If I mention hydrogen to you, what image do you first think of?
The Hindenburg airship going up in flames in 1937 – or a Hyundai SUV?
For me it’s the former, certainly. Yet last week Hyundai announced that they would be launching a production version of its ix35 SUV powered by a fuel cell fuelled on hydrogen.
For so long, environmentalists, car makers and researchers have been hailing hydrogen fuel cell cars as THE FUTURE.
Hmmmm. How often have we heard that before? Now, however, we seem to have the hydrogen fuel cell car within reach.
Hyundai has leapfrogged Honda (who already had its FCX Clarity Fuel Cell vehicle available for limited lease in California) with the announcement it’s gone into limited production with the Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell and will go into full production by 2015.
Hyundai have also announced that as part of the London Hydrogen Network Expansion (LNHE) project, they delivered five ix35s to the UK.
The great advantage of fuel cell cars is that they produce zero emissions – the only item to exit the exhaust pipe is harmless water vapour. And unlike electric vehicles, which are also zero emission, there are no range issues.
The second great advantage of fuel cell cars is that there’s no change in driver behaviour. You fill up from a hydrogen filling station in the same way you would petrol or diesel.
The third great advantage of fuel cell cars is that they attract very low levels of benefit in kind tax. And, coincidentally, the Hyundai goes on sale at the same time that the company car tax rules change on ultra low emission cars.
From 2015 ultra-low emission cars will no longer attract 0% benefit in kind, but 5% for those cars with emissions up to 50g/km CO2.
With that in mind, I thought I’d highlight my five fleet cars for five percent in 2015.
So here we go:
- Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell
Had to start with this. 0g/km emissions, the first production fuel cell car we’ll see on the UK roads. It will be supported by 65 hydrogen fuel filling stations when it goes on sale in 2015. Silent in operation, no range issues.
- BMW i3
The other way to zero emissions is electric cars. The all-new BMW i3 is yet to be launched – but will be on the market later this year. If anyone is going to crack the electric car market, then it will be BMW. Rumour has it that BMW is matching the lease rate of the i3 to the 320d.
- Vauxhall Ampera
CO2 emissions of just 27g/km from this ingenious car. The Ampera is battery driven but also has a small on-board petrol engine that acts as a generator for the battery. Which is why such cars are known as ‘range extenders’ – and thus overcome the usual limited range of conventional electric vehicles.
- Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid
Toyota has led the way in hybrid technology and plug-in hybrids are the next step in reducing CO2 emissions further. A conventional Prius hybrid has CO2 emissions of 92g/km; the plug-in hybrid version reduces this to 49g/km. The Prius Plug-in works as an electric car – around town, for example – with a 15 mile range, and when the battery is exhausted, switches to being a conventional hybrid.
- Nissan Leaf
The original electric car has recently been updated to give it more range (124 miles), reduced weight and more boot space. Silent and relaxing to drive, the issues of electric car range and recharging remain, but the revised version shows Nissan is gradually making the electric car more and more fleet friendly.