The launch of a new hydrogen vehicle has been made possible by crucial funding from industrial gas company BOC, part of The Linde Group.

The Riversimple Urban Car was developed over three years in a cooperative research programme with Oxford University, Cranfield University and Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies.

Founder of the project, Hugo Spowers, has had assistance from BOC, together with substantial support from the family of Ernst Piech, grandson of Ferdinand Porche (the founder of the Porche motor company), in order to make his dream possible.

The Riversimple car is a lightweight, two-seater vehicle, with a top speed of 50mph. It has a range of more than 200 miles between refuelling stops, and is highly fuel efficient – much more so than previous hydrogen-fuelled vehicles.

For Hugo Spowers, the event is the fulfillment of a long term quest. “This is a big step on the road to sustainable transport,” he commented.

“Not only does this vehicle use fuel cell technology, which is the most promising of road transport technologies for tomorrow’s long range vehicles, it uses the hydrogen fuel far more efficiently than any previously developed.”

“Questions have been raised about the sustainability of hydrogen vehicles, but clearly a fourfold improvement in energy efficiency transforms the potential for supporting the transport sector with renewable hydrogen.”

BOC gave original funding for the project, and has provided continuing support and advice.

For Mike Dennis, Head of Marketing at BOC, this is a crucial step forward, he said, “As part of the global Linde Group, we are a leading producer of hydrogen and refueling stations. We can see though, that innovative transport solutions often face a chicken-and-egg situation – the infrastructure has to be in place before there is widespread uptake of the technology, yet without a guaranteed market, investors will not put in the infrastructure.”

“By making such impressive improvements in fuel efficiency, the outlay on infrastructure does not have to be so great before we reach critical mass in technology uptake. So we warmly welcome the realisation of the vision that inspired the Riversimple project.”

The resource efficiency of the Riversimple concept promises to make the introduction of hydrogen fuelling systems much easier to achieve. Ensuring sufficient infrastructure and refueling facilities has been a major challenge for those planning the transport systems of the future, but the more efficiently vehicles can use fuel, the lower the threshold at which the infrastructure can support widespread introduction of a new transport technology.

The Riversimple Urban Car was launched yesterday at a ceremony at Somerset House in central London.