A British hydrogen fuel cell sports roadster is set to be one of the major draws at the Geneva motor show, which opens to the press today.
The Morgan LIFEcar (Lightweight Fuel Efficient Car) concept car aims to prove green driving can be entertaining and thrilling – while competing with conventional sports cars.
Figures suggest the LIFEcar has a top speed of around 100mph and will do 0-60mph in less than 7 seconds.
However, the exact figures won’t be known until the LIFEcar completes it first test drive later in the year.
Morgan says the three-year LIFEcar programme is showcase for British innovation and technology.
The project is part funded by the UK government and involved experts from Cranfield and Oxford University, BOC and RiverSimple.
The chassis is based on a modified Morgan Aero 8, and is powered by a custom built lightweight fuel cell motor provided by the defence firm QuintiQ.
Emissions and economy
Morgan believe the LIFECar will be very quiet when compared to today’s petrol and diesel cars. Like other hydrogen-powered cars the only waste is vapour from its exhaust.
A bank of ultra-capacitors is used for accelerating and climbing hills. The capacitors store energy from regenerative brakes that recoup the ‘wasted’ energy from braking. Captured energy is stored in the battery to power the motor.
Much of the design focuses on reducing weight. The chassis is aluminium and equipment has deliberately kept low. For example, there’s no conventional gearbox or stereo.
The LIFEcar is expected to have a range of about 250 miles which is good for a hydrogen car but it’s smaller than many current fuel-efficient diesels – which can muster 600 miles or more on a single tankful.
Which? motoring specialist George Marshall-Thornhill said: ‘There are still major doubts about how successful a switch to hydrogen fuel cell cars would be.
‘The cost of hydrogen cars has always been high and how and where would you fill up on hydrogen? There’s a long way to go before cars like this become a reality for normal car buyers.’
Environmentalists have also pointed out that making hydrogen uses a lot of electricity. At the moment most electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels, reducing any benefits from zero tailpipe CO2 emissions in a hydrogen car.