Car breaks down myth that hydrogen power goes slow

A luxury hydrogen-powered car unveiled at this year's Paris Car Show has unequivocally dispelled the myth that fuel cell cars would always be cumbersome and never reach very high speeds.

Made by BMW, the H2R has already set nine world records and can travel at speeds of up to 300 miles an hour, making it the fastest car that runs on hydrogen fuel cells in the world (see related story).

The H2R‘s launch coincided with a green vehicle showcase at Brighton, in the UK, where a hydrogen fuel cell bus, supplied by Transport for London, and a diesel-electric hybrid taxi were among the low-carbon models included in the expo.

British Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Margaret Beckett, said at the showcase that she was a strong supporter of greening vehicles to generate real carbon and pollution reductions.

“We cannot underestimate the importance of the transport sector in the fight against climate change and in the battle for cleaner air,” stated Ms Beckett. “Road transport contributes around a quarter of the UK’s total carbon emissions, as well as half of the smog-forming pollutants linked to lung cancer and asthma and implicated in the premature deaths of up to 24,000 people each year.”

The Energy Saving Trust (EST) has been delivering Government-funded programmes for a while now to encourage production and take-up of clean vehicles. Chief Executive of EST, Phillip Sellwood, said the trust’s main objective was to reduce the carbon emissions profile of the UK vehicle fleet.

A clean up programme run by EST last year helped to save twice as many NOx emissions and particulates that contribute to poor air quality, according to Mr Sellwood.

“In order to improve the air we breathe, it is imperative that industry becomes more responsible about its transport needs and its environmental impact,” he said.

He added that collaboration between the EST and the Government would continue to work towards creating cleaner transport, and projects such as the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone’s congestion charges and proposed zero emissions zone (see related story would help to improve the quality of Britain’s air.

Mr Livingstone has encouraged local authorities to switch to alternative fuels for their vehicle fleets, supported by funding from the EST, but the reality of driving a hydrogen-powered car may still seem far fetched to many British people.

However, it seems the top end of the hydrogen vehicle market is developing fast at least, as the project manager for the H2R confirmed.

“We developed the H2R prototype in just 10 months,” BMW’s Jurgen Kubler said. “These great results have now proved the true level of performance possible from a hydrogen-powered car, and the launch of the world’s first dual fuel version of the current generation Seven Series will follow soon.”

Other environmentally friendly models revealed at the Paris show included Renault’s new “stop and start” mechanism models, which reduce carbon dioxide emissions by switching the engine to stand-by when stuck in traffic or at a red light, and then kick-starting it when the motorist steps on the gas.

By Jane Kettle

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