Business

UK hydrogen cars project launched

Opel hydrogen car graphics
Image caption Fuel cell cars powered by hydrogen could hit the road in 2015

An initiative to try to make hydrogen-powered cars a commercial success has been launched by the UK government and 13 companies.

"Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are increasingly being recognised as one of the viable options as we move to a lower carbon motoring future," said Business Minister Mark Prisk.

Fuel cell vehicles could hit the road in two or three years.

The UK wants to play a major part in their manufacture for global markets.

In addition to several carmakers, the initiative - called UKH2Mobility - is backed by utility, gas and infrastructure companies, as well as by three government departments.

"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," said Mr Prisk.

'Important step'

The task force will identify the level of investment required in a UK-wide hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in order to make fuel cell cars attractive to consumers.

"We plan to commercialise fuel cell vehicles in 2015 and to achieve this goal a hydrogen charging infrastructure will be required," said Toyota Motor Europe's chief executive Didier Leroy.

The project also wants to identify how the commercialisation of hydrogen powered motoring can help create new jobs and boost the economy.

"Hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles... could represent a large segment of the UK [car] market in the coming years," according to Jerry Hardcastle, Nissan's head of vehicle design and development.

"This is an important step for the automotive sector towards the development of clean vehicle technologies and zero emission mobility."

Truly green?

Image caption UKH2Mobility brings together industrialists and politicians

Hydrogen-powered cars rely on a fuel cell that takes oxygen from the air and combines it with hydrogen from a tank to create electricity.

The electricity is used to power electric motors, which turn the car's wheels.

As such, hydrogen-powered cars can be seen as electric vehicles that are not held back by the limited range of batteries.

Like electric cars, there are no emissions of harmful gases from fuel cell vehicles, although the cars are only as green as the energy sources used to produce the hydrogen that powers them.

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