Special Coverage

Geneva
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Specialty auto maker Morgan Motor Co. plans to unveil this month at the Geneva auto show a hydrogen fuel-cell hybrid-electric concept based on its Aero 8 sports car.

Called the LIFECar (LIghtweight Fuel-Efficient Car), the vehicle represents more than two years of collaboration between U.K-based Morgan, Oxford and Cranfield Universities and several technology suppliers.

Morgan was founded in 1912 and is best known for its retro-styled lightweight performance vehicles, some of which still use wood frames.

However, Morgan took a modern and holistic approach to efficiency with the LIFECar. The use of the fuel cell, an ultracapacitor-based hybrid drivetrain and a lightweight structure allows the vehicle to achieve a target range of about 200 miles (322 km) with zero emissions and minimal costs, the auto maker says.

Ultracapacitors are not used as frequently in HEVs as other energy-storage technologies that offer greater range and better charging qualities, such as nickel-metal-hydride and lithium-ion batteries. However, their ability to rapidly discharge large amounts of energy makes them well suited for use in a fun-to-drive sports car.

The auto maker offers few additional details of the concept ahead of its formal introduction other than it sports a hand-made aluminum body and is aimed at lowering the price point for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

"The real challenge is to design and build a car that is fun to drive – a proper sports car," says Charles Morgan, strategy director for the auto maker.

"The use of ultracapacitors to store the surplus energy and then use this for acceleration and braking does promise a dynamic ride, especially when combined with our ultra-light chassis. The paring of weight to a minimum is our strength, and allows for a much smaller fuel cell than conventionally thought necessary."

The auto maker says investments in the project total about £1.9 million ($3.7 million) and were partially funded by the U.K. Department for Trade and Industry.

Morgan handled the final design and construction of the LIFECar, with OSCar Automotive Ltd. managing the vehicle’s overall system design and architecture. Oxford University developed the regenerative electric motors and Cranfield University was tasked with on-board-computing and control-network simulations.

Other companies involved with the LIFECar include QinetiQ Ltd., which developed the fuel cell’s proton-exchange membrane, and Linde AG, whose BOC Gases unit constructed the car’s hydrogen refueling plant.

msutton@wardsauto.com