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Thursday, 8 March 2012

Fuel cell technology could be under your car bonnet by 2017

March 8, 2012

Credit: Carbon Trust

Carbon Trust has given a £1m boost to four UK fuel cell pioneers. Their cutting-edge technology could be used under the bonnet of mass-produced hydrogen-powered cars as early as 2017. Major manufacturers have already built hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars, but the real challenge is to bring down the costs and, in the global race to do this, UK technologies are now in pole position.

Having identified an opportunity to combine innovative technology from Runcorn-based ACAL Energy and Sheffield-based ITM Power, the Carbon Trust is providing £500k of funding to the companies to develop a new hybrid high-power, low-cost fuel cell design.

Carbon Trust is also backing a project based at Imperial College London (Imperial) and University College London (UCL) with £500k to develop a fuel cell that could offer significant cost savings by using existing high-volume manufacturing techniques employed in the production of printed circuit boards.

The funding comes from the Carbon Trust’s Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge (PFCC) which was launched in 2009 to support the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s objectives to develop lower cost fuel cells and coincides with the recent launch of the Government’s UKH2Mobility project to ensure the UK is well positioned for the commercial roll-out of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Dr Ben Graziano, Technology Commercialisation Manager at the Carbon Trust, said:

“The UK’s home-grown automotive industry hasn’t been the runaway success story many would have hoped for, but British technology is in pole position to be under the bonnet of a next generation of mass-produced hydrogen-powered cars. After a lot of hype, fuel cell technology is now a great growth opportunity for the UK. The funding that we have received from the Department for Energy and Climate Change has enabled us to support the development of some truly world-class British technologies that could slash the costs of fuel cells and transform how we all get about; by 2017 British fuel cell technologies could be powering your car.”

Simon Bourne, CTO, ITM Power Plc, said:

“The PFCC has afforded ITM the opportunity to build on its ground breaking laboratory results via a structured programme to de-risk its membrane technology. With the high level introductions the Carbon Trust has made with commercial end users and the continued success of subsequent material evaluation studies, ITM is in a very strong position to exploit this exciting new fuel cell technology.”

Amanda Lyne, VP of Strategic Business Development and Marketing, ACAL Energy Ltd said:

"It is excellent news that automotive OEMs are committed to the launch of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles in 2015 timescales, and that the UK will be among the early adopters. However it is clear that continuous efforts to reduce cost will be necessary to ensure that H2FC vehicles are affordable for mass markets. This funding from the Carbon Trust PFCC is perfectly targeted to ensure that British innovation can be at the forefront of the process to get the economics of the technology right."

Carbon Trust’s Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge aims to speed the UK towards world-beating fuel cell solutions that can grab a significant share of a market that the Carbon Trust has estimated to be worth $26bn in 2020. About the projects:

ACAL Energy/ITM Power

Carbon Trust, which has already supported ACAL Energy and ITM Power in de-risking their unique technologies, saw an opportunity to combine these innovations to demonstrate a fuel cell that could be far cheaper to manufacture, more efficient, produce the required power and be compact enough to fit under the bonnet of tomorrow’s cars. ACAL Energy brings a revolutionary new design of fuel cell inspired by the human lung and bloodstream that is highly durable, virtually platinum-free and also significantly cheaper to produce. ITM Power brings a unique membrane technology (which has been evaluated by several global companies), proven to produce world-beating power density (widely recognised as the single most important factor in reducing fuel cell costs), which could be in fuel cell cars by as early as 2017.

ITM’s current order book for delivery in the current financial year is £0.5m. The company has recruited seven staff in the last 12 months and is currently seeking to recruit ten more. ACAL Energy has raised £6.1m of investment since March 2010 and its staff is set to increase from 25 at that time to 35 by April 2012.


The Imperial and UCL project is developing a fuel cell stack that could offer significant cost savings by using existing high-volume manufacturing techniques employed in the production of printed circuit boards. By simplifying the design and manufacture, this could reduce the costs of a fuel cell stack by more than 20%. Imperial Innovations and UCL Business are collaborating with the project to assist commercialisation of the technology.

Source:  Carbon Trust

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