Life without oil!

Microcab has opened its new factory unit in Coventry, where they are building their new hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, branded the H2EV. Partners in the project include Lotus Lightweight Structures, who jointly developed the new chassis for the vehicle. The new range is available as a 4-seater car, light van or taxi and can have either a hydrogen fuel cell drive train or a pure battery EV drive, depending on the user’s requirements and their access to refuelling infrastructure.

Eight of the new vehicles with hydrogen fuel cell drive are currently being built for the Coventry and Birmingham Low Emissions Demonstrator project (CABLED).  This is part of a UK wide trial in which 300 low carbon vehicles will be made available to users and data are recorded to help understand how they are used in everyday life.  The design of the 4-seater, 3-door urban vehicles is completely new, resulting from work with Delta Motorsport, RDM Automotive and Lotus, as part of a Niche Vehicle Network-funded project. The vehicles are due to go on the road in April 2011.

Microcab employs lightweight construction techniques and fuel cell hybrid power trains with electric drive for light transport operations in urban and suburban areas. The hybrid power train architecture combines the power capability of a lithium-ion battery with the energy capability of a hydrogen fuel cell to achieve the necessary vehicle performance with ultra-low energy usage and zero emissions.

Higher temperature PEM fuel cells

Microcab is working with Serenergy A/S of Denmark, which is supplying a system module comprising their Serenus fuel cell, its control system, and power-conditioning circuitry for the hybrid battery and electric drive. Serenergy was the only European company to commercialise high temperature PEM technology which is used in its fuel cells, and which Microcab considers advantageous for its targeted automotive applications. Compared with the commonly used low temperature PEM technology, Serenus fuel cells have a higher internal temperature of 150°C or more, enabling them to operate over a wider range of environmental temperatures, and to use less pure hydrogen fuel. Furthermore, the high temperature exhaust greatly facilitates the use of otherwise wasted thermal energy for heating the vehicle interior, thus increasing overall system efficiency. Serenergy is supplying Serenus 3kW fuel cell systems for use in Microcab’s demonstration fuel cell hybrid vehicles.

Microcab and its associates will initially manufacture 8 vehicles to the new design, which will be supplied to Coventry University for participation in a 12-month trial as part of the CABLED project. These will be the only hydrogen vehicles in the UK low carbon vehicle trials, which are funded by the Technology Strategy Board.

Transport Minister previews hydrogen fleet

During a visit to a state-of-the-art hydrogen fuelling station at the University of Birmingham, Transport Minister, Mike Penning, asserted that hydrogen vehicles will be part of the future transport mix and that the UK must not focus only on battery electric vehicles. “A one size fits all approach to low carbon vehicles simply isn’t feasible. In order for the UK to decarbonise road transport, a mix of technologies, including hydrogen, has to be considered,” he stated. Mike Penning saw the Air Products Series 100 fuelling station and witnessed the fuelling of one of the University’s fleet of hydrogen powered vehicles. The Minister was also able to drive a hydrogen powered Microcab and see how the technology works in practice. After the drive, he added “I am delighted to see first-hand today Air Products and the University of Birmingham driving forward hydrogen fuel technology. It’s state of the art technology like this that will help drive the British economy in years to come.”   The Minister was also shown around the University’s research facility and given a sneak preview of the new hydrogen powered Microcab design!

Launch of third hydrogen station

Dave Wright of Coventry University cut the ribbon to launch the third hydrogen fuel cell station in the Midlands. Christina Fell, Senior Engineer at ARUP, refuelled a vehicle.   Air Products latest Series 100 hydrogen fuelling station is based at Coventry University’s TechnoCentre. The hydrogen station complements those in Birmingham and Loughborough, as part of the British Midlands ‘Hydrogen Ring’.  These fuelling facilities in the Midlands will form the heart of a planned UK hydrogen fuelling infrastructure. Air Products’ Series 100 fuelling station won the Rushlight Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Industry award in 2010.

Jim Cunningham, MP for Coventry South, attended the launch and commented: “This is yet another example of the commitment to research and development at Coventry University.   The West Midlands is known throughout the country for its innovation and high skill level and we need to ensure that we remain at the forefront of research and development by encouraging the development of low carbon infrastructure.”   Ian Williamson, European Hydrogen and Bio Energy Director at Air Products,  said, “The new facility at Coventry University strategically links three cities in the Midlands with hydrogen fuelling stations and will prove to be a vital step towards the creation of a low carbon hydrogen transport infrastructure for the UK.   For members of the public to be able to trial hydrogen cars for the first time on the Midlands’ roads is a hugely exciting development.  It demonstrates that this low carbon technology is available today and with the right fuelling infrastructure, can be used across the country.”   John Latham, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Business Development at Coventry University, added: “Coventry University’s new hydrogen fuelling station and our ongoing investment and research into low emissions related automotive technologies underlines our commitment to providing state-of-the-art expertise to help grow Britain’s low carbon economy.”

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