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New green fuel system launched

A new economic and green system to fuel a standard car using hydrogen has been launched.

Sheffield-based ITM Power has come up with a system that means, for the first time, it will be possible to generate hydrogen at home.

That fuel can then be used in adapted petrol-engined vehicles 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.

In contrast ITM Power's Ford Focus burns hydrogen gas in a conventional petrol engine.

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.

It is anticipated that the cost of the home re-fuelling system, which creates the hydrogen gas, will be the equivalent of buying a home boiler once mass manufacturing is under way. It is also estimated that, compared to a litre of petrol, this hydrogen equivalent will cost around 80p, with further reductions likely once the technology is widely in use.

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.

The company said today's technology will also have applications beyond the motor car. It has already established a showcase "hydrogen apartment" where home-produced hydrogen is used for heating, cooking and operating a fridge, while a hydrogen-powered generator provides the power for lighting and to operate the television and DVD player.

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