When you think of green cars, most of us will immediately think of electric cars: Teslas, Nissan Leafs etc. However there are currently 3 mainstream hydrogen cars (Toyota Mirai, the Hyundai ix35 FCEV, and the Honda Clarity) available, and some people think that hydrogen cars have a bright future.
Toyota are one such company, who had one of the first hydrogen cars (the Mirai) available - and they are increasing their production ten-fold. This is because they predict that hydrogen car sales will reach 30,000 per year after 2020, up from just 3,000 sales currently. This 900% increase would be even greater than that seen in electric cars in the past few years.
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How Do Hydrogen Cars Work?
There are two main technologies at play here: hydrogen internal combustion engines and hydrogen fuel cell cars:
- Combustion engine: similar to how traditional cars have combustion engines which convert fossil-fuels (petrol/diesel) into power for the car, hydrogen engine cars convert the hydrogen energy store into mechanical energy to drive the car forward.
- Fuel cells: more similar to electric cars, here hydrogen cars have fuel cells which are like ‘batteries’ for hydrogen fuel. The hydrogen energy is stored in the fuel cells, and used on demand as needed.
Mainstream cars like the Mirai use the latter type - aka they are hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
When (or Will) Hydrogen Cars Become Mainstream?
The fact that you’ve probably never seen a Mirai or Honda Clarity, but have almost certainly seen electric cars, is a sign that hydrogen cars are still a maturing, niche sector. They have not become mainstream yet. This is for a few reasons:
- The technology behind hydrogen fuel cells (and the infrastructure to make and transport hydrogen) is very expensive
- Some experts claim that hydrogen technology won’t be ready (for mainstream use of hydrogen cars) for another 30 years; in which time, electric cars might have already ‘won’ the green car battle.
- There are just 40 hydrogen fuelling stations in America, compared to 19,000 electric charging points
Despite this, clearly some companies (like Toyota) are backing hydrogen in a big way. Plus the UK and EU are backing campaigns to increase hydrogen fuelling points, aiming to open 65 points by 2020.
And the range on hydrogen cars is higher than electric cars, so slowly but surely, hydrogen cars probably will increase in popularity. The question that no-one can answer for definite however is: “will they ever be anywhere near as popular as electric cars”?
How Much Do They Currently Cost?
- The Toyota Mirai currently costs $57,000+ in America and Japan
- The 2019 Hyundai Nexo will be $59,345 in America
- Hyundai ix35 FCEV would cost a little more (for outright sale) in America, and is £53,000+ in the UK
- The Honda Clarity is only available for lease (at $369 per month)