Carbon Trust £1million boost to UK fuel-cell technology

Carbon Trust has given a £1m boost to four UK fuel cell pioneers.  Their cutting-edge technology could be used under the bonnet of mass-produced hydrogen-powered cars as early as 2017.  Major manufacturers have already built hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars, but the real challenge is to bring down the costs and, in the global race to do this, UK technologies are now in pole position.

Having identified an opportunity to combine innovative technology from Runcorn-based ACAL Energy and Sheffield-based ITM Power, the Carbon Trust is providing £500k of funding to the companies to develop a new hybrid high-power, low-cost fuel cell design.

Carbon Trust is also backing a project based at Imperial College London (Imperial) and University College London (UCL) with £500k to develop a fuel cell that could offer significant cost savings by using existing high-volume manufacturing techniques employed in the production of printed circuit boards.

The funding comes from the Carbon Trust's Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge (PFCC) which was launched in 2009 to support the Department for Energy and Climate Change's objectives to develop lower cost fuel cells and coincides with the recent launch of the Government's UKH2Mobility project to ensure the UK is well positioned for the commercial roll-out of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The UK's home-grown automotive industry hasn't been the runaway success story many would have hoped for, but British technology is in pole position to be under the bonnet of a next generation of mass-produced hydrogen-powered cars. After a lot of hype, fuel cell technology is now a great growth opportunity for the UK. The funding that we have received from the Department for Energy and Climate Change has enabled us to support the development of some truly world-class British technologies that could slash the costs of fuel cells and transform how we all get about; by 2017 British fuel cell technologies could be powering your car.

Dr Ben Graziano, Technology Commercialisation Manager at the Carbon Trust

The PFCC has afforded ITM the opportunity to build on its ground breaking laboratory results via a structured programme to de-risk its membrane technology. With the high level introductions the Carbon Trust has made with commercial end users and the continued success of subsequent material evaluation studies, ITM is in a very strong position to exploit this exciting new fuel cell technology.

Simon Bourne, CTO, ITM Power Plc

It is excellent news that automotive OEMs are committed to the launch of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles in 2015 timescales, and that the UK will be among the early adopters. However it is clear that continuous efforts to reduce cost will be necessary to ensure that H2FC vehicles are affordable for mass markets. This funding from the Carbon Trust PFCC is perfectly targeted to ensure that British innovation can be at the forefront of the process to get the economics of the technology right.

Amanda Lyne, VP of Strategic Business Development and Marketing, ACAL Energy Ltd


Carbon Trust's Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge aims to speed the UK towards world-beating fuel cell solutions that can grab a significant share of a market that the Carbon Trust has estimated to be worth $26bn in 2020.  About the projects:

ACAL Energy/ITM Power

Carbon Trust, which has already supported ACAL Energy and ITM Power in de-risking their unique technologies, saw an opportunity to combine these innovations to demonstrate a fuel cell that could be far cheaper to manufacture, more efficient, produce the required power and be compact enough to fit under the bonnet of tomorrow's cars.  ACAL Energy brings a revolutionary new design of fuel cell inspired by the human lung and bloodstream that is highly durable, virtually platinum-free and also significantly cheaper to produce.  ITM Power brings a unique membrane technology (which has been evaluated by several global companies), proven to produce world-beating power density (widely recognised as the single most important factor in reducing fuel cell costs), which could be in fuel cell cars by as early as 2017.

ITM's current order book for delivery in the current financial year is £0.5m.  The company has recruited seven staff in the last 12 months and is currently seeking to recruit ten more.  ACAL Energy has raised £6.1m of investment since March 2010 and its staff is set to increase from 25 at that time to 35 by April 2012.


The Imperial and UCL project is developing a fuel cell stack that could offer significant cost savings by using existing high-volume manufacturing techniques employed in the production of printed circuit boards.  By simplifying the design and manufacture, this could reduce the costs of a fuel cell stack by more than 20%. Imperial Innovations and UCL Business are collaborating with the project to assist commercialisation of the technology.

Notes to editors:

For more information and to speak to a Carbon Trust spokesperson, please contact the Carbon Trust press office:

Tel no: 0207 544 3100

For inquiries about the fuel cell technology, please contact Henry Rummins in the UCL Media Relations Office on tel: +44 (0)207 679 9063, mobile: +44 (0)757 260 2345, e-mail:  

About the Carbon Trust

The Carbon Trust is a not-for-profit company with the mission to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy, providing specialist support to business and the public sector to help cut carbon emissions, save energy and commercialise low carbon technologies.  By stimulating low carbon action we contribute to key UK goals of lower carbon emissions, the development of low carbon businesses, increased energy security and associated jobs.

We help to cut carbon emissions now by

  • Providing specialist advice and finance to help organisations cut carbon
  • Setting standards for carbon reduction

We reduce potential future carbon emissions by

  • Opening markets for low carbon technologies
  • Leading industry collaborations to commercialise technologies
  • Investing in early stage low carbon companies

About UCL (University College London)

Described by The Sunday Times as 'an intellectual powerhouse with a world-class reputation', UCL is consistently ranked as one of the top three multifaculty universities in the UK and features in the top universities worldwide.

Founded in 1826, UCL is a multidisciplinary university with an international reputation for the quality of its research and teaching across the academic spectrum, with subjects spanning the sciences, arts, social sciences and biomedicine. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) UCL was rated the best research university in London, and third in the UK overall, for the number of its submissions which were considered of world-leading  quality. The RAE confirmed UCL's multidisciplinary research strength with outstanding results achieved across the subjects, ranging from Biomedicine, Science and Engineering, and the Built Environment to Laws, Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities.

UCL is a founding partner of the largest European Centre for Medical Research and Innovation, The Francis Crick Institute, due to open in 2015. UCL is among the world's top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables.  Its annual income is over £700 million.