Hydrogen is often painted as a fuel of the future, but it’s readily available. It can be extracted using renewable energy and doesn’t release CO2 when used as an energy source – making hydrogen cars may seem a bit of a godsend. They’re an alternative to the electric vehicles that take a long time to recharge (sorry Elon) and, unlike combustion engines, don’t harm the planet. Bosch has stated they intend to invest £800 million into developing hydrogen fuel cells and lorries, and massive expansion of hydrogen infrastructure is ongoing in the UK; hydrogen is a hot topic. But where to start when you’re thinking of buying a hydrogen car? Before we get going with what models are available in the UK, there are a few things to note.
It costs £10 – £15 per kg (hydrogen is measured in kg rather than ml) to fill up your tank. This means, going by distances possible in a hydrogen car, it is more expensive to run on hydrogen than petrol. However, prices are likely to reduce as technology scales and improves, and we are all well aware of the volatility of fossil fuel prices. There are also only 11 hydrogen-fuelling stations in the UK currently, with fewer than 200 across the whole of Europe. Fuelling stations have been closed in Wales and the West Midlands, however two new ones are planned in Derby and Stockton-on-Tees. A full list of fuelling station locations can be found at the bottom of this page.
Also, as the words ‘fuel cell’ are a bit of a mystery to many, we’ll briefly outline the science for you. A hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is powered by electricity, but the electricity is made in the fuel cell, rather than generated by a rechargeable lithium battery. In the fuel cell, the hydrogen molecules are split into electrons and protons. The electrons are forced through a circuit and power the motor. The only by-products of this, and the only things coming from your exhaust, will be water vapour and purified oxygen.
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Company: Renowned innovators in the vehicle sector, Hyundai’s 2021 Sustainability Report is a sci-fi lover’s dream with much discussion of futuristic -sounding innovations including AI-driven Taxis and Wearable Robots, the latter built to sense the intentions of their user and assist with physical exertions to bridge the gap between human and robot worker in future factories (we know, we were pretty mind-blown too!).
But the environment is on their list too. Although their scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions are admittedly high, consistent reduction has been seen from 124,154,890 tCO2-eq to 93,881,255 tCO2-eq from 2018-2020, with particular acceleration most recently. With strong focus on electric and hydrogen-powered vehicle technology progression for reduction of scope 3 emissions, and the intention of replacing current natural gas use in its production plants with hydrogen power, Hyundai indicates their intention to become part of a progressive future; although we would be keen to see an indication of timescale for this replacement instead of the current ‘intent’. We do love Hyundai’s use of recycled plastic materials in design of their vehicles, and their latest development of technology that will enable scrap pieces of fabric to be used in airbags and tire cords to be recycled and used in other car parts.
Product: The Nexo is a premium car designed for luxury, which is reflected in the price of nearly £70,000. Praised for being spacious, the Nexo has the same boot space and rear seat room as a comparable petrol vehicle. The model offers ventilated and heated seats, vegan leather upholstery and an entertainment suite.
Hyundae claims the Nexo is the first mass produced fuel cell vehicle in the UK and the car can store 6.33kg of hydrogen, giving it a range of 266 miles. On these measures filling up your tank will cost between roughly £65 – £98. The Nexo is a comparable size to a Volkswagen Tiguan. It also boasts a calm and relaxing ride because of its lane keeping assistance system. And despite the eye-popping price tag, second-hand models are available for around £35,000.
Company: They may be a household name, but Toyota are certainly not outdated in their climate action efforts. Toyota were the first company to establish a dedicated vehicle recycling service, and the first to mass produce hydrogen-powered and hybrid vehicles. Their Environmental Challenge 2050 encompasses 6 targets from different areas of their business and includes zero emissions from production plants and reduction of Toyota vehicle emissions by 90%. Their 5 yearly-environmental action plans break these goals down into periodic action plans to achieve the goals.
Product: Mirai is the Japanese word for future; appropriate for this forward-thinking and eco-friendly vehicle. The new model of the Mirai comes in at £50,000 – £69,000, with three versions available. An entry-level model will get you 19 inch alloys, premium audio and a cloth seat trim. Mid-spec comes with synthetic leather, and top-level has a panoramic roof, heated rear seats and natural leather interiors.
Similar to a Prius and bigger than a BMW series 5 the Mirai stores 5.6kg hydrogen and travels a range of up to 400 miles. This makes the car about £56 – £84 to fill up for a much larger range than the Nexo. However, it’s not all good news as the Mirai is criticised for a lack of space and poor acceleration, taking up to 38.5 seconds to reach over 100 mph. More models will soon be available – Vauxhall’s hydrogen model is due in the UK in 2023 – so it’s worth keeping your eye on the market.
Refuelling Station List
Shell, Gatwick, RH6 0NX
Shell, M25 Cobham Services, Surrey, KT11 3JS
Power CEME Innovation Centre, Marsh Way, Rainham, RM13 8EU
NPL, Teddington, TW11 0LY
Hatton Cross Station, London, TW6 2GE
Shell, M40 Beaconsfield Services, Buckinghamshire, HP9 2SE
Honda Manufacturing, Swindon, SN3 4TZ
J Matthey, Great Western Way, Swindon, SN5 8AT
AMP, Rotherham, Sheffield, S60 5WG
Aberdeen Hydrogen Centre, Langdykes Road, City of Aberdeen, AB12 3FT
Hydrogen Refuelling, Powis Terrace, City of Aberdeen, AB25 3RF