Is the hydrogen car already dead?

Returning to prominence earlier this century, hydrogen-powered cars promised to revolutionize transportation. The only thing coming out of the attachment pipes of these vehicles is water, in the form of vapour.

Unfortunately, however, most hydrogen production is based on burning fossil fuels. Only a small proportion of the hydrogen produced is green, i.e. from renewable energy sources.

One of the countries that has invested significantly in promoting hydrogen vehicles has been the UK. But even in this market these vehicles have almost disappeared. Toyota and Hyundai, the only carmakers offering such models in the UK market, sold just 12 cars in 2021. What’s more, Shell closed all the hydrogen filling stations it owned in this country this year.

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At the same time, the popularity of electric vehicles, with shorter range and much longer charging times than hydrogen, has soared. In 2010, 138 electric cars were sold in the UK. Last year, the number reached 190,000.

Worldwide, 15,500 hydrogen cars were sold in 2021, 85% more than in 2020, according to JATO Dynamics. To give you an idea of how small that number is, Volkswagen sells more conventional cars in China in four days.

By comparison, electric car deliveries last year totaled 6.75 million units worldwide. Of these, 71% were all-electric models.

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Hydrogen has a future as a fuel in other industries

There are industries where electric propulsion systems are not practical. One of these is civil aviation. While electric aircraft can be used on short routes, they do not have sufficient range for medium and long routes.

That’s why companies are developing hydrogen turboprops and turbojets. The first test was successfully completed by Rolls-Royce and easyJet.

The first hydrogen-powered turboprop successfully tested recently. (Photo: Flickr / Rolls-Royce plc)

At the same time, panels have been developed in Belgium that use solar energy to generate hydrogen in people’s homes. The gas is produced from water vapour in the air and converted into electricity by a hydrogen fuel cell.

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