Toyota Mirai fuel cell detail
What is the role of hydrogen fuel cell cars in the business motoring sector?
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STRANGE fact for the day: but you can run a four bedroom house from the electricity produced by a hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Mirai or Honda Clarity.

Strange but true.

Arval’s hydrogen expert Paul Marchment revealed this fact at the VRA seminar today at the Cranmore Park Exhibition Centre, Solihull, on November 22, 2018.

Honda Clarity charging a house
Honda Clarity charging a house in Japan

It really does happen. Both the Mirai and the Honda Clarity have the facility to do this in Japan.

Now, possibly you might have thought the flow of electricity might be going the other way for an electric car. But not for a hydrogen fuel cell.

Rather than juice up on electricity, a hydrogen fuel cell car takes minutes at a hydrogen fuelling station to gas up.

So which is better? Hydrogen fuel cell car or electric car? Paul Marchment said that wasn’t the question.

It was more about hydrogen’s place in the jigsaw of automotive drivetrains. And more.

Paul said:

“There’s a fuel cell powering a leisure centre in Swindon, many factories are hydrogen fuel cell powered, while Amazon uses hydrogen fork lift trucks. And then just think of buses – there are hydrogen buses in Aberdeen and London. Hydrogen has a big role to play in zero emissions over long distance – for example the light commercial vehicle and heavy goods vehicle secotrs.

“The key thing is this: it’s not about whether EV or hydrogen is better; it’s about deployment.”

Currently Arval is taking part in the Hydrogen Hub initiative which is designed to understand the possibilities of using hydrogen as a fuel. Arval is currently deploying 15 cars in and around Swindon near its HQ as part of this trial.

Paul said one of the key advantages of hydrogen was its ability to store energy. When the grid doesn’t need more energy from a wind farm the turbines are stopped. And this is where hydrogen can come in, says Paul.

“Many of the hydrogen stations link to solar farms to use renewable energy when their energy is not required into a form that can be stored.”

Range of fuel cell cars is also good, from about 300-350 miles, which is currently superior to the range of an EV.

Hyundai Nexo EuroNCAP crash test
Hyundai Nexo: passed EuroNCAP crash test with flying colours

And any considerations of Hindenburg style flaming cars has recently been dispelled when the Hyundai Nexo fuel cell was awarded five safety stars by EuroNCAP.

The downside to hydrogen is access to hydrogen stations. There are 16 open now; six due to open by 2019.

So that’s an issue.

Toyota Mirai Met Police
The Met Police are already running the Toyota Mirai – and are planning up to 140 more

But hydrogen usage is increasing. The world’s first emergency response vehicles for a hydrogen fleet are 11 Mirai (it’s the first batch of 140) which have gone to the Metropolitan Police.

Paul said: “This is important for visibility and to prove the durability of the product.”

Nevertheless, says Paul, “we’re still about 5-10 years away from mass deployment” – which seems a shame. But by then, reckons Paul, the artificially high price of hydrogen cars – “we’re competing with the Nordic countries and with California for a limited supply” – will have come down to parity with EV vehicles.

But that’s certainly a future to look forward to – when you can have the choice of electric propulsion: battery electric vehicle or fuel cell electric vehicle.


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