Top 5 Best hydrogen cars 2020

Top 5 Best hydrogen cars 2020

Hydrogen-powered cars: Just another hype or holy grail of eco-friendly motoring?

The future of motoring is going to be diesel and petrol free, at least according to the EU and the UK government. After pledging to make almost all new cars and vans zero emission vehicles by 2040, in February 2020 Boris Johnson unveiled his plan to bring the ban on selling new petrol and diesel cars forward to 2035. As this move towards vehicles that don’t run on fossil fuels accelerates, people turn towards hybrids and electric cars. There is, however, one other option that people seem to forget, despite it being around in its various forms for several hundred years: hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

Cars with hydrogen fuel cells burn zero fossil fuels, produce zero pollution or greenhouse gases, run on the same chemical reaction that powers rockets, and get twice as much mileage as a Tesla, which means they pose a credible and effective alternative to electric cars as part of a fossil fuel-free future.

If you haven’t heard of this utopian car yet, you wouldn’t be alone. Only Toyota, Honda and Hyundai already have established production lines for fuel-cell vehicles (FCEVs) and it is rare to see one outside of California, the hub where this technology is slowly but surely developing.

This could be set to change though: the UK Government announced in 2017 a £23 million fund to support the development of cars with hydrogen fuel cells and infrastructure and transport minister John Hayes remarked that “hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles can play a vital role…to help us cut harmful emissions.” This fund is certainly needed, as currently there are only around 17 hydrogen refueling stations in the UK (most of them in, you guessed it, London) and none in the USA outside of California.

There are clearly some teething problems, but if FCEVs follow the same pathway as electric vehicles, it is important to ask what are these hydrogen-powered cars, just how good are they really, and what are the best hydrogen cars on the market?

How do hydrogen cars work?

How do hydrogen cars work

Despite the fact that they run on a gaseous fuel, hydrogen cars are technically also electric cars; they are powered by an electric engine rather than a petrol or diesel one. Hydrogen is stored in a tank, which is connected to the fuel cell. The hydrogen enters the fuel cell and mixes with oxygen contained in the ambient air. The hydrogen and oxygen react and combine to produce electrical energy and harmless water vapor, which is then expelled as a byproduct.

There are no moving parts in the fuel-cell, just a chemical reaction which creates the electricity to power the engine. The battery where the electricity is stored, known as a Peak Power Battery, is significantly smaller and therefore lighter than the battery of a standard EV, as it’s being constantly recharged by the fuel cell, as well as through regenerative braking in some models, a process in which the electric motor converts the car’s kinetic energy back into electrical energy and feeds it into the back-up battery.

Hydrogen tanks are refuelled in a way that is almost the same as petrol and diesel; hydrogen gas is pumped into the tank just as you would pump petrol in. For such a possibly world-changing vehicle, the whole system is astoundingly simple.

The Advantages of Hydrogen Cars

  • + No noise engines: Just like most other electric vehicles, hydrogen cars have virtually no engine noise and a lively start, because electric motors provide full torque even at low speeds. They are in fact so quiet that some cars have been fitted with pedestrian warning systems to make a noise when hydrogen cars are parking, reversing, or maneuvering.
  • + Faster refueling: The biggest complaint of electric cars is often that they take an age to refuel. Even with a high-power changing station this can take up to 30 minutes for a normal electric car and several hours if a normal charging station is used. A hydrogen vehicle can be fully fueled in just three to five minutes. It also feels reassuringly familiar to fill up using a pump, just as you would with a petrol or diesel engine.
    Faster refueling
  • + No harmful emissions: The only thing to be emitted from a hydrogen fuel cell car is water. That means no CO2 emissions that come from the car.
  • + A range to rival diesel and petrol equivalents: Another problem with normal E-cars is that even with a full battery they can struggle to travel half the distance of a conventional car on a full tank of gas. With a range of around 300 miles per tank, hydrogen cars are on a par with many conventional vehicles. Once it has a full tank, too, a fuel-cell vehicle can travel just as far as a gas vehicle. The Toyota Mirai has the shortest range of any commercial fuel-cell sedan currently on the market and it goes 317 miles on a full tank. That’s almost 50 percent more range than the 220 miles the base model Tesla Model 3 can travel on a single charge. Most importantly, this range doesn’t deteriorate in cold weather, as can happen with other EVs.
  • + It’s a growth industry: As we’ll see in a second, the infrastructure and support for hydrogen cars isn’t quite where it needs to be at the moment. But that said, one of the advantages of hydrogen cars is that some key players are investing. As well as BMW and Mercedes-Benz in Germany, General Motors is researching a fuel-cell pickup truck in the US and Toyota is trialing a hydrogen-powered tractor-trailer. Residents of Orange County, California have been able to take a fuel-cell bus to their destination since 2016 and there are 25 of these operating in the county. This is good news for anyone looking for a new car that is going to last and save them from being forced to upgrade because of government legislation relating to the environment. Fuel cell cars will also probably make a good investment and retain their resale value, unlike petrol or diesel cars.

The Disadvantages of Hydrogen Cars

  • - Refueling: This is one of the major problems with hydrogen cars. There are currently only 17 hydrogen cars filling stations in the UK and each station costs £1.3 million to build. At the end of 2019 there were only 40 in the US and around 80 in Germany, the European nation which has shown perhaps the most interest in hydrogen as a car fuel. The problem is also a bit of a catch-22 situation: because so few hydrogen cards, no-one wants to invest in refueling stations and since there are so few refueling stations, no-one wants to buy hydrogen cars. This problem isn’t going to be solving itself any time soon.
  • - Expense: Although the cost of fueling a hydrogen car is similar to traditional fuels (about 17.4p per mile for a hydrogen car compared to 16.3p per mile for a conventional), it isn’t cheap to store the gas and the technology itself costs a lot to develop. The fuel cells are expensive and this makes the cars themselves also pricey. The few models that are currently on the market cost on average $80,00 (just shy of £62,000) for a mid- or upper-mid-range vehicle. That’s almost twice as much as comparable fully electric or hybrid vehicles. Part of the problem is the need for the precious metal, platinum, which acts as a catalyst when the power is generated. Having said all this, the UK government does support the purchase of them with a grant of around £3,000.
  • - Car size: Hydrogen fuel tanks take up a lot of space in cars and most hydrogen vehicles so far have more than one. This means they tend to be rather large (SUV or large sedans), which once more means they aren’t cheap and might not make it ideal to drive hydrogen cars in UK cities. This is, however, something that small Welsh carmaker Riversimple are trying to address with their stylish and small Rasa car. It is worth a look if you can see a hydrogen car in your future.
  • - Possible safety risks: Petrol is flammable, but we have been driving petrol cars for years with no complaints. Hydrogen is also flammable, but a lot of people perceive it to be a huge risk. In June 2019 two incidents occurred that seem to prove the critics’ point: a chemical plant producing hydrogen in Santa Clara exploded, leaving FCV users in California short of fuel, and a few days later a refueling station in Sandvika, Norway blew up. For many, this made it clear that hydrogen can be a dangerously explosive gas and have made some people wonder, are hydrogen cars safe?

5 Best Hydrogen Cars

Toyota Mirai

Toyota Mirai:best hydrogen car

Toyota clearly has big plans with the Mirai, as it means ‘the future’ in Japanese. Its sleek and stylish look compliments its excellent handling, but it is pricey and rare: starting at £65,000 before the Government’s £3,500 ultra-low emission grant, only 15 will be released in the UK in 2020.

Honda Clarity

With Clarity of course referring to the lack of emissions coming from Honda’s first fuel-cell vehicle, this isn’t the only thing it has going for it. The Clarity offers an appealingly brisk performance, premium-quality engineering, and offers a great range and comfort. Sadly, it can’t even be leased yet in the UK.

Hyundai Nexo

Hyundai Nexo is best car with hydrogen fuel cells

Following on from the Hyundai ix35 FCEV, the Nexo offers a great guaranteed range of 414 miles, with even more possible thanks to regenerative braking. The South Korean manufacturer claims it can even purify the air around it – and for a huge £68,000 you’d expect that as a minimum.

Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell

Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell:best hydrogen car in uk

The GLC F-Cell is Mercedes’ first attempt at an FCEV and it looks promising so far. The tank has the capacity for 4.4kg of hydrogen giving it a 478km range and a powerful 155kWh output. Most importantly, 90% less platinum has been used, potentially making it very affordable.

BMW hydrogen X5

BMW hydrogen X5:best hydrogen car

Planned to enter production in 2022, the X5 will have 368bhp total output, a total of 6kg hydrogen in the twin H-tanks, and regenerative braking to help support the battery. Refueling is said to take between three to four minutes and this could be a very strong offering for the future.

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