London, June 17 (ANI): A new hydrogen-powered city car has been launched in the UK, which attempts to sidestep the three main hurdles to the dream of hydrogen-fuelled highways.
According to a report in New Scientist, like other hydrogen cars, the Riversimple Urban Car (RUC) is powered by a fuel cell that combines hydrogen with oxygen from the air to release energy and nothing more toxic than water.
Its makers claim that by starting from scratch to build a small, efficient car, they can make it commercially viable more quickly than the major auto manufacturers experimenting with adapting more conventional cars to hydrogen.
Riversimple is aiming to lease its first fleet in 2011 and mass produce in 2013.
Using hydrogen to power cars can cut urban pollution and carbon emissions too, if the hydrogen comes from a renewable source or is used efficiently enough.
The lack of fuelling infrastructure aside, the three main problems with building a hydrogen car are that fuel cells contain expensive platinum, are difficult to make powerful enough to power a conventional vehicle, and the hydrogen they use is hard to store in large quantities.
"Those barriers are very real, but were created by the auto giants themselves," said Riversimple founder and automotive engineer, Hugo Spowers. "If your car is light and efficient enough, the hurdles are lowered," he added.
The RUC is about the size of a Smart car, weighs 350 kilograms (772 pounds) and uses a relatively cheap 6 kilowatt fuel cell, compared to the more sophisticated 100 kW cell used by the FCX Clarity.
"The fuel payload need not be huge, either: just 1 kg (2.2 lb) of liquid hydrogen (26 litres at normal pressure) is enough to take the car 300 kilometres," said Spowers.
The car's top speed is 50 miles per hour (80.4672 kilometres per hour), and it can accelerate from 0 to 30 mph (48 km/h) in 5.5 seconds.
Even using hydrogen derived from natural gas, its well-to-wheel carbon emissions for urban driving are only 30 grams/km.
The RUC doesn't have a battery, but relies instead on a bank of ultracapacitors, which are able to take on and release energy much more rapidly, and provide most of the power to get the car moving.
Rather than varying output to match demand, the fuel cell runs at a constant rate and trickles energy into the ultracapacitors, alongside the energy reclaimed when braking.
"When you accelerate, 75 per cent of the power comes from the ultracapacitors," said Spowers. (ANI)