Are hydrogen powered cars better than battery powered electric vehicles?

The extension of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and the recent fuel shortages caused by the supply chain crisis have put more pressure on the internal combustion engine and a fresh focus on alternatives such as electric vehicles and hydrogen powered cars.

While inquiries for EVs have gone through the roof, one issue remains and that’s the time taken to recharge the battery. Many EV drivers can charge at home overnight or during the working day at a very low cost, but long journeys, anything over 200 miles, make EV owners a little more nervous.

There are charging stations on major routes – the kind of roads you’d take if travelling over 200 miles – but the fact remains you will need to stop and take a long break when you recharge the battery, whereas you can refuel and go in just a couple of minutes with a conventional fill up.

Hydrogen powered cars might be the answer

One solution might be hydrogen powered cars. Hydrogen can be stored in a similar way to fossil fuels like petrol and diesel, albeit with much more robust storage tanks because hydrogen would much rather be a free gas than a tightly bound one.

For that reason, it has to be held at very high pressure. Nevertheless, the infrastructure needed already exists as a network of filling stations. In the same way we saw some stations embracing liquified petroleum gas (LPG) despite the required adaptations to pumps and tanks, filling stations could plausibly adapt to hydrogen too. In fact, some stations already have.

hydrogen powered cars

The benefits of hydrogen powered cars

The major benefits of hydrogen powered cars are that hydrogen power won’t run out like fossil fuel and hydrogen doesn’t create noxious gases once it’s burned and spat out of the exhaust.

In fact, as any GCSE science textbook will confirm, the only thing you get out of the exhaust when hydrogen burns (i.e. shares electrons with oxygen in exchange for energy) is dihydrogen monoxide – “water” as it’s commonly known. That’s right, all you get from the exhausts of hydrogen powered cars is water.

That’s not an exaggeration, it’s not water with a bit of CO2 and NO2. It’s just water, just pure H2O. You could drink it – but wait for it to cool down first. And it tastes of nothing because it’s so pure.

So in the emissions stakes, hydrogen powered cars clearly beat fossil fuel cars. But what about electricity? Zero emissions, right? Well yes. But you’ll still need to take a while to charge up during a long journey.

Questions still remain as to where the energy to process hydrogen comes from in the first place. But the same is true for electricity. Both may be sourced from solid fuel power stations which are perceived to be unclean, but equally the power can be sourced from renewable sources like wind and solar.

So, can you have a hydrogen car in the UK now?

Yes. The reason there’s a small HRS network already is because you can get hydrogen powered cars, and buses and lorries too. These vehicles are known as FCEVs – Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles. This is because you have a fuel cell which uses the hydrogen to generate electricity, rather than go directly from a fuel combustion engine to your drivetrain. If you want one in the UK you have a choice of two – Hyundai’s iX35 Fuel Cell, and the Toyota Mirai.

What about insurance?

Insurance should be no problem for owners of hydrogen powered cars or EVs as Adrian Flux’s team of specialists fully understand what they are dealing with. If you are looking for electric vehicle insurance or cover for an FCEV or other alternative-fuel vehicle, call 0330 031 9996.

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