London schools take on the Hydrogen Challenge

On Friday 21 March 2014, during National Science and Engineering Week, over a hundred young people – the technologists of the future – will race hydrogen fuel cell cars at London’s City Hall.  It is the finale of the London Schools Hydrogen Challenge, an interactive competition for secondary schools.

Over the last few months, pupils from around the capital have been designing, building and testing hydrogen powered model cars. As part of the National Curriculum pupils have been developing scientific enquiry skills and knowledge about the role hydrogen will play within a future low-carbon society.

“I enjoyed the aspect that the fuel we were using will be used
in real cars in the future.”

“I loved the fact that you could create the car the way you wanted. Also the way we used hydrogen to power our cars was fascinating.”

The London Schools Hydrogen Challenge was established in 2007 to put London’s young people at the forefront of understanding new technologies. The challenge is commissioned by Hydrogen London – a partnership set up by the Mayor in 2002 to develop London’s hydrogen economy. The Secretariat is based at City Hall and Hydrogen London is chaired by Deputy Mayor, Kit Malthouse.

Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor for Business and Enterprise: “The annual London Schools Hydrogen Challenge is going from strength to strength.  I am very pleased that once again young Londoners will be inspired by the possibility of a hydrogen powered future”.

This year’s challenge has been supported by ITM Power, internationally renowned UK based hydrogen fuel systems manufacturer.

Graham Cooley CEO, ITM Power, said “ITM are delighted to support this important initiative again, building upon the success of last year’s competition. The excitement of innovation starts with the young, and the demonstration that a clean fuel for cars and buses can be made by electrolysis, from just water and renewable energy, leading to clean air in the city of London, is just the perfect way to inspire the engineers of the future.”

Transport for London has also supported this year’s school challenge.  Operating hydrogen buses on route RV1, Covent Garden to Tower Gateway, they are demonstrating the technology works reliably and efficiently in commercial use.

Mike Weston, London Buses Operations Director, said “TfL is proud to be supporting this school initiative for a further year.  As a transport authority that uses hydrogen buses commercially, it is great that challenges such as these help students understand more about this low-carbon energy and how it can benefit the capital.”

The 2013 challenge has been developed through the Arcola Energy for Schools programme, which has delivered science and technology workshops to over 5,000 children and young people since its launch in autumn 2010.

Dr Ben Todd, Managing Director of Arcola Energy “We are delighted to have been able to increase the number of schools participating this year – creating opportunities for more young people whilst allowing teachers and schools participating for the second and third year to further their knowledge.”


Notes for editors

London Schools Hydrogen Challenge has been developed by Hydrogen London. It is designed to support the Key Stage 3 National Curriculum for Science, ICT, Geography, Citizenship and PSHE. The Challenge guides students through the issues surrounding the need for cleaner, renewable energy and the role hydrogen plays in providing a vital source of clean energy for the future. Arcola Energy developed an interactive competition for secondary schools in London.

Pupils from Key Stage 3 and 4 (years 7-11) design, build and test a hydrogen powered model car while learning about the environment. The winning designs from each school have been invited to the final event at which the top three teams will win prizes for their schools. Learning Outcomes:

  • Hydrogen fuel cells: exploring the role that hydrogen could play within a low carbon society
  • Electrolysis as a method for generating hydrogen
  • Iteration based scientific enquiry
  • Mechanics
  • Renewable energies vs. carbon-based fuels

Hydrogen London was set up by the Mayor in 2002 to help develop HFC technologies in London and grow London’s hydrogen economy. It consists of an Executive Committee, two Project Groups (the Infrastructure Vehicle Group and the Stationary Group) and a Secretariat based at City Hall, which coordinates the partnership’s day to day activities. The chair is Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse. Hydrogen London was set up to:

  • provide dialogue among key industry stakeholders;
  • offer platforms for funding bids and initiating projects;
  • set up forums to prepare and share hydrogen and fuel cell technology research and materials;
  • deliver the London Hydrogen Action Plan as a pathway towards clean, secure energy.

The success of the Hydrogen London means it now includes a wide range of industry members with expertise in everything from fuel cells to gas supply and component manufacture.  Find out more about members.

ITM Power designs and manufactures hydrogen energy systems for energy storage, clean fuel production and renewable heat. ITM Power is an AIM-listed company incorporated, registered and operating in England with a staff of 55. We have a first class team of engineers and scientists, based at two facilities in Sheffield, UK

Arcola Energy is a multi-disciplinary developer, manufacturer and retailer of fuel cell-based low carbon energy solutions. We operate across a wide range of markets with applications in home, industry, construction, entertainment, education and transport sectors. Our business is applying understanding of end-user needs to deliver cost-effective customised solutions to individual end-users and OEM clients. Our success is built on open and collaborative relationships with clients, suppliers and partners. Arcola Energy is the UK agent and distributor for Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies. Development of Arcola’s mass customisation manufacturing approach is supported by the UK Technology Strategy Board.

Electrolysis is the method a direct electrical current to drive a chemical reaction to separate elements. In the case of hydrogen fuel cells, electrolysis is used to separate hydrogen and oxygen in water

Fuel cells are based around a central design using two electrodes (anode / cathode) separated by a solid or liquid electrolyte that carries electrically charged particles between them. Oxidation of the hydrogen takes place electrochemically and hydrogen atoms react with oxygen atoms to form water; in the process electrons are released and flow through an external circuit as an electric current.

A fuel cell can be thought of as a cross between a battery and an engine – like a battery it operates electrochemically with no noise or moving parts, directly converting the chemical energy of the fuel to electricity; whilst like an engine it can operate continually from an external fuel supply. A fuel cell system comprises a fuel cell stack (the fuel cell) and ancillary components including fuel and air supply pumps and power electronics.

Fuel Cells were invented in 1839 have been under development ever since. They were used during the 1960’s Apollo space missions and are currently under development for applications ranging from mobile phones to cars to homes to locomotives.

For more information / high resolution images contact:

Feimatta Conteh, 020 7503 1386