Waving goodbye to oil?

Hydrogen car launch in Coventry heralds the future of green motoring.


microcab - Hydrogen powered vehicle

Coventry-based niche vehicle manufacturer Microcab is launching its new H2EV hydrogen fuel cell vehicle this week, just days after the UK’s first public hydrogen refuelling station was opened in Swindon.

A fleet of the zero emission machines from Microcab – which is a spin-out company from Coventry University – will be supplied to the West Midlands’ CABLED trial (Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Demonstrator), a project set up to showcase and evaluate low carbon vehicles across the region.

The next-generation H2EV is the brainchild of John Jostins, professor of sustainable transport design at Coventry University, and brings together technical expertise from the automotive and motorsport industries, incorporating a chassis designed by Microcab and Delta Motorsport and engineered by Lotus.

The H2EV is powered by a state-of-the-art 3kW fuel cell, which combines hydrogen from the pump with oxygen from the air to create electricity (which drives the car’s electric motors) and water (the car’s only emission) in a reaction known as ‘reverse electrolysis’.

Unlike a pure electric vehicle, whose only power source – a battery – can take hours to charge, the H2EV can be refilled with hydrogen in a matter of minutes, and can run for 100 miles before needing a top up.

In early in 2011, as part of Coventry University’s Low Carbon Vehicles Grand Challenge – an applied research programme into green automotive technologies – a hydrogen fuel station was launched to provide exclusive support to the Microcab cars and to the CABLED trial.

The opening last week of the UK’s first public hydrogen refuelling station at Honda’s headquarters in Swindon is set to boost the development of hydrogen vehicle technology and further strengthen the country’s hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.

John Jostins, managing director of Microcab and professor of sustainable transport design at Coventry University, said:  “We’re thrilled to be launching our new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle into the CABLED trial here in the West Midlands. It’s our hope that the H2EV, in conjunction with the UK’s burgeoning hydrogen fuelling infrastructure, will cultivate interest in and funding for the UK’s niche vehicle sector, particularly in the field of low emissions automotive technologies where the West Midlands has excelled for years.

“The H2EV represents a significant step in the development of hydrogen as an alternative energy source of the future for cars, and the launch of the new filling station in Swindon alongside the existing private stations at Coventry University and in Birmingham is another milestone for the low carbon industry.”

Dave Wright, director of strategic development at Coventry University, said: “Microcab’s new vehicle, the hydrogen fuelling station on the University campus and the CABLED trial are all accelerating Coventry’s presence in the low carbon and alternative energy sector.

“These green credentials will open up international opportunities for the University to work on projects in hydrogen and fuel cell power, and will put the city at the cutting edge of developments in this exciting technology.”

The role of Microcab and Coventry University in the CABLED trial will be to help examine and evaluate (through the University’s Low Carbon Vehicles Grand Challenge applied research programme) the social and economic impacts of running hydrogen fuel cell vehicles within a city environment, and ultimately gain a better understanding of the market potential of hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

To learn more, please visit www.microcab.co.uk or www.coventry.ac.uk/lowcarbonvehicles.

Microcab H2EV Vehicle Specification
Length:                                                 3.5 metres
Height:                                                 1.7 metres
Width:                                                  1.6 metres
Gross vehicle weight:                    approx. 750kg
Chassis:                                                Lotus bonded aluminium
Crash protection:                             Front offset impact; side impact; roof crush.
Drive:                                                    Twin DC motors, 40kW peak
Main drive voltage:                        72v
Transmission:                                    Belt drive to front wheels
Lithium battery pack:                     4.3kWh capacity
Fuel cell:                                             High temperature Proton-Exchange Membrane (PEM)
Fuel cell power:                                  3.0kW continuous
Hydrogen tank capacity:               1.8kg
Hydrogen tank pressure:             350 bar
Range on full tank:                          up to 120 miles
Max. speed:                                       55mph
Car format:                                         4 seats
Van format:                                        2 seats, 200kg payload
Taxi format:                                       Driver and 2/3 passengers
Taxi details:                                       Flat floor for full accessibility
Legislation:                                        EC Whole Vehicle Type Approval in volume production
Hydrogen system meets EU Regulation No 79/2009

Interesting facts

The world’s first fuel cell was developed by Welsh scientist Sir William Robert Grove in 1842. His invention, which he called the ‘gas voltaic battery’, produced electrical energy by combining hydrogen and oxygen. He later became known as the ‘Father of the Fuel Cell’.

John Jostins, managing director of Microcab and professor of sustainable transport design at Coventry University, is no stranger to innovation – he is one of the men responsible for the creation of R2D2 for the Star Wars movies in the late seventies.