7 June 2017

Hydrogen cars: giving the green light to a new European challenge

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The electric car is an innovative solution. However, electric technology is being joined on the road by hydrogen, technically more complex but also less expensive in the long run. This is how the Old World is navigating among old obstacles and lots of news.


The pros of hydrogen cars. Compared to electric vehicles, hydrogen-powered cars boast two considerable advantages: refilling in a few minutes and longer ranges. In the first case, thanks to new generation refueling stations – still rare in Europe – you can fill up the tank in about the same time as a gasoline-powered car and in the second, already today real distances of around 600 km can be travelled.

The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell reaches the Old World. After making a record with the highest driving range in the USA (589 km on a full tank), the hydrogen-powered sedan has also arrived in Europe:

“Arriving in Europe and our taking part in the HyFIVE project is the next step forward to fully marketing this technology,” explained Thomas Brachmann, Head of Research and Development at Honda and Project Leader for Clarity Fuel Cell.

The first European tests. Not only Asia: Volkswagen has recently unveiled the hydrogen version of the Golf, the Variant Hymotion, in Geneva, Pininfarina has made the supercar “Full Hydrogen Power” H2Speed, BMW has an iron pact with Toyota to share the hydrogen and fuel cell technologies that equip the Mirai, and Mercedes is working on a model that will fall under the BF-Cell class:

“With over 300,000 vehicles and around 9 million km driven, we have proven that the hydrogen car is ready to take to the roads – commented Herbert Kohler, Director of Research at Mercedes – but there’s still a lot to do in terms of the fueling infrastructure in Europe. Our hydrogen model will be on the market by 2018”.

The deficit of infrastructure. Hydrogen-powered cars have therefore made huge steps forward in terms of technology, the sizes of propulsion systems and driving range. There is just one old European problem: infrastructure. It is unthinkable for a new fuel to become “common” without an adequate fueling infrastructure. The first steps have been taken in Italy, in Bolzano, where there is one hydrogen station, Germany, where Hyundai inaugurated the first public station, and in Paris, where there is a fleet of fuel-cell taxis, always by the Korean manufacturer.

Green ECO mode button on a dashboard of a sportive car.

“Today we want to free ourselves from relying on petrol and the countries that produce it – explained Thomas Brachmann, European Project Manager for Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, as reported by Italpress – but if we put all our chips on batteries – and therefore electric cars – we’ll become dependent on other areas of the world, such as South America, where lithium is extracted, or China, where rare earths are found. The platinum used in the fuel cells is more common and hydrogen is everywhere, we just need energy to extract it. One day this energy could entirely come from renewable sources, in fact hydrogen will be an excellent way to compensate the typical oscillations of solar and wind energy”.

We’ll see!