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A wholly British partnership that includes QinetiQ, Europe’s largest science and technology solutions company, unveiled plans earlier this week to develop the world’s first environmentally clean sports car, powered by a fuel cell which converts hydrogen into electricity.
Partnering QinetiQ in the project will be the British sports car manufacturer, the Morgan Motor Company, Cranfield and Oxford Universities, BOC and OSCar.
The new vehicle, known as LIFECar, will be ultra quiet and its exhaust systems will produce only water vapour. It promises a clean vehicle combined with sound motoring performance and stylish good looks.
Qinetiq were not able to expand on the materials used in the project, as the project is still in its infancy. They did however state that the fuel cell components will be made from reinforced carbon fibre, with the high pressure cylinder also being wrapped in carbon fibre.
Part-funded by the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), LIFECar is a two and half-year long project which marks a step change in vehicle power technology, producing a combination of performance, range and fuel economy that will be essential to the motoring world of the future.
LIFECar will be based on the Morgan Aero Eight, and will be powered by a QinetiQ-made fuel cell, which converts hydrogen – and oxygen taken from the air around it – into electrical energy. It will be clean, quiet and economic, and the only waste product from the car will be water. The car’s power system will be incredibly efficient, producing significant improvements over current fuel cell prototype vehicles, with the fuel cell powering four separate electric motors, one at each drive wheel.
The key to delivering this step change in energy efficiency lies in a combination of factors, including weight reduction due to its composite body, and a different design approach. This approach exploits opportunities across the vehicle to reduce energy losses and requirements.
Speaking at this year’s Society of Motor Manufacturers International Business Group, where the plans were unveiled, Charles Morgan, corporate strategy director of the Morgan Motor Company and LIFECar project director, said: ‘This is a project which captures the imagination. LIFECar promises to combine advanced technology while retaining the best in traditional ways of designing and building cars. A sports car that is beautiful, brilliant to drive but pollution free must be a goal worth striving for.’
Ian Whiting, business development manager, QinetiQ said: “”LIFECar is about catching the first big wave in the energy revolution, which is set to transform the motoring industry in the same way that the computer industry was transformed by the personal computer decades ago.””
Costing a total of £1.9m, involving a mix of industry and DTI funding, the two and half year project will be broken down into the following areas of responsibility:
BOC Developing the hydrogen refuelling plant;
Cranfield University Systems simulation, on-board computing and control of the fuel-cell hybrid powertrain. Also responsible for analysis of the integrated design process used;
Vehicle controller and control algorithm, together with modelling software;
Morgan Motor Company Providing the car platform and assembling the final concept car;
Oxford University Undertaking the design and control of the electric motors;
OSCar Responsible for overall system design and architecture;
QinetiQ Developing Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC)
Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, welcomed the £1.9m project, which is expected to produce a prototype in two to three years. “”People will have to get used to quiet sports cars. What we also need is for the government to help to establish this technology and create a network of hydrogen filling stations,”” he said.
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