There are a lot of smug people in the capital but surely none could have been any smugger than me at eight o’clock this morning.
The German equivalent of the AA rolled up my street and rolled out Honda’s FCX hydrogen-powered fuel cell car for its debut tackling the Great British Rush Hour.
My job was to drive the FCX through the morning traffic to the Greater London Authority building by Tower Bridge. Once there, Kit Malthouse, the deputy mayor for policing and chair of the London Hydrogen Partnership, would be waiting for a quick steer.
Aside from the sheer ease and blood-pressure lowering effortlessness of steering the FCX between hundreds of hammering cyclists, this car is a superb package. Huge cabin space, a great view forward and cool dash design. If this were the next Accord, it’d be a runaway success.
Kit Malthouse says he wants to see London shifting to Hydrogen Economy. It’ll be a hell of challenge. The project kicks off with six hydrogen fuel stations and a full-time hydrogen bus route (the RV1, if you’re interested).
The most obvious candidate for hydrogen power is the ancient London Black Cab. Although only prototype has been built, Mayor Boris Johnson wants all taxis to be ‘emissions free’ by 2020.
I wonder about this brave new world. Honda has spent zillions and many years getting the outstanding FCX to this point – it is indistinguishable from a production car, even though just 200 are being released to the public.
Is it that easy to engineer useable, long-term, hydrogen-powered buses and taxis with a fraction of the development budget? And even if a decent Hydrogen re-fueling network can be established, from where will the UK get the Hydrogen?
As someone who spends too much time breathing London’s polluted air, I would like have seen London’s politicians developing an intermediate strategy, probably using natural gas for taxis and buses – as they do in many European cities. It’s a strategy that could also be used in the rest of the UK.
Betting the capital’s health on being able to get from a tired old diesel economy to a shiny new hydrogen economy in one giant leap seems rather ambitious.