British hydrogen bi-fuel breakthrough

29 June 2007 #SMMT News

A British company has a made a major breakthrough in converting a conventional petrol car to run on pure hydrogen. It’s a development which could slash CO2 emissions from cars, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and lead to hydrogen re-fuelling at home rather than on the forecourt.

A bi-fuel Ford Focus, with minimal modifications, has successfully completed initial trials in a programme conducted on behalf of ITM Power Plc by the University of Hertfordshire. During tests the vehicle was able to travel over 25 miles on a single charge of hydrogen – more than the average commuting journey – before being switched back to run on petrol. During the hydrogen-powered journey the car generated no CO2 emissions.

Of equal significance is how the hydrogen was generated and the car fuelled. ITM Power, Europe’s largest electrolyser and fuel cell company, has developed a low-cost electrolyser which can convert renewable energy (wind, wave or solar power) or off-peak electricity into hydrogen. It then used its own prototype ‘home refuelling system’ to fuel the car.

Both the refuelling system, which will be able to generate and store hydrogen at home or at work, and the bi-fuel car are to be publicly demonstrated later this year. Meanwhile, ITM Power is finalising the design of a manufacturing facility in Sheffield which will deliver one of the largest electrolyser production capabilities in the world. Manufacturing is expected to commence as early as the first half of next year.

ITM Power’s CEO, Jim Heathcote, said ‘Both these developments represent a seismic advance in our efforts to cut ourselves free from the dependence on oil and other fossil fuels. The Bi-fuel car and refuelling system clearly demonstrate a simple, convenient and low-cost transportation solution that can significantly reduce greenhouse gases and help mitigate climate change. We believe combining electrolysers with an internal combustion-engined vehicle brings affordable hydrogen transportation forward by many years.’

ITM Power, which has its headquarters in Saffron Walden and research and development centre in Sheffield, is leading the drive to use hydrogen as a green fuel to replace hydrocarbon fuels. The firm is developing a number of devices that will allow homes, offices and factories, as well as vehicles, to use hydrogen, as a non-polluting fuel.

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