DO HYDROGEN CARS HAVE A FUTURE?
Hydrogen has been used as an alternative fuel in vehicles for a long time and the technology is not new. The first hydrogen internal combustion engine was developed in the early 19th century, in 1807. It was Isaac De Rivaz who, back in 1807, invented the hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine and powered it with an electric spark. In 1808, De Rivaz used his invention in a primitive vehicle – the world’s first internal combustion-powered car.
In the first half of the 1980s, many countries, not only in Europe, but also America, Russia, and Japan, committed themselves to experimenting with such technology.
Over time, various countries have tried to introduce so-called “green” vehicles in their different car model lines, but in most cases this either remained at the prototype level or the release was very limited.
Today, bicycles and motorcycles, cars, buses, trains, and all kinds of machinery – forklifts, boats, and ships, even planes and submarines – run on hydrogen. There were times when even NASA used hydrogen as part of its rocket fuel.
IS A HYDROGEN-POWERED CAR ACTUALLY AN ELECTRIC CAR?!
In general, there are two types of hydrogen engines: The first, and most common, is the fuel cell electric motor, which uses the energy produced when hydrogen reacts with oxygen. The generated energy recharges the electric motor’s batteries, which then propel the car. Fuel cell electric vehicles produce no emissions, only water. They even improve air quality while moving. How is that? Since the fuel cell unit needs purified air, the air filter traps micro-particles and removes unused air, making the outside air cleaner than it was.
The second is the hydrogen internal combustion engine, which works in a similar way to gas, petrol, and diesel engines.
WHAT ARE THE HYDROGEN CAR MODELS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ON THE MARKET?
IN GENERAL, THESE ARE AVAILABLE FROM SEVERAL MANUFACTURERS.
Hyundai Nexo SUV – “The Car of Tomorrow, Today”. Hyundai was the first mass producer of fuel cell vehicles and remains at the forefront of sustainable automotive technology.
(first models appeared in 2018) What are the sales volumes for such a car:
92 models sold in Europe in 2018
362 models sold in Europe in 2019
468 models sold in Europe in 2020
214 models sold in Europe in 2021
605 models sold in Europe in 2022
Austria, Belgium, and Denmark account for 25% of all sales, followed by Finland, France, Germany, etc.
Toyota mIRAI – first test models were built already back in 2014. One fill-up is enough to cover 650 km.
67 models sold in Europe in 2016
132 models sold in Europe in 2017
160 models sold in Europe in 2018
255 models sold in Europe in 2019
422 models sold in Europe in 2020
692 models sold in Europe in 2021
856 models sold in Europe in 2022
Germany, France, Spain, Greece, etc. account for 40% of sales.
BMW IX5 hYDROGEN (test models from 2022). The German automaker BMW, alongside Honda and Toyota, is also one of those still developing hydrogen fuel cells for use specifically in passenger cars. In early March, BMW demonstrated its latest batch of test vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells. BMW says it expects to start production of this hydrogen-powered model in small volumes by the end of the year.
Hydrogen cars were also offered by Honda, which produced the Clarity from 2016 to 2021. Citroën offers the ë-Jumpy Hydrogen. Peugeot has the e-EXPERT Hydrogen. Mercedes has developed the GLC F-CELL, which is combined with a hydrogen fuel cell electric motor and lithium-ion batteries. Opel is expected to launch the Vivaro-e HYDROGEN in 2023.
The main drawback for the operation of these cars is the lack of hydrogen filling stations, which makes it difficult for consumers to fill up their vehicles. Besides, the production and transport of hydrogen fuel itself requires significant investment and infrastructure, which may not be economically viable in all regions. But this is not expected to last for long. There are now more than 200 filling stations in Europe, with the highest concentration in Germany, where more than 100 stations are currently operating.
Hydrogen cars are currently in the minority, but this is definitely about to change in the next decade. Publicly available information already shows, for example, that the share prices of hydrogen companies have doubled in recent years. Reviewing related terms, for example, the number of searches for “hydrogen cars” on internet giant Google has increased from an average of 40,500 per month in March 2019 to 165,000 per month in March 2022, with monthly figures currently hovering around 80,000 searches. This means that manufacturers are investing more in technology and people are increasingly looking for information about and around this type of car.
A VISION FOR THE FUTURE:
• In China, by 2030, it is planned to have already 800,000 cars running on hydrogen.
• 1,000,000 hydrogen cars in Japan by 2035.
• The European Commissioner for Transport forecasts that 25–30% of cars will run on hydrogen from 2035, and from 2030, around 17% of the total car sales market will be hydrogen cars.
• By 2050, around 30% of the entire car market will be hydrogen-powered vehicles.