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BOC Foundation Funds Hyrban Project: Two-Seater Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Urban Vehicle

The BOC Foundation has awarded OSCar Automotive, a UK company, a grant to develop a powertrain for a two-seat hydrogen fuel-cell urban vehicle.

The grant will help fund the two-year “Hyrban” project which aims to prove that practical hydrogen fuel-cell urban vehicles can be engineered using existing fuel-cell technology.

The Hyrban concept car will use in-wheel electric motors powered primarily by a fuel cell. Regenerative braking will charge ultracapacitors which will provide most of the power for acceleration.

This design allows the vehicle to have the acceleration of a Smart Car, despite the fuel cell only having an output of around 6kW (less power than that required to run 4 electric kettles) and the energy consumption of a moped. The car is designed to cruise at around 50 mph.

The project is being developed by three partners; OSCar Automotive, Oxford University and Cranfield University. Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science is developing the in-wheel electric motors while Cranfield University is developing the computer simulations (used in optimizing the design) and the vehicle control and energy management strategy.

Both universities are already working with OSCar, BOC, the Morgan Motor Company and Qinetiq on the LIFECar project, a fuel-cell powered sportscar, part-funded by the DTI’s technology program. (Earlier post.)

We are very pleased that the BOC Foundation is supporting this work which promises to overcome the main barriers to the commercialization of fuel cell powered cars. The two generally accepted barriers are fuel cell cost and the problem of hydrogen storage, but by developing the vehicle architecture to suit a fuel cell, solutions to these barriers are within our grasp.

A sophisticated hybrid powertrain will require a fuel cell of less than one quarter of the power required conventionally—and thus one quarter the cost. With energy consumption also similarly reduced, there is no problem in storing enough hydrogen on board the vehicle.

—Hugo Spowers, managing director of OSCar

OSCar Automotive, started by Spowers in 2003 and inspired by the Hypercar work of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), is committed to the successful commercialization of hydrogen fuel cells in the transport sector. Its work is focussed on reducing the entry barriers that the technology faces and has developed the LIFECar and Hyrban projects to demonstrate the import of efficiency both to the early stage penetration of fuel cell vehicles and the long term sustainability of such a transport system.

The BOC Group—one of the largest global gases companies—established The BOC Foundation in 1990. Since then it has funded over 120 environmental projects in the UK and invested with its partners over £10 million. The BOC Foundation supports projects proposing practical solutions to environmental problems, in particular to improve UK air and water quality. BOC employs 30,000 people worldwide and had annual sales of just over £4.6 billion (US$5.4 billion) in 2004.



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