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Sustainable driving:
Could hydrogen cars be the future of the motoring industry?

Words by
June 22, 2020
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The future of motoring is a hot topic right now. A raft of travel restrictions in the spring of 2020 has allowed us all time to reassess our motoring habits. It’s allowed us to experience a way of life that might have been impossible without such a catastrophe, but motoring habits have already changed. So too, some claim, has the quality of air we breathe.

We’ve seen a rapid rise in bicycle and motorcycle sales, for a start, but also a lot of talk about the impact of motor vehicles on the environment as a whole.

Along with the ever-present threat of fossil fuels running out, low emission zones, clean air zones and climate change protests over recent years there’s also been a huge step forward in the quality of electric vehicles, and the viability of owning one.


It’s looking pretty rosy for the electric car, then…

But one issue remains for all electric car owners, at least for the foreseeable future. It’s the time taken to recharge a car.

Often, the charging time is not a concern for most users, they can be charged overnight or during the working day, at a low cost. But longer journeys, like those over 200 miles, are the ones that make EV owners a bit more nervous. They’ll still defend their choice and say that there are charging stations on major routes – the kind of roads you’d take if going over 200 miles. But the fact remains you will need to stop and take a long break while charging, whereas a vehicle with a fuel tank you can top up with a fluid, can refuel and go in just a couple of minutes.

One solution might be hydrogen. Hydrogen can be stored in a similar way to fossil fuels like petrol and diesel, albeit with much more robust storage tanks, because hydrogen would much rather be a free gas than a tightly bound one. For that reason, it has to be held at very high pressure. Nevertheless, the infrastructure needed already exists as a network of filling stations. In the same way we saw some stations embracing LPG despite the required adaptations to pumps and tanks, filling stations could plausibly adapt to hydrogen too. In fact, some already have. They are known as HRS – you can see where they are, here.


Is it the best solution, then?

The major benefits of hydrogen over other solutions look like this. It’s better than fossil fuels because it won’t run out one day, and doesn’t create noxious gases once it’s burned and the exhaust has been spat out of the engine. In fact, as any GCSE science textbook will confirm, the only thing you get out of the exhaust when Hydrogen (H) burns (ie shares electrons with Oxygen – O – in exchange for energy) is good old ‘Dihydrogen Monoxide’ – aka ‘Water’ as it’s commonly known. That’s right, all you get from the exhaust is water.

That’s not an exaggeration, it is not water with a bit of CO2 and NO2. It’s just water, just pure H2O. You could drink it – but wait for it to cool down, first. And it tastes of nothing, because it’s so pure, so just don’t bother.

So in the emissions stakes, it clearly beats fossil fuels. But what about electricity? Zero emissions, right? Well yes. But you’ll still need to take a while to charge up during a long journey.

Questions still remain as to where the energy to process hydrogen comes from in the first place. But the same is true for electricity. Both may be sourced from solid fuel power stations which are perceived to be unclean, but equally the power can be sourced from renewable sources like wind and solar.


So, can you buy a hydrogen car now?

Yes. The reason there’s a small HRS network already is because you can get hydrogen-powered vehicles. Cars, and buses too. These vehicles are known as FCEVs – Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles. This is because you have a fuel cell which uses the hydrogen to generate electricity, rather than go directly from a fuel combustion engine to your drivetrain. If you want one in the UK you have a choice of two – Hyundai’s iX35 Fuel Cell, and the Toyota Mirai.


What about insurance?

Insurance should be no problem for owners of FCEVs, as Adrian Flux’s team of specialists fully understand what they are dealing with.

If you need a quote for your FCEV, or other alternative-fuel vehicle you can call us on 0330 031 9996 or request a callback online.

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