We have seen the popularization of electric cars over the last ten years, thanks to Elon Musk, he turned electric cars, which were practically milk floats, into a viable way of travelling greener. It all sounded brilliant, it doesn’t emit any toxic gas out of its tailpipes, the car travels in silence, and because there aren’t any moving part in the ‘engine’, you won’t need a service every 5,000 miles.
However, is this the greenest way to travel? The answer, surprisingly, is no. Because there is an alternative to this electric marvel, a way where cars don’t emit anything out of the exhaust, a maintenance is not required and travels just as silently. Meet the hydrogen fuel cell cars.
When I say ‘alternative’, it’s actually just a better way of using electricity. Because - ultimately - hydrogen fuel cell cars are electric cars. You fill up at the hydrogen-filling station, then hydrogen combines with oxygen in the air to generate electricity, and the byproduct of that is H-2-O, water. It’s basically an onboard electricity generator.
What makes it better than electric cars, is that they don’t need charging at all. You just fill the tank up with compressed hydrogen, just like what you do normally in a petrol car, and drive off after it’s filled. And after you’ve run out, you go back there and simply repeat the process. It’d only take you five minutes maximum, instead of a 30-minute charging time as you get in an electric car.
‘Why hasn’t it caught on then if it’s really that good?’ you may ask, the chief reason behind is the complete lack of infrastructure. There is only a handful of charging stations worldwide, which makes it not practical.
Also, they do cost a lot to buy. The Toyota Mirai costs £66,000, which is enough for you to buy an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrofoglio, which sounds far more interesting than a eco box by Toyota.
It is also often said that hydrogen cars are very dangerous because as we all know, hydrogen is highly flammable and very unstable.
But let’s not forget, every new technology comes with a hefty price tag, the original iPhone costs a fortune, so does the original laptop, and so does every niche thing in the market. When that niche thing turns the mass market, that’s when the cost will come down. That’s what Henry Ford did with the Model T.
And if hydrogen fuel cell cars are proved to be viable, which I don’t see why it wouldn’t, the supply and the demand for hydrogen would increase, that would surely encourage fueling stations to invest in this giant new business opportunity.
Hydrogen fuel cell cars are also proved to be as safe, if not safer than your humdrum Ford Focus at home, Toyota’s carbon fibre fuel tank in the Mirai has been proved to survive with minimal damage, after withstanding a 50-calibre gunshot.
George Bernard Shaw once said ‘progress depends on the unreasonable men’. And because Toyota and Honda, with the Mirai and Clarity Fuel Cell, even though they are hilariously expensive, they'd still brought them out and told the world that hydrogen fuel cell cars are fully livable, or else we’d be stuck in the stone age with petrol cars.
Remember, hydrogen is the most plentiful substance on Earth, why not use it when it’s there? If hydrogen fuel cell cars do live on, it will be the single most important car technology that is going to change the motoring industry forever.
This will be the cars of the future, because it's exactly the same as the cars of the present.