To date the biggest problem surrounding the development of hydrogen cars is the lack of hydrogen refuelling stations, making it impossible for willing adopters of the technology to make a seamless transition from petrol to hydrogen powered cars.
With only three hydrogen refuelling stations in Britain, the cost of equipping the country with an adequate hydrogen refuelling infrastructure would be billions of pounds.
Traditionally hydrogen has also been ineffective to produce, as well as expensive to transport and produce meaning sceptics have frequently doubted the fuels commercial potential.
ITM Power has attempted to bridge this gap with the development of what it calls the ‘Green Box’, a device the size of a fridge which can installed in a home garage and produce an independent supply of hydrogen.
Where by conventional hydrogen generating machines use expensive materials like platinum to turn water into hydrogen, making the idea of such a device impossible, the ‘Green Box’ has replaced this with a plastic membrane that does the same job at a fraction of the price.
The system works via an electrolyser which produces the gas from water and electricity. An internal combustion generator converts the gas back into electricity to provide power for the home.
It is thought that the device will be able to produce enough hydrogen overnight to provide fuel for 25 miles, and with higher pressure refuelling units in more public places enough hydrogen could be produce for journeys of up to 100 miles.
Although these higher pressure public units are expected to cost up to £20,000, the smaller home unit could cost as little as £2,000, making hydrogen powered car an economically viable option for most.
“Given the pressing need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, especially oil, and to cut CO2 emissions, the future for hydrogen as an alternative means of storing and utilising energy cost-effectively has never been brighter,” – Jim Heathcote, chief executive of ITM.
For existing petrol cars this new hydrogen powered system is also an option, with the addition of three pieces of technology costing around £3,000. These include a hydrogen tank at a cost of around £3000, four hydrogen injectors at £100 each, and a chip to allow the conversion.