UK’s Government Funding Could Boost Hydrogen Vehicles

2016-06-09 12:21:30

A huge step into making UK’s roads free from carbon emission is the government’s effort of encouraging businesses to switch to buying hydrogen powertrains by 2050. This is through a £2 million government fund created under The Fuel Vehicle Fleet Support Scheme, allowing local authorities, private firms, fire brigade, health rusts and police officers to bid for funding to buy hydrogen powered cars. The benefits of this decision will be realised soon enough if everything is adhered to.

This is set to bring more than 100 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) in the near future, tripling the current number of fuel cell cars in UK roads. This comes after the government invested up to a tune of 5 million sterling pounds into setting up of 12 hydrogen fuelling stations back in 2014. The money is to cover up to 75% of new vehicles expected to be brought into the UK by April 2017 and the money expected to be used in the maintenance and running of the fuel cell cars for the next 3 years.

The funding will also go building more and more hydrogen stations. Currently, England has the highest number theses station, helping most businesses get on board with this technology. UK aims into making its future cleaner by 2050, says UK’s transport minister Andrew Jones.

Running the Hydrogen Car

It is no doubt that FCVs are future of the auto industry. The UK government is also making efforts to offer incentives and grants for this vehicles as well the infrastructure needed to maintain this technology. Here, we sample Hyundai’s FCV, the Hyundai ix35 which ranks the same as Honda Clarity FCV and Toyota Mirai.

The Hyundai ix35 is a bit heavy on the steering especially when negotiating corners, compared to the other two FCVs in the market. Although the FCV can be used for both long distance and city driving, potential buyers should be aware of the range, as this vehicle claims to have 400 miles, but on real driving, for example for 60 miles at 70mph, the trip computer start to warn you of hydrogen fuel.

Another problem is the infrastructure that comes with running FCVs, admits Hyundai’s special vehicle manager, Robin Hayles. Locating a hydrogen refuel station in the UK is not easy, as most are located in private land. However, for those living in cities, for example London, there is refuel station at Heathrow Airport. Refilling a FCV is easy, just like refilling a petrol powered car. The FCV need not to run too low on fuel to avoid back pressure problems in the tank, when refuelling.

The UK government and the private sector are at the forefront of developing this infrastructure needed to operate these vehicles, according to Ben Madden, from Element Energy Consultancy. Major parts of the UK will be covered by over 65 refuel station by 2020. Concerns about the safety of the car when it comes to using hydrogen have been put to rest since the hydrogen tank cannot be damaged even after an accident.

The hydrogen gas is also an expensive commodity. For example, the Hyundai ix35 covers 227 miles on 5.6kg. The cost of 1 kg of hydrogen is roughly 10 pounds. This is expensive compared to petrol or electricity. The auto maker may also have to increase the size of hydrogen tanks, if the car is to be used for long distance drives. The reasons cited above may delay the use of hydrogen cars, in the near future.

Understanding the Hydrogen Car

FCVs use electric motors that convert hydrogen fuel to electricity, hence the name fuel cell. The chemical reaction in the fuel cell generates electricity, water and heat and no harmful emissions are released to the environment. In addition, FCVs can be easily refilled in seconds unlike electric vehicles and their fuel efficiency is 60% compared to petrol whose internal combustion is 20-25%.

FCVs’ Impact in UK

Currently, the UK faces some hurdles in the use of the FCVs due to the absence of proper infrastructure. There are only 11 hydrogen refuelling stations and only four are open to the public. However, the government is encouraging owners of FCVs to install their private hydrogen stations at 75% off the purchase for the first three years of ownership.

Soon, more giant auto makers are also planning to launch their FCVs. The FCVs include; BMW 5 Series GT FCEV, Nissan’s Terra FCV and Mercedes Benz B-Class.

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Guest Editor