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London Hydrogen Network Expansion project aims at new hydrogen car records with ‘Tour de M25’ endurance drive

A group of companies is aiming to set two new records for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) as part of Hydrogen Week in the UK (11–18 March), with a continuous five-day/five-night drive around the M25 London orbital motorway.

Working together, the partners of the government-backed London Hydrogen Network Expansion project (LHNE) will attempt to set new records for both the longest journey on one tank of hydrogen (the existing record is 435 miles/700 km), and the longest continuous FCEV journey (6024 miles/9695 km).

The record attempts, which started today (14 March), are part of the LHNE project’s efforts to increase awareness of the benefits of hydrogen-fueled cars and their environmental credentials. Hydrogen FCEVs produce no harmful tailpipe emissions, with water as the only by-product. With range and refueling times similar to those of petrol or diesel cars, they can be seen as direct replacements for conventional vehicles.

A series of drivers, including members of the media, will take the wheel of a Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell vehicle, which will complete approximately 50 clockwise laps of the M25 between Monday and Friday this week.

LHNE, co-funded by Innovate UK, was set up in 2012 to create the UK’s first hydrogen-powered transport system across London and the South East. It has delivered a new publicly accessible, state-of-the-art, fast-fill SmartFuel® hydrogen refueling station, and upgraded a second station to the requisite 700 bar (10 000 psi) pressure status.

Hyundai Motor’s ix35 Fuel Cell car has been commercially available since 2014. Last year, Toyota introduced its Mirai FCEV to the market. Honda, Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, and Audi are among several manufacturers known to be developing FCEVs to be launched in the coming years.

The LHNE partners are keen for the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technology to accelerate in the UK, but one of the main challenges is the limited coverage of refueling stations to support the vehicles. There are currently six stations in the UK, including the two public Air Products SmartFuel® stations in London. Funding is in place for at least 12 to be operational in England and Scotland within the next 12 months.

‘The LHNE project is part of a range of hydrogen transport initiatives; many companies, organisations, and bodies have been working for several years to establish the foundations of a hydrogen transport system in the UK,’ says Diana Raine, European Business Manager for Hydrogen Energy Systems at Air Products, which has led the LHNE project.

‘Although much progress has been made, limited refueling station coverage is one of the main issues restricting further uptake of FCEVs in the UK,’ continues Raine. ‘A further public-private sector push will be required to move the sector to the next level.’

The LHNE project partners will also host a reception in London on Thursday evening, at which its research from the last three years will be discussed, and insight into the next steps for the deployment of a hydrogen refueling network will be shared.

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