British boffins are developing a hydrogen-based fuel which could replace petrol without the need for expensive engine modifications and cut prices at the pumps in half.
Scientists at Cella Energy are exploring a new way of storing hydrogen that would allow the fuel to be pumped into petrol tanks as a liquid at room temperature.
The company, based at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxford, is confident that its patented micro-beaded polymer, which would only produce water after being burnt in a car's engine, could one day replace oil-based fuels.
The technology used to harness the hydrogen should also prove to be much cheaper than the process of drilling, extracting and refining fossil fuels. Cella Energy's product could cost as little 19p a litre, which even with the addition of fuel taxes would mean prices of around 60p a litre on the forecourt.
Hydrogen has long been the holy grail of zero-emission motoring. The gas is the most abundant substance in the universe and has three times more energy than petrol per unit of weight, but it can only be stored at very high pressures or as a super-cooled liquid.
Cella Energy has been refining its new approach since 2007 and while the technology remains at an early stage, it offers a tantalising glimpse at the dream of affordable, eco-friendly car ownership later this decade.