A new lightweight hydrogen-powered car, capable of speeds up to 50mph, was shown off in London today.
Able to travel 240 miles without refuelling, and weighing just 772lb (350kg), the two-seater Riversimple Urban Car could be put into production as soon as 2013.
Before that the project leaders plan to raise funds to build 10 prototypes and try out vehicles in UK cities.
Supported by the great-grandson of car pioneer Ferdinand Porsche, the Riversimple car does the petrol equivalent of 300 miles to the gallon.
The design of the car will be placed online so that production versions can be developed to suit local requirements in urban areas.
The cars will be leased to users rather than sold, with owners getting a maintenance, support and fuel package. The vehicles are expected to have a life span of around 20 years.
The car has four electric motors attached to each wheel and these double as brakes and generate electricity which is stored in a bank of ultracapacitors.
The car is powered by a fuel cell of just six kilowatts compared with the 100kW in some hydrogen prototypes.
The car has been developed over the last three years in a co-operative research programme involving the River Simple development team founded by engineer Hugo Spowers and Oxford University, Cranfield University in Bedfordshire and Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies.
The research has been financed through initial support from industrial gas company BOC, Government grants and the private support of the Piech family including Sebastian Piech, a great-grandson of Ferdinand Porsche.
Mr Piech said: "The Riversimple Urban Car represents a major step towards practical 21st century personal transport and towards the fulfilment of my great-grandfather's ambitions for accessible personal transport, but this time combining his other passions: light weight and high efficiency.
"Now that we have the basic vehicle in place with practical technology the challenge is to begin the development of a fuelling infrastructure to accompany it, to encourage the adoption of the sale of mobility service and encourage broad participation in the open source design to make the already practical technology into a broadly adaptable customer proposition."
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