Electric vehicles are all the rage at the moment, but is it possible hydrogen-fueled vehicles are the real future of clean energy? Toyota and Hyundai are putting good money into the possibility. June Yoon reports for the Financial Times:
The battle over cars running on alternative fuel shifts up a gear this year. A record number of new models powered by electric batteries are due to be released in the coming months as manufacturers place their bets on greener solutions to petrol engines.
But two of the biggest carmakers, Toyota and Hyundai, are still driven by the belief that hydrogen will become a key source of clean energy for the future. That obsession with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles looks more justified now than it has sometimes appeared in the past.
Extreme volatility in natural gas prices in recent months and the need to find alternatives for Russian resources have renewed interest in the potential for hydrogen fuel. Large vehicles, such as trucks, need an alternative to battery electric power. The distances they travel mean electric alternatives require heavy batteries.
On the hydrogen-powered passenger car side, which is led by Toyota’s Mirai and Hyundai’s Nexo models, sales numbers are small, making up less than 0.1 per cent of global passenger car sales last year. Vehicles running on batteries accounted for 10 per cent.
But for hydrogen-powered commercial vehicles — buses and trucks — growth has been much stronger than expected. Hyundai’s Xcient trucks have expanded market share rapidly since last year, on the roads in Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand and South Korea. Deliveries arrive in the US and Israel this year. In China, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle sales, led by buses, nearly tripled last year.
The increase in sales in China draws parallels with trends in early electric car sales in the late 2000s. As China’s share of global electric car sales soared — from 26 per cent of global market share in 2015 to 57 per cent last year — costs of charging infrastructure, batteries and car prices have fallen steadily.
There is good reason for the take-up in hydrogen-powered vehicles. The latest Xcient trucks and the Mirai, for example, can travel more than 800km on a single charge. They can be charged in minutes. Prices are going down.
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