COLLABORATION

Durham University to lead £1m research on hydrogen vehicles

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Hydrogen-powered cars could help the UK achieve its net-zero emissions target.

Durham University will be heading up a £1 million government-funded research project to decarbonise transportation with hydrogen-powered vehicles and technology.

Durham’s researchers will team up with government, industry and other university experts for the Network-H2 initiative funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Coming in from the energy, road, rail, air and marine sectors, these experts will explore the use of hydrogen fuel across the country’s transport network to help reduce carbon emissions.

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These efforts fall in line with the UK’s national goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, a target seen as critical to reversing the threat of climate change. In June this year, the UK became the first global economy to set such a target, also passing the world’s first net-zero emissions law to cement its commitment to the target.

A major area of concern in efforts to reduce emissions is the transport sector. According to recent data, road, rail, air and marine transport currently account for almost a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions.

As hydrogen vehicles only produce heat and water, they offer a vastly cleaner alternative to traditional transport. 

More than that, hydrogen is also a source of renewable energy, with potential uses in diverse applications and across virtually every sector from transportation to commercial, industrial and residential sectors. 

“We need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels to cut the harmful emissions that contribute to climate change,” Network-H2 director and Durham University professor Tony Roskilly said in The Northern Echo.

“Developing sustainable alternatives to the fuels we currently use for our transport system is crucial if we are going to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in the next 20 to 30 years.

“Hydrogen provides us with a potentially clean option to decarbonise transport by removing the detrimental effects that using fossil fuels has on the environment and public health,” he added.

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The EPSRC, which is part of UK Research and Innovation, has poured a total of £5 million into five decarbonising transport networks, including the Network-H2 team, which is supported by researchers at Newcastle University and the University of Southampton.

For the study, Network-H2 researchers will explore the technological, social, political and economic changes necessary to accommodate the use of hydrogen vehicles and technology. They will also look into better methods of facilitating knowledge exchange between researchers and the energy and transport sectors.

“A modern, advanced transport system is one that connects people to jobs while boosting economic growth and productivity,” said Energy and Clean Growth Minister Kwai Kwarteng.

“But with transport representing almost a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gases, the industry also needs to evolve to become more sustainable.

“Bringing together some of the brightest minds from all corners of the UK, these transport networks will boost the development of technologies that have the potential to clean up our transport systems – so we can cycle, drive and even fly into a greener future.”