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by Tim Beissmann

The UK Government has launched a new cross-industry program as it aims to become a global leader in hydrogen fuel cell vehicle infrastructure, technology and production within this decade.

The UKH2Mobility program will evaluate the potential for hydrogen as a future fuel source for vehicles and develop an action plan for the anticipated roll-out to consumers in 2014/2015.

Daimler AG, Hyundai Motor Company, Nissan Motor Manufacturing, Tata Motors European Technical Centre, Toyota Motor Corporation and Vauxhall Motors are among a group of 13 industry participants involved in the program.

They will be supported by three UK Government departments: the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Department for Transport, and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

All participants have signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to share their knowledge and expertise to maximise the program’s potential.

UK Business Minister Mark Prisk said the country was determined to become a key early market for ultra-low-emission vehicles.

“This country has a number of world-class companies that are developing exciting technologies in both the hydrogen energy and automotive value chains and it is vitally important that we identify what is required to make these cars a realistic proposition for UK consumers,” Prisk said.

“UKH2Mobility will bring together industry expertise to establish the UK as a serious global player in the manufacture and use of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles and the supporting infrastructure.”

Vauxhall used the program’s launch to unveil its fourth-generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the ‘HydroGen4’ SUV.

The UK division of General Motors has been involved in hydrogen fuel cell investment and research and development for more than a decade, and expects to have its technology on the market by 2016.

“The launch and successful roll-out of these vehicles will now depend on the availability of hydrogen to the consumer in a real life environment,” Vauxhall director for government affairs and public policy Bill Parfitt said. “We therefore greatly appreciate this very timely initiative, gathering various stakeholders, under government lead, to establish an adequate strategy for future hydrogen development in the UK.”

Toyota Europe president and CEO Didier Leroy said his company had been involved in hydrogen research for almost 20 years and was set to beat Vauxhall to market with a hydrogen-powered sedan based on the Toyota FCV-R Concept, which was unveiled at the 2011 Tokyo motor show.

“We plan to commercialise fuel cell vehicles in 2015 and to achieve this goal a hydrogen charging infrastructure will be required,” Leroy said. “That is why we welcome the establishment of the UKH2Mobility Group to confirm the potential for hydrogen as a low carbon fuel in the UK. A close and positive working relationship between vehicle manufacturers, infrastructure companies and Government is of vital importance.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles combine the advantages of electric cars (zero harmful tailpipe emissions, quiet operation) with the convenience of long range and fast refuelling, and are viewed by many as the best short- to medium-term fuel solution for personal vehicles.




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