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Hydrogen to power future cars?

In today's car industry there is much focus on electric vehicles (EVs) and electric petrol hybrids. Such cars promise much reduced CO2 emissions and far cheaper motoring but there are obvious problems with the technology. Tackling the hybrids first, the actual economy figures are not that much more impressive than the best petrol cars and in some cases do not even match these small petrol driven cars for economy.

In today's car industry there is much focus on electric vehicles (EVs) and electric petrol hybrids. Such cars promise much reduced CO2 emissions and far cheaper motoring but there are obvious problems with the technology. Tackling the hybrids first, the actual economy figures are not that much more impressive than the best petrol cars and in some cases do not even match these small petrol driven cars for economy. EVs meanwhile have serious issues to overcome if they are ever to be widely accepted. The range of such vehicles is typically less than 100 miles, after which the cars need to find a scarce charging station or require a long overnight charge at home. This makes these vehicles unsuitable for many car owners. Range anxiety is a big problem and the complex production means that even with the government's £5,000 subsidy, they are still more expensive than conventional cars.

A more suitable solution to low carbon motoring needs might be provided by a different source or energy; hydrogen. A joint government and motor industry study published on 25 April has outlined details of a roadmap that could see the widespread introduction of hydrogen powered vehicles to the UK. This report follows an interim study published in February and suggests that more than 1.5 million hydrogen cars could be on British roads by 2030. The study is produced by industry think tank the UKH2 Mobility Project which includes leaders from business, the car industry, energy companies and the retail sector and sets out a strategic plan for rolling out a hydrogen fuel cell infrastructure.

The hydrogen fuel cells have all the benefits of zero emissions EVs but crucially they do not require recharging like conventional batteries. Instead, electricity is provided by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen and the cell is simply refuelled at filling stations, much like conventional petrol and diesel cars. Government energy minister, Michael Fallon, welcomed the report, saying: "Securing new economic opportunities for the UK, diversifying our national energy supply and driving down carbon emissions go to the heart of my job in government. The findings of the report demonstrate hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles can have a real impact on all three. Prompt action is needed to ensure the potential benefits are realised by businesses and consumers in the UK and work on the next phase will start straight away". With the real issues surrounding EVs, perhaps the hydrogen powered car is the real future of motoring.
 

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