Mike Waters' Blog: 15 January 2009 - Hydrogen green
15 January 2009
Mike Waters is head of market analysis at Arval
A student from Coventry University has designed a new breed of eco-vehicle called the Gym as part of a national challenge. The car is a single-seat, plug-in, electric vehicle... but one with a major difference.
Inside the cabin, the fixtures and fittings are designed to simulate a mobile gym, not only allowing the fitness conscious driver to workout at their leisure but also capturing the energy created to top up the battery charge. Exercises include rowing and bench press but with no stats available regarding how much charge a workout will provide, this concept is certainly not going to be hitting the mass market any time soon.
A technology that could be much more prominent much sooner is hydrogen. The European Commission has already released its first call for research proposals, with 28.1 million Euro's currently available. What's more, this kind of backing is not exclusive to the politicians as manufacturers are also supporting the technology.
In Berlin, GM has started a trial involving the HydroGen4 fuel-cell vehicle which has hit the roads of the German capital as part of the company's zero-emission test program. Having already completed nearly half a million miles of testing in America, the German leg will be the first European outing for the hydrogen-powered electric vehicle.
The car is capable of 0-62mph in 12 seconds, has a top speed of 100mph and most importantly offers a range of around 200 miles - a practicality that you wont find in its electric rivals. BMW has also trialled a hydrogen 7-series in the UK.
In the UK the push toward hydrogen is being led by Birmingham with the university providing the venue for a study into hydrogen-powered vehicles. They are testing five cars, each powered by a hydrogen fuel cell making them pollution-free, virtually silent in operation, able to travel up to 100 miles on a full tank of hydrogen and able to achieve speeds of up to 50mph.
They refuel from the university's own hydrogen filling station, the first in the country, as they travel around the 10 kilometres of roads on its extensive site. The university's school of chemical engineering is studying the effectiveness of the vehicles in comparison to the existing alternatives of petrol, diesel and pure electric vehicles.
Now lets not get carried away, at this moment in time hydrogen is a longer term option than say electric, with fully electric vehicles already making their way into the mainstream. We also have one of those chicken and egg scenarios whereby until the infrastructure is in place and standards on refuelling have been agreed the technology will not be viable for the masses. However, what's important is that it is environmentally friendly and effective, making it extremely likely that hydrogen will have a key role to play in the future of road transport.