remit also includes identifying actions it thinks will be necessary for the UK to become a global leader in the manufacture of hydrogen fuel-cell technology and cars.

If the UKH2Mobility findings are positive, its next task will be to create an action plan to roll out hydrogen-powered cars to consumers as early as 2014/15.

In launching the project, business minister Mark Prisk said: “Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are increasingly being recognised as one of the viable options as we move to a lower carbon motoring future… It is vitally important that we identify what is required to make these cars a realistic proposition for UK consumers.”
The UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Trader (SMMT) welcomed UKH2Mobility as an exciting initiative that will help to accelerate the introduction of hydrogen vehicles.

“It is yet another signal of the UK’s commitment to create a strong ultra-low-carbon vehicle market and attract major international investment in research and product development to secure the long-term success of automotive manufacturing,” commented Paul Everitt, SMMT chief executive.

Ben Graziano, technology commercialisation manager at the Carbon Trust, said: “By investing in pioneering fuel cell technologies and committing alongside some of the leading industry players to the evaluation and potential roll-out of hydrogen to consumers by 2014/15, the UK joins Germany, Japan and the US at the forefront of this major global growth sector.”
Automotive companies signed up to the scheme include Toyota, which has been developing hydrogen techonologies for 20 years, Nissan, which is set to start manufacturing its Leaf electric car in the UK this year and Air Products, which provides the hydrogen for Transport for London’s hydrogen bus fleet.

While sharing much of the same technology as plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells can be refuelled quickly, similar to conventional petrol or diesel cars, and produce no emissions or pollutants.

The launch of UKH2Mobility followed news that the government’s grant scheme offering motorists up to £5,000 for buying a new ultra-low-emission car, has been extended until 2015 and expanded to include vans.

Under the Department for Transport Plug-in Grants, individuals and businesses can apply for grants of up to 25% of the value of eligible cars and 20% (up to £8,000) of qualifying vans.

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