Boris Johnson’s Hydrogen HighwayAugust 24th, 2009 by Barry Potier
Boris Johnson is to help create Britain’s first “hydrogen highway”, using a scheme to promote zero-emission cars modelled on one introduced in California by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state’s governor.
The mayor of London wants to make Britain a leader in fuel cell technology and is planning a network of hydrogen filling stations in the capital. He intends to assemble a pilot fleet of about 150 hydrogen cars in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics, together with five buses and 20 black taxis.
Johnson’s officials believe that by 2029 as many as one in three of the 31m cars in Britain could be fuelled by hydrogen. Britain has agreed to cut its CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050.
Boris Johnson said the hydrogen network would be developed alongside government plans to introduce electric cars.
“Harnessing low-carbon technology is key to solving the pressing issues of energy security, cutting climate change emissions and improving air quality,” said Johnson. “With electric vehicles gearing up to become a mainstream choice in a few years’ time, we are creating the right conditions for them to flourish.”
In April, Gordon Brown announced plans to subsidise electric-car use. Johnson followed up by unveiling a scheme for 25,000 “juice points” — charging stops for electric cars across London.
“We think it’s going to be pretty big,” said Kit Malthouse, deputy London mayor and chairman of the London Hydrogen Board, the group overseeing the project, who added: “We plan an initial network of six or so hydrogen fuelling stations around the capital. We would then be able to fuel the next generation of vehicles.”
A new lightweight hydrogen-powered car, capable of speeds up to 50mph, was shown off in London in June. Able to travel 240 miles without refuelling, and weighing just 772lb (350kg), the two-seater Riversimple Urban Car could be put into production as soon as 2013. Supported by the great-grandson of car pioneer Ferdinand Porsche, the Riversimple car does the petrol equivalent of 300 miles to the gallon.
Can Boris succeed where Schwarzenegger has failed? Arnold’s “hydrogen highway“, has not moved forward at the speed he predicted. With oil prices low again, the impetus behind hydrogen-powered cars has dissipated. California has only 250 of the vehicles, while he had envisaged 2,000 by 2010, and there are just 26 fuelling stations.
Do you think Boris Johnson’s scheme is doomed to failure or can Britain become a leader in fuel cell technology?