Electric car sales are starting to ramp up as drivers who rarely make longer journeys are taking the plunge and opting for battery power. However, a large number of drivers are undoubtedly put off the idea of zero emissions motoring by being limited to around 100 miles per charge with most models.
Hydrogen-powered cars could offer an answer to these problems, though, with an electric motor providing instant power and silent running – and refillable hydrogen tanks giving the ability to cover much longer journeys without running out of juice.
When it comes to topping up the tank this takes just a few minutes – more akin to filling a petrol or diesel car than plugging in an electric car and waiting for it to charge. Appearing at last week’s LA motor show the Toyota Mirai could be the machine to convert you to green power, arriving on roads in the UK and US towards the end of next year.
This striking new model features bold lines, a powerful motor and the ability to cover 300 miles between fills. Brimming the car with hydrogen should also take just five minutes, meaning that drivers should find switching to hydrogen power simple. With 151bhp and 335Nm on tap, the car should also offer similar performance to a typical family car, taking 9.6 seconds to accelerate to 62mph.
All of this means that the first mainstream hydrogen car to arrive in the UK will already offer a convincing alternative to the current crop of electric cars in terms of range and on-road performance. And provided you can source the hydrogen needed to power the electric motor with renewable energy the car offers true zero emissions driving too.
The one big downside of the Mirai, however, as with much new technology, is the price. At $57,500 (£36,743) in the US this machine costs around £15,000 more than a similarly-sized petrol or diesel Skoda Octavia. The story gets worse when it comes to UK pricing. Toyota is predicting that when the Mirai arrives at the end of next summer buyers will have to stump up more than £60,000 for one.
Another issue yet to be addressed, is the availability of hydrogen fuel stations. Current government plans aim to put 65 hydrogen filling stations in place across the UK by 2018, allowing journeys from the south of England to Scotland.
While hydrogen cars are not yet a mainstream option and predicted prices are high, it seems likely that they will take off with greater speed than electric cars, as drivers don’t have to worry about running out of charge in the same way as the current crop of electric cars, once the hydrogen fuel stations are in place.
You may not want to rush out and buy a hydrogen-powered car in the next year or two, but it looks likely that we’ll see a number of more affordable models within the next decade, offering a more convincing environmentally friendly alternative to petrol and diesel models than electric cars.
November 26, 2014