This article is more than 1 year old Here's £8.8m to plough into hydrogen-powered car tech

Less Hindenburg, more fuel cells

Alongside its electric vehicle ambitions, the British government is also pouring a few millions of pounds into hydrogen fuel cell-powered car tech trials.

The proposed 200 vehicles – billed by a government statement as "hydrogen powered", something that brings to mind the Hindenburg disaster rather than modern fuel cell tech – will be deployed to the Metropolitan Police and a slack handful of car rental firms. is tipping £8.8m of public money into the project, which is said to have been more than matched by a further £13.1m from private sources.

Roads minister Jesse Norman excitedly babbled, in the usual canned statement: "Hydrogen has huge potential, especially for those making longer journeys and clocking up high mileage. That is what makes this project truly exciting. Not only is it demonstrating the technology in action, but it is also developing the refuelling infrastructure needed for the future."

The American Smithsonian Institute, a science museum, has a simple explanation of how fuel cells generate electricity on its website.

So what are they actually up to with this?

Four new hydrogen refuelling stations are being built in: London (Southwark in inner southeast London and Isleworth out in the western suburbs); Birmingham; and Derby. 200 Toyota-built hydrogen fuel cell cars (possibly the Japanese car maker's Mirai vehicle) will be handed to the Met Police, Europcar and Green Tomato Cars.

Four years ago Toyota said that its Mirai hydrogen fuel cell cars had a range of around 300 miles and a refuelling time of around three minutes; a significant improvement on electric vehicle charging times, which are measured in hours.

It appears, from its involvement in the consortium running the project, and the provision of a canned quote from its "general manager of hydrogen" that Shell will be providing the petrol stations for hydrogen refuelling.

Though Norman, the minister, was keen to boast about the green credentials of the project, the only carbon saving is at the point of consumer use. Current industrial production of hydrogen gas, while less polluting than many other industrial processes, still involves large amounts of electrical energy, the provision of which necessarily involves emitting carbon dioxide. In that regard it is similar to the shunting of blame for carbon dioxide emissions that the general move to electric vehicles involves.

"This is a result of close collaboration across sectors and a significant vote of confidence from the government in the benefits of fuel cell electric technology. The programme is welcome support in our efforts to popularize FCEVs and help realize a hydrogen-based society," said Toyota's UK MD, Paul van der Burgh.

Laws mandating the installation of hydrogen charging stations are currently passing through Parliament as part of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill. ®

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