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Hydrogen cars: The future of motoring or a distant dream?

By Jack Evans | March 6, 2024

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Hydrogen vehicles are seen by many people to be a silver bullet when it comes to environmentally friendly motoring.

Hydrogen cars: The future of motoring or a distant dream?

Hydrogen vehicles are seen by many people to be a silver bullet when it comes to environmentally friendly motoring. The technology has been around for a little while and, despite quite a lot of investment from big manufacturers, has yet to really take off. 

But what are hydrogen cars and what does the future have in store for them? Let’s take a look at what’s on the horizon - or here right now. 

What is the hydrogen picture currently?

Things, at present, aren’t all that widespread for hydrogen. Currently, there are just two hydrogen-powered cars available in the UK - the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo - which means that there’s not an awful lot of choice if you are looking to go down this route. 

The bigger issue is infrastructure, which is often a criticism levelled at electric vehicles. At the moment, there are only 15 hydrogen filling stations in the UK, with the bulk of these centred around London. 

Are there plans to create more hydrogen filling stations?

Hydrogen is being seen as a top alternative fuel for larger vehicles, like HGVs. This is because they’ve got enough space to house the large tanks and also could do with the quicker fill-ups that you get with hydrogen. In fact, in October 2023, the government announced £200m in funding to help get more electric and hydrogen lorries onto the roads. 

There are also plans to create a corridor on the M4 motorway that would support 30 hydrogen fuel cell HGVs with one fixed refuelling station and two more ‘mobile’ setups.

Are there any more hydrogen cars in the works?

BMW is one of the big names when it comes to hydrogen car development. It has created a hydrogen-powered version of its X5 SUV, which is set to be deployed in a pilot scheme meaning that select owners will run the car and report on their findings. 

Toyota reaffirmed its commitment to hydrogen cars last year, with its CEO Yoshiro Nakata stating that it ‘wasn’t giving up on hydrogen’. Its UK division recently developed a hydrogen-powered Hilux pick-up truck, in fact, and is currently in the process of testing the vehicle. 

Ineos has also been testing a hydrogen-powered version of its Grenadier off-roader to see how the alternative fuel can be applied to long-range vehicles which might not come near to refuelling infrastructure for a long time. 

Are there any more fuel stations planned?

There are. In fact, four stations - built by UK-based start-up Element 2 - will be created, with the first expected to open this year at Teesside International Airport. They’ll be open to drivers of both HGVs and cars, though the primary focus will be on the former. It’s all thanks to Element 2 winning part of an £8 million government grant aimed at speeding up the development and roll-out of hydrogen technology. 

What else is government doing about hydrogen?

Back in December 2023, the government initiated 11 new hydrogen projects across the UK to help expand infrastructure. It also opened a new round of funding to help support hydrogen projects, which can be tapped into by private firms with expertise in the sector. 

It has also made a strategic decision to allow blending of up to 20 per cent hydrogen into the current Great Britain gas distribution network. In essence, blending hydrogen with existing natural gases as they’re being transported helps to lower CO2 emissions and reduce systems costs while also promoting the use of hydrogen in the wider industry.

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