Hydrogen as a fuel has an image problem, but it’s unjustified

"Get it wrong and you won’t be around to worry about it,” laughed the man showing me how to use a hydrogen refuelling station.

He was joking, I think, but it seems to be a default setting for anyone discussing the use of hydrogen as a fuel to have a mental image of the Hindenburg disaster pop into their head and feel the need to say something negative.

It’s illogical, of course. For starters, it is worth remembering that conventional engines rely on explosive combustion to generate power, whereas fuel cell vehicles create energy through a combustion-free chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. Then there’s the fact that using a hydrogen refuelling station is scarcely more complicated than using a regular fuel station. And, of course, the hydrogen tank is better protected than any petrol or diesel tank – albeit because it needs to be because the consequences of a leak are greater.

And, yes, things can go wrong. A quick search on YouTube highlights several hydrogen-powered buses alight in various locations around the world, although it’s reassuring to see that the passengers usually seem to emerge unscathed. When hydrogen burns, it tends to do so furiously but quickly. But it is not a frequent occurrence.

The point is that the tanks and fuel cell structures – just like regular fuel tanks – have all undergone extensive safety testing, including multiple crash test procedures, and there are multiple cut-offs designed to shut off the hydrogen and protect you in the event of an accident. I’ve watched videos of the hydrogen-filled tanks used in cars being dropped into a burning pit and having bullets and then shells of various calibres being fired at them, and the result has been that precisely nothing at all has happened. These things are tough.

Consequently, I suspect that I’m as safe in a hydrogen-powered car as in a petrol or diesel one. And while I’d rather not test the theory, I suspect there is a half-truth in the opening comment, because the chances are that by the time the hydrogen tank has exploded, there’s not going to be much left of the car or me anyway.


Price £53,105 (after £4500 gov’t grant) Price as tested £53,105 Economy na Faults None Expenses None Last seen 23.11.16

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3 April 2017
The safest cars in the world today are electric and made by Tesla. They are also the least likely to burn.

Electric cars have no explosive fuel and batteries when they do burn oxidise slowly in comparison.

3 April 2017
Plenty of Tesla's have gone up in smoke, Google it.

3 April 2017
Because there's plenty of them about

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

3 April 2017
Five times less likely to catch fire. By then end of 2013 one fire every 100 million miles with a Tesla compered to one in every 20 million mile for petrol cars.

3 April 2017
Is missing surprize, surprize. Reason: Hyundia don't want the public to know it works out to around 27mpg at todays prices. Hydrogen, epic fail

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

3 April 2017
xxxx wrote:

Is missing surprize, surprize. Reason: Hyundia don't want the public to know it works out to around 27mpg at todays prices. Hydrogen, epic fail

Yes but you get that lovely warm glow from the zero emissions and no need to charge the batteries.

Oh no, sorry. That's because your car's on fire.

(Psst; no z in surprise)

3 April 2017
It might be a child`s play, at least in Britain, but in forward advocate Japan, it requires 2 people, both of them not the driver.

So, when is this technology going to be "free" from the adverstising gimnick, so it can become considered as an option for the real punter?

How many leases from TOYOTA and Hyundai in Britain up to now?
10, 12, 15?

Yeah, and hydrogen is "free", imagine if it was required to pay
£7/kg. How is that translating to £/100Km?

How are the prospects for used car prices after 4 to 5 years? How is that the depreciation?
Who will run the Hydrogen tanks inspections after 10 and 15 years of road use, the typical MOT station?

How is that supposed punter man will get a benefit from using hydrogen cars in place of battery electric cars or petrol cars or diesel cars?

Child`s play

3 April 2017
Childs play? According to the Hydrogen filling station map, there are FOUR fuel stations north of Birmingham. Those small quaint remote fishing villages of Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh etc?

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