UK to study hydrogen fuel infrastructure

Government launches 'UK H2Mobility' project

DESPITE years of being heralded as the 'next big thing' there's still a healthy scepticism about battery-powered cars and bikes ever becoming truly viable as mainstream transport.

That's largely down to their limited range, a result of heavy batteries that can't hold a candle to the power density of good old fashioned petrol, and the lengthy charging times that make refuelling stops into overnight stays.

Hydrogen fuel cells, while still a long way from mass-production reality, arguably offer something of a solution. Using chemical reactions to turn hydrogen straight into water and electricity, they offer better power-to-weight performance than batteries and can be refuelled simply by adding more hydrogen. And now the Government has announced a project to investigate the nitty-gritty realities of turning the potential of hydrogen as a mainstream fuel into a reality.

Its newly-announced UK H2Mobility project will investigate hydrogen's potential as a fuel, including the problems of a refuelling infrastructure (as a gas, hydrogen can't be lugged about in tankers or stored in underground reservoirs as easily as petrol, and might instead need a nationwide network of pipes, just like the gas that powers your central heating).

Several pioneering companies have signed up to share their knowledge and expertise, including Intelligent Energy, which has been pioneering hydrogen fuel cell motorcycles and is tied up with Suzuki to develop the technology further, notably being behind the firm's Crosscage concept bike and its Burgman fuel cell scooter.

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. They are highly efficient, can be fuelled in minutes, travel an equivalent range to a conventional combustion engine, and have zero tail-pipe emissions.

“UKH2Mobility will bring together industry expertise to establish the UK as a serious global player in the manufacture and use of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles and the supporting infrastructure.”

Dr Henri Winand, Chief Executive of Intelligent Energy said: “The UK H2Mobility is a ground breaking industry led task force. Its job is to roll its sleeves up and ensure that the UK is well positioned for the commercial roll-out of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles from 2014/15 as part of a balanced portfolio of drivetrains. Fuel cell vehicles, storage and refuelling technology are here today, they work! We now need to look at how we can make these elements, together with the hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, work most effectively to enable the UK to take full advantage of hydrogen as a transport fuel; stimulating inward investment, GDP growth and securing and creating new jobs.”