Developing technology that drives solutions to reduce or eliminate the use of hydrocarbons.

With the vehicle market currently standing at 1 billion vehicles globally and set to rise to 2 billion by 2030, and a quarter of the UK’s CO2 emissions coming from the transport sector; it is vital that vehicle manufacturers take action to tackle climate change and reduce or eliminate the use of hydrocarbons.  

Project Background

The collaborative project ‘BEST’ enables the safe and cost-effective storage of Hydrogen energy for clean, sustainable transportation, without the use of high pressures or low temperatures.

Cella Energy has developed a nanotechnology based polymer composite that can store Hydrogen safely, effectively and cheaply.  This technology makes it possible to encapsulate hydrides so that they can be handled in air and in turn, pumped like a fluid to produce a fuel that can be distributed and applied using an infrastructure similar to that of gasoline or diesel.  Once heated, the material rapidly releases its Hydrogen; 1g delivering 1 litre of gaseous H2.

The key objectives of the BEST project are to:

  • Scale up production to enable kilograms of the material to be produced
  • Develop processes to form the material into units that can be stored, used and subsequently removed from the vehicle for recycling or regeneration
  • Design and construct hardware to solve the engineering problems that surround storing, moving and heating the material to produce Hydrogen for a vehicle
  • Demonstrate the safe storage and release of Hydrogen to a fuel cell and an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE).

BEST is a collaborative project, currently at the proof of concept stage, co-funded by the UK’s Innovation Agency, the Technology Strategy Board.  Cella Energy, alongside the consortium partners MIRA, Unipart and Productiv, brings together chemists, physicists and automotive engineers, who have refined the material, the system design and the production techniques in order to build a 1 kW demonstrator.

What are the benefits that the project is expected to deliver?

This technology has the potential for substantial impact in the transport sector, within the next 4-5 years.   The fundamental benefits presented by BEST are:

  • Adoption of the technology will directly reinforce UK automobile manufacturing areas, which are already well established, and provide these companies with  strong advantages for near and medium term technologies;
  • Hydrogen can be used to provide ICEs with a carbon free source of energy and in fuel cells to generate power for electric powertrains;
  • Two new projects are underway to demonstrate a fuel cell as a range extender and another to determine to optimum emissions savings from co-combustion of Hydrogen in a Diesel engine;
  • This technology will substantially reduce UK’s overall carbon emissions, helping the UK to meet its targets, as fuel cell vehicles have no harmful emissions and the electricity supply is decarbonised;
  • A 60L tank of gasoline/petrol has the same energy as 177kg of Cella fuel but taking advantage of the density of the material and Hydrogen as a fuel, the equivalent fuel tank for the same range could be between 70 and 100kg of fuel
  • Its applications in battery rechargers, remote and emergency power, which could subsequently provide earlier revenues;
  • When successful, it will ensure the survival and growth for a number of existing industries and will put the UK at the forefront of a new global technology.

What is innovative?

In terms of innovation, both the material used and the hydride fuel system are unique technologies.

Existing Hydrogen storage vehicles mostly use high pressure storage, which in turn creates safety concerns and complicates the distribution infrastructure to  and at refuelling stations.

  • The fluidized and polymer encapsulated hydride is original and allows for much lighter and simpler in-vehicle engineering and construction of refuelling hardware.
  • It allows the application of the fuel to otherwise conventional ICE vehicles, making the adoption of the fuel technology much more acceptable for vehicle manufacturers.
  • The demonstration hardware is based on the cartridge and magazine system with a buffer tank; future developments are working towards a bulk-pellet system.
  • Once they have released their Hydrogen, the pellets can be recovered and reprocessed back to active Hydrogen-bearing material.