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ARM Innovation Hub
5 July, 2006 - 15:41 By Staff Reporter

New venture aims to use wind and sun to power motoring revolution

An East of England joint venture is aiming to revolutionise motoring by enabling drivers to refuel their existing cars at home or work on fuel generated by the wind and sun.

Great Chesterford-based ITM Power believes its electrolyser, which uses water and low tariff electricity, can address the cost issues of hydrogen fuel and the requirement to build a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.

It is now working with the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Aerospace, Automotive and Design Engineering so it can develop the electrolyser refuelling system for use in hydrogen internal combustion engine powered cars.

Hydrogen can be burnt in conventional internal combustion engines and, after conversion, enables the vehicle to produce virtually zero emissions. The joint venture will attempt to improve internal combustion engine emissions with the potential to bring significant advances in the global quest to move to zero carbon fuels.

Jim Heathcote, ITM’s chief executive, said: "We believe this development programme will help to demonstrate the importance of electrolysers for use in the automotive industry.

"The University is renowned for its close automotive industry relationships, excellent test facilities and high calibre engineers. These capabilities are crucial to the success of this development programme."

Derek Eade, director of sustainable energy technologies at the University, added: "We believe that the development programme that we are jointly undertaking could be significant to the automotive industry.

"We hope it will accelerate the market penetration of clean renewable transportation fuels.

"Widely distributed electrolysers could address the cost and availability problems that have prevented the adoption of hydrogen as a competitive fuel. We hope the programme will successfully place the University and ITM Power at the forefront of the hydrogen economy."

ITM will fund the project and will own all intellectual property including any new discoveries made during the development carried out under the programme, which represents an important stage in the company’s evolution as it moves from scientific research to engineering and development.

Exact funding details and timelines are undisclosed, however, initial objectives already identified for the hydrogen combustion development programme are:

o To develop a safe, low-cost modification package for a town car to run on hydrogen and to provide the ability to refuel the vehicle at home or at work, independently of the current fuel delivery infrastructure;

o To investigate the conversion of existing petrol fuelled electrical generating sets to run on hydrogen produced from zero carbon sources, such as solar and wind;

o To investigate how the addition of hydrogen to the diesel combustion process can either reduce fuel consumption or pollutants and to provide the necessary on-board hydrogen generator system for diesel engines.

ITM has identified low cost electrolysers as a vital component to replace hydrocarbon fuels with hydrogen and the programme has been initiated following ITM’s successful cost over life electrolyser testing.

Electrolysers convert water and electricity into hydrogen and oxygen, gases which can be used as fuel for combustion engines, fuel cells, heating and conventional electricity generation.

Existing electrolysers cost in the region of $2,000 (£1,086)/kW while the US Department of Energy 2010 target is $300 (£163)/kW for an electrolyser stack. ITM has already achieved costs as low as $164 (£90)/per kW.

The company is now eager to exploit these patented scientific advances. Its electrolyser success was followed by a share placing which raised over £29 million, enabling ITM to move on to the next stage of its development.

The funds were specifically earmarked to accelerate this development strategy by taking it through a six step process which includes:

o Protection of the company’s intellectual property

o Building large prototypes and undertaking demonstrations

o Field trials

o Production of pre-production designs

o Procuring manufacture of final product

o Commercialisation.

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