For over a decade, scientists have been predicting that the future of the motor trade lies in hydrogen powered vehicles. The future has now moved a little closer, with several models of hydrogen car available for purchase in the UK, but the technology is still in its early stages.
A hydrogen car works much like an electric vehicle, but its electric motor is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, rather than a battery. A chemical reaction converts hydrogen gas into the electricity that drives the car, with heat and water as by-products. Like an electric car, a hydrogen powered vehicle is better for the environment than one running on diesel or petrol, producing no harmful emissions. Refuelling with hydrogen is a similar system to filling up with petrol, and requires just a few minutes at a pump, rather than the lengthy plug in time needed by electric cars.
The main issue with hydrogen cars in the UK today is the availability of hydrogen fuelling stations. It is hoped that by 2020, there will be 65 hydrogen fuelling points across the UK. Currently, though, the numbers are only just in double figures, with many of these stations on private land, as part of a university or research facility. Running out of fuel is, therefore, a very real problem for today’s hydrogen car drivers, who may find themselves going miles out of their way to fill up. Hyundai’s hydrogen powered ix35 boasts a range of up to 400 miles on a tank of fuel, but this figure drops significantly if the car is driven at motorway speeds. Hydrogen is a more expensive option, mile for mile, than petrol or diesel. However, the price of the gas is expected to fall as uptake of hydrogen cars increases.
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Today’s hydrogen cars will also set you back significantly more than an equivalent petrol or diesel vehicle. As with electric vehicles, drivers of new and used cars can expect to be offered incentives to switch to a greener mode of transport, perhaps in the form of a cheaper insurance policy or a scrappage scheme.
Could you switch to a hydrogen car? One way to find out is to test drive a new model on trade plates, if one is available at your local motor dealer, then you can see how its performance and refuelling needs fit in with your lifestyle. You might find that a hydrogen car is right for you now, or you might prefer to wait a few more years.