New initiative to kick start hydrogen vehicles but who will benefit?

by | May 13, 2016

The Government has recently announced grants of £2 million for businesses and local authorities to accelerate the uptake of hydrogen vehicles. Now call me cynical (I know many people do) but as I stated in my previous blog, I still can’t see a day when these vehicles will become mass market.

Firstly, the cars are just not being produced in large enough numbers to make a significant difference. According to Autocar there will be just 50 Toyota Mirai arriving in the UK in 2016 and global production for the car in 2017 is only 3,000. In a recent news report by USA Today, they forecast that global sales will amount to only 70,000 by 2027 which is only 0.1% of all new vehicles sold. These are hardly ground breaking figures.

Secondly, the price is expected to place hydrogen cars out of reach for most normal households or businesses.  The expected price of the Toyota will be £60,000 (Autocar) and the Hyundai ix35 is slightly cheaper at £53,000. Based on these figures increasing uptake will be a challenge. In times of austerity, it will be interesting to see which local authority will be brave enough to put staff in a £63,000 car even if it is subsidised.

Most importantly, the final barrier will be the lack of refuelling stations. With hydrogen refuelling stations costing in excess of £2 million, it’s hardly surprising that there’s only plans to install a handful across the entire country. Currently London, Swindon and Rotherham are home to hydrogen refuelling stations and the UK Government has plans to bring the total up to 13 in the next year. However even with these 13, the nearest hydrogen refuelling station to ourselves in North East England will be Rotherham. Now that is a problem, since that’s a 268 mile trip for me. I would need 130 mile range in reserve just to fill up! There are plans to build a station in Levenmouth, Scotland but again that’s a 320 mile round trip or one tank. Therefore I simply could not use a hydrogen vehicle.

So for those living or operating in London, Swindon or Rotherham, then logistically you could drive a hydrogen vehicle right now but for the foreseeable future, the only way I can benefit is if I move. I can’t imagine the conversation with Mrs H about why we have to move home just so that I can purchase and drive a very expensive new car!

Supporters of hydrogen vehicles say that it’s the range and time to refuel that give the vehicles some key advantages over electric driving. I do admit that I have driven one and they are very good. However it will certainly be interesting to see where hydrogen fits with consumer acceptance. And there’s certainly a lot of challenges to overcome, in particular the cost aspect – both for the production of the vehicles and the filling stations as well as the cost of producing and delivering Hydrogen to the vehicle.

I know I for one will be sticking with my all-electric car for now.


Zero Carbon Futures is an electric vehicle consultancy which manages and delivers projects which help towns and cities increase EV uptake.




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