Firm launches home hydrogen station

A cheap way to fuel standard cars using hydrogen has been unveiled by a Sheffield firm.

Fuel cell company ITM Power has come up with a system that means hydrogen can be generated at home and adapted for use in conventional petrol engines for journeys up to 25 miles, with the prototype vehicle - a Ford Focus - switching back to petrol for longer trips.

ITM Power said that until now, the cost of equipment needed to convert water and electricity into hydrogen, which included platinum, has been a barrier to its wide-scale use as a fuel source. Only a handful of hydrogen-powered cars exist and hydrogen filling stations are almost as scarce. Also, existing road-going hydrogen vehicles either run on liquid hydrogen, which is hard to store, or use fuel cells to drive electric motors.

The firm said it has taken ITM's scientists eight years to create this low-cost means of manufacturing hydrogen. Their patented re-fuelling station uses a unique low-cost material which dispenses with the need for platinum and can be manufactured at 1% of the traditional cost, thereby significantly reducing its costs in mass production.

The re-fuelling system works using an "electrolyser" which converts water and electricity into pure hydrogen and oxygen. For a totally green solution the electricity used can be sourced from wind, wave, solar or hydro-electric generating stations.

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