Police cars and taxis in the near-future could be powered by hydrogen as part of a multi-million pound government plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions - even though, at present, hydrogen-based fuels require a substantial amount of energy in their industrial production
The Department for Transport has handed £8.8 million in public funds to a project managed by Element Energy and supported by ITM Power, Shell, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai.
Over the next few years, these companies will work to "improve access to hydrogen refuelling stations up and down the country" and "increase the number of hydrogen cars on our roads from this summer", the government claims.
In total, the companies are looking to develop 200 hydrogen-powered vehicles that could eventually be utilised by the emergency services and driven on British roads.
Roads Minister Jesse Norman said that it is "essential" for the government to work with industry towards decarbonising British roads to meet climate targets.
"The innovative new technologies involved present great opportunities for our increasingly low carbon economy," he said.
"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 project will create hydrogen cars that can "travel further around Britain than ever before", he added. It will also see the opening of refuelling stations in Southwark and Isleworth in London, as well as Birmingham and Derby in the Midlands.
As well as a government grant, the project will also get £13.1 million from companies and other sources. This money will enable the "procurement of new vehicles, construction of new stations and upgrades to existing stations".
Dr Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power, a manufacturer of integrated hydrogen energy systems, said: "This project will deliver the largest expansion of the hydrogen refuelling infrastructure ever undertaken in the UK and is a very significant step forward for the UK hydrogen industry."
He continued: "The project will fund ITM Power to build 4 new hydrogen refuelling stations and upgrade 5 further stations. Our partnership with Shell, Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai constitutes a highly coordinated roll out of hydrogen vehicles and refuelling infrastructure."
Paul Van der Burgh, president and managing director of Toyota GB, added: 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 popularise FCEVs and help realize a hydrogen-based society."
However, for hydrogen to have a longer term future as an alternative to fossil fuels, the automative industry will need to develop more cost-effective methods for making hydrogren cost-effectively.
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