RAC Cars News


Government supports hydrogen fuel cell cars

By raccars Published

Toyota fuel cell

The Government has announced £2 million of new funding to be spent on hydrogen fuel cell cars.

The grants are available to local authorities, health and fire services, police forces and private companies, which can enter bids for a share of the funding. The Government's £2 million funding will be used to purchase hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles to be used by the successful applicants.

Public funding now available

The funding will provide up to 75 per cent of the cost of hydrogen fuel cell cars and other vehicles and must be used by April 2017. The funds are also designed to support the running costs of the vehicles for up to three years. Bids are also being taken for funding the rental or leasing of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, plus servicing and insurance and the cost of the hydrogen fuel itself.

The scheme is being run by the Office for Lower Emission Vehicles and could result in as many as 100 new hydrogen fuel cell vehicles using British roads within the next year. This would effectively triple the current penetration of hydrogen fuel cell cars in the UK market. Transport minister Andrew Jones claims that hydrogen fuel cell technology is an important part of the Government's plan to ensure all new cars and vans sold by 2050 are zero emissions.

The fuel of the future

Some bold claims have been made for hydrogen fuel cell technology, which is being hailed by experts as the future of transport and the saviour of the environment. Currently there are three fuel cell vehicles available to the UK market. Government funding is in place and there are plans to increase the number of hydrogen fuelling stations in the UK, the lack of which is the main obstacle to hydrogen fuel cell car uptake in Britain at the moment. However what buyers really want to know is what fuel cell cars are like to live with.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars in the UK

UK buyers who want to join the hydrogen revolution can choose between the Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity FCV and a fuel cell powered Hyundai ix35. Of these the Hyundai is the one which has not been specifically designed as a fuel cell vehicle and is the least obviously so. The ix35 not only looks like a normal car, but in many ways it feels like one too, albeit one with heavier steering and more responsive acceleration. It's also very quiet to ride in, rather like an electric car.

The ix35 claims a 400 mile range but users report that higher speeds have a dramatic impact upon fuel economy. That said, it's still easier to live with than an electric car with a range of 100 miles, for example. The real issue, however, is that when you start running low on hydrogen, there are as yet only four public refilling points in the entire country. The refuelling process itself is very much like your average petrol or diesel car - you stick a pipe in a receiver, press a button and let the tank fill.

In addition to the lack of dirty exhaust emissions, hydrogen fuel cell cars are very easy to live with in a number of ways; cargo space is not compromised by bulky equipment, for example. While purchase costs are understandably high right now, market forces will no doubt exert their usual pressure to make them more affordable. This will apply in equal measure to the fuel.

Fortunately for hydrogen fans, the Government has plans to tackle the current lack of infrastructure. Another eight to ten hydrogen refuelling points should be in action in the UK by the end of the year, thanks to Government funding. In addition, the EU will fund a further three. A total of 65 hydrogen refilling points are expected to be online by 2020, covering the UK's major cities. Industry experts believe that growth will be organic from that point onwards.

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