UK Govt To Subsidise Hydrogen Cars

By Paul Homewood


Last month the Department of Transport announced it was paying £8.8 million into a project promoting hydrogen cars:


Police cars and taxis will be among nearly 200 new hydrogen powered vehicles switching to zero emission miles, thanks to a multi-million pound government boost.

The zero emission vehicles are part of a project that has won £8.8 million in funding from the Department for Transport to improve access to hydrogen refuelling stations up and down the country and increase the number of hydrogen cars on our roads from this summer.

The winning project is run by a consortium managed by Element Energy and including expertise from ITM Power, Shell, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai. It will capitalise on the reliable mileage of established fleets and see vehicles being procured by emergency services such as the Metropolitan Police, as well as Green Tomato Cars and Europcar to support the growth of refuelling infrastructure for hydrogen vehicles up and down the country.

Roads Minister, Jesse Norman said:

Decarbonising our roads is an essential part of meeting our climate targets. The innovative new technologies involved present great opportunities for our increasingly low carbon economy.

Hydrogen has huge potential, especially for those making longer journeys and clocking up high mileage. That is what makes this project truly exciting. Not only is it demonstrating the technology in action, but it is also developing the refuelling infrastructure needed for the future.

The project helps cement the UK’s place as a world-leader in adopting hydrogen technology, using not only British expertise through ITM Power, but also securing further investment from multi-national companies such as Shell, Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai.

It also means that hydrogen cars will be able to travel further around Britain than ever before, with new refuelling stations being planned for Southwark, Isleworth, Birmingham and Derby paving the way for future expansion.

The £8.8 million grant will be matched by a further £13.1 million investment including support from the companies and other sources. The project will involve the procurement of new vehicles, construction of new stations and upgrades to existing stations.


But just how economical are hydrogen cars?

The simple truth is that, despite all of the hype about them being the “car of the future”, they are horribly expensive.

According to Nextgreencar, there are currently only two FCEV models available to own in the UK – Hyundai’s ix35 fuel cell and the Toyota Mirai, although the Hyundai is apparently being withdrawn.

The Hyundai was priced at £53105, but this is part funded by the European HyFive project, a hydrogen fuel consortium of which Hyundai’s a member, to the tune of £15000, meaning the real cost is £68105.  And all this for a model that costs less than £20000, with a proper engine in it.

The Mirai is equally ludicrously priced at around £65000, again for a pretty ordinary car, which has been panned by reviews.

As for running costs, there is no advantage either. An Evening Standard test drive suggested that it cost about the same per mile as a petrol engined car to run. Crucially however, there is no fuel duty on hydrogen, although it accounts for nearly half the price of petrol.

Effectively the, the true running costs are double those of a conventional car. So these 200 hydrogen cars being subsidised by the taxpayer will mean less revenue for the government.

Hydrogen cars are still relatively new technology and will no doubt become cheaper to produce in time. But one wonders how much. After all, fuel cell technology is not new, and neither is battery hybrid tech.

And if costs do fall eventually, why should UK taxpayers be the guinea pigs, forced to pay the development bill?

And after all of that, the process of producing hydrogen still involves emissions of CO2, unless some sort of CCS is part of the process.

Is the government leading us up an expensive blind alley?


April 30, 2018 at 07:21AM

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