ACAL Energy, a British fuel cell maker is teaming up with Gordon Murray Design, also from the UK, which makes small electric autos. The purpose is for the two companies to build a low cost hydrogen fuel cell vehicle prototype. The year-long project is being funded by the Technology Strategy Board’s Low Carbon Vehicle programme.
According to ACAL, “The study will be led by Gordon Murray Design, and combines ACAL Energy’s novel Flowcath® technology that significantly reduces the cost and improves the durability of a fuel cell engine, with Gordon Murray Design’s award winning iStream® concept, which allows for fast, low cost production of light weight vehicles. Together, these British innovations could make autobon emission-free fuel cell autos affordableby buyers in both developed and emerging markets.”
ACAL’s Flowcath technology uses a platinum free cathode to reduce fuel cell costs significantly. Gordon Murray Design is also committed to cutting costs as well. According to this , “…this unique design and prototyping process has been developed to integrate CAD design, 3 dimensional assemblies and full size drawing to a level of efficiency which is unprecedented in the automotive industry.”
Gordon Murray Design has just unveiled what they are calling “The World’s Most Efficient Electric Car” also using their low cost rapid prototyping production methods. The vehicle called the T.27 was completed in just 17 months, starting with a clean sheet of paper.
One of the complaints I hear most often on this blog is that when production hydrogen autos do start rolling out in the 2014 – 2015 time-frame that they will be too expensive, such as Toyota’s fuel cell Highlander (or variation) which is supposed to cost in the $50,000, which is actually similar in price to a regular gasoline-driven Highlander.
But, many people are looking for cheap hydrogen autos as in the $20,000 range (or even less). Perhaps ACAL and Gordon Murray Design will pave the way for developing low cost fuel cells and auto production methods that will drive down prices and help consumers get the price point for which they are looking.
Currently, the Nissan Leaf is selling better than expected at over $32,000 (and then tax incentives will bring this price down). The Nissan Leaf, however, is hampered by low range and long recharging times compared to hydrogen autos.
So, if at least a few of the initial hydrogen autos being produced in 2015 were in the $30,000- price range, it is likely that there would be decent consumer acceptance for this vehicle. Other higher end vehicles such as fully loaded SUV’s of course would cost more.
But, if the major auto companies can learn from ACAL and Gordon Murray Design, then we all will benefit from lower prices and zero emissions.