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UK Govt To Subsidise Hydrogen Cars

April 30, 2018

By Paul Homewood


Last month the Department of Transport announced it was paying £8.8 million into a project promoting hydrogen cars:


Police cars and taxis will be among nearly 200 new hydrogen powered vehicles switching to zero emission miles, thanks to a multi-million pound government boost.

The zero emission vehicles are part of a project that has won £8.8 million in funding from the Department for Transport to improve access to hydrogen refuelling stations up and down the country and increase the number of hydrogen cars on our roads from this summer.

The winning project is run by a consortium managed by Element Energy and including expertise from ITM Power, Shell, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai. It will capitalise on the reliable mileage of established fleets and see vehicles being procured by emergency services such as the Metropolitan Police, as well as Green Tomato Cars and Europcar to support the growth of refuelling infrastructure for hydrogen vehicles up and down the country.

Roads Minister, Jesse Norman said:

Decarbonising our roads is an essential part of meeting our climate targets. The innovative new technologies involved present great opportunities for our increasingly low carbon economy.

Hydrogen has huge potential, especially for those making longer journeys and clocking up high mileage. That is what makes this project truly exciting. Not only is it demonstrating the technology in action, but it is also developing the refuelling infrastructure needed for the future.

The project helps cement the UK’s place as a world-leader in adopting hydrogen technology, using not only British expertise through ITM Power, but also securing further investment from multi-national companies such as Shell, Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai.

It also means that hydrogen cars will be able to travel further around Britain than ever before, with new refuelling stations being planned for Southwark, Isleworth, Birmingham and Derby paving the way for future expansion.

The £8.8 million grant will be matched by a further £13.1 million investment including support from the companies and other sources. The project will involve the procurement of new vehicles, construction of new stations and upgrades to existing stations.


But just how economical are hydrogen cars?

The simple truth is that, despite all of the hype about them being the “car of the future”, they are horribly expensive.

According to Nextgreencar, there are currently only two FCEV models available to own in the UK – Hyundai’s ix35 fuel cell and the Toyota Mirai, although the Hyundai is apparently being withdrawn.

The Hyundai was priced at £53105, but this is part funded by the European HyFive project, a hydrogen fuel consortium of which Hyundai’s a member, to the tune of £15000, meaning the real cost is £68105.  And all this for a model that costs less than £20000, with a proper engine in it.

The Mirai is equally ludicrously priced at around £65000, again for a pretty ordinary car, which has been panned by reviews.

As for running costs, there is no advantage either. An Evening Standard test drive suggested that it cost about the same per mile as a petrol engined car to run. Crucially however, there is no fuel duty on hydrogen, although it accounts for nearly half the price of petrol.

Effectively the, the true running costs are double those of a conventional car. So these 200 hydrogen cars being subsidised by the taxpayer will mean less revenue for the government.

Hydrogen cars are still relatively new technology and will no doubt become cheaper to produce in time. But one wonders how much. After all, fuel cell technology is not new, and neither is battery hybrid tech.

And if costs do fall eventually, why should UK taxpayers be the guinea pigs, forced to pay the development bill?

And after all of that, the process of producing hydrogen still involves emissions of CO2, unless some sort of CCS is part of the process.

Is the government leading us up an expensive blind alley?

  1. Peter F Gill permalink
    April 30, 2018 12:34 pm

    Please do not ask how the hydrogen is produced and what from. This could easily embarrass advocates (Hint it is not by splitting water using electricity from renewables).

    • HotScot permalink
      April 30, 2018 2:22 pm


      Silly Billy………It’s the green way dontcha know. Use lots of energy to produce small amounts of energy.

      I mean, look at wind turbines, green philosophy personified.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      April 30, 2018 3:11 pm

      Shell now owns no refinery in the UK (all previous ones except Stanlow are shut, and Stanlow belongs to Essar these days), so they won’t be sourcing it from platformer hydrogen or steam reforming of their own. Will they import from Pernis?

  2. Charles Wardrop, permalink
    April 30, 2018 12:35 pm

    Q: ? blind alley.
    A: Yes, and an absurdly cost-wasteful one, like almost all Greenery.
    G.O.K . how our Westminster MP politicos, with about 3-5 exceptions, passed the own goal Climate Change Acts (2008,9) and why there seems no official policy to repeal them.
    Just as well it is charged to other people’s money!
    However, our nation is in horrendous debt, so even less justification in throwing money down the drain.

  3. jack broughton permalink
    April 30, 2018 12:38 pm

    When a government cannot see that they are setting themselves foolish targets, they are already a long way up the blind alley. Why are the Department of Transport funding blue skies energy developments when they have a few potholes inside of potholes to fill and roads to fix? Nice little earner though!

  4. Gerry, England permalink
    April 30, 2018 1:10 pm

    Hydrogen has a high energy density but that doesn’t mean that it makes sense as a transport fuel. Being a little inclined to go bang is not that great in a crash.

    • HotScot permalink
      April 30, 2018 2:16 pm


      To be fair, horse owners said that to Mr. Mercedes when he told them eat their horses.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      April 30, 2018 3:17 pm

      High energy to weight ratio, but not particularly high energy to volume ratio. Even as a liquid, it has less than a quarter of the energy density of diesel fuel.

      • Allan M permalink
        May 1, 2018 8:06 am

        “Even as a liquid.” But the critical temperature of hydrogen is -240deg.C. How are they going to use it as a liquid?

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        May 1, 2018 10:41 am

        They aren’t. Just as a high pressure gas, which reduces the energy density still further, though the compression itself is an energy store.

        E=PV so at 700bar, or ~70MPa the energy of compression is 70kJ/litre

        Energy of combustion is 120MJ/kg, or 240kJ/mol.

        PV=nRT, so 70,000/8.31=nT, or n=8423.5/T, giving n= 30.85 at 273K, or 7.4MJ/litre cf 36MJ/litre for diesel.

  5. Gamecock permalink
    April 30, 2018 1:20 pm

    ‘The project helps cement the UK’s place as a world-leader in adopting hydrogen technology’

    Y’all must be really proud.

    • HotScot permalink
      April 30, 2018 2:19 pm


      I have no idea what that means. Japan makes the cars, all the UK did was install 3 hydrogen pumps. So is Japan just some sort of bit player in all this?

    • Allan M permalink
      May 1, 2018 8:09 am

      More like- our idiot leaders still can’t get it into their thick skulls that they aren’t running the empire any more.

  6. HotScot permalink
    April 30, 2018 2:12 pm

    From the Autocar Road Report:

    “The Mirai’s fuel cell is about the size of a conventional petrol tank and sits under the front seats………In the engine bay is a 152bhp electric motor…………Behind it are two high-pressure hydrogen tanks (one for storage, one for expansion) and a high-voltage nickel-metal hydride drive battery.”

    Is there much room for anything else?

    “And weighing more than 1.8 tonnes”

    Sounds heavy…….man.

    “beyond-300-mile autonomy potential according to our test results, that virtually eradicates the range anxiety you might get with a like-for-like EV”

    Ah! now that’s good, progress on the range anxiety at last.

    “despite a conspicuous shortfall in the number of places to refuel.”

    Ah! now that’s bad, no progress at all then.

    “There are currently only three sites open for business delivering the optimal 700bar of hydrogen pressure, one each in Heathrow, Hendon and Swindon”

    So I want to go to Newcastle on business. I must drive to Heathrow first (an hour on a good day) then head to Newcastle (282 miles) where I must stay, forever, or get the train back whilst abandoning my £60,000+ car. There’s always the AA, but I think they would get a bit sick of being called out once a week to tow my car back to Dartford.

    I could always use it as a second car, you know, for shopping and the like, I suppose I could find a Sainsbury’s in Heathrow while I’m going for my hydrogen fuel. Mind you, I could always pop down to my local Lidl in my £1,200 Renault Clio instead.

    “The prospect, then, of Toyota footing the bill is attractive”

    Apparently for a £750 per month lease, they throw in the fuel free. I use about £30 of unleaded a month going to Lidl in my (already paid for) Clio.

    “but one undeniably limited to the residents of the Heathrow, Hendon and Swindon areas for now.”

    But I live in flippin’ Dartford!

    • Obie permalink
      April 30, 2018 2:40 pm


      “There are currently only three sites open for business delivering the optimal 700bar of hydrogen pressure,” ???

      10,000+ psi (700 bar) is heck of a lot of pressure. Is this what is actually going to be stored in the vehicle or is this the pressure maintained at the refueling facility?

      • Obie permalink
        April 30, 2018 3:07 pm


        Answered my own question. I didn’t know what a Mirai was so I decided to look it up and found that it is a Toyota car and yes it is 700 bar.

        Having worked in high pressure compressed air systems (3,000 psi) and seen the destruction they can cause when they explode, all I can say it that I would not want to be anywhere near a car with a 10,000psi of compressed hydrogen if it was to explode.

      • HotScot permalink
        April 30, 2018 3:14 pm


        good point.

      • John Palmer permalink
        April 30, 2018 6:21 pm

        Yep… you’d be sitting right on top of it.
        Reminds me of that old film which ended with James Cagney (I think) sitting on top of an explosive rocket and shouting “top of the world, Ma!”

  7. Eric permalink
    April 30, 2018 2:14 pm

    Govt leading us up an expensive blind alley? Well it wouldn’t be the first time would it!

  8. Sam Duncan permalink
    April 30, 2018 2:49 pm

    Just wait until the Conservatives get in. Oh, hang on…

  9. Green Sand permalink
    April 30, 2018 2:58 pm


  10. April 30, 2018 3:31 pm

    I’ve been having a little bit of a moan at the ASA about companies that claim to supply 100% ‘renewable’ energy. Unfortunately I’m up against the science iliterate. The sent me a previous ruling although I will keep going…

    • April 30, 2018 3:35 pm

      {illiterate. They}

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      April 30, 2018 4:43 pm

      Dave, see my comments under where I detail the trouble I had with ASA. They are a waste of space.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        April 30, 2018 6:18 pm

        “They are a waste of space”

        Indeed they are, as I know to my cost…

      • April 30, 2018 9:25 pm

        I’ve not given up yet and I’m waving my engineering hat furiously. The ASA response was from someone that has the job title “Complaints Executive” which I interpret as someone with a nebulous degree aged about 25 but can search an internal database.
        They insist that you have to make a complaint on a per company basis so I have another five in the pipeline. They can’t all claim to be buying only ‘renewables’ as there isn’t enough to share around. It is an accountancy lie anyway – everyone needs baseload gas, nuclear and to a limited extent coal.

      • May 1, 2018 9:38 pm

        Will this work?
        “I wish to exercise my rights under the Freedom of Information Act as to the qualifications an ASA ‘Complaints Executive’ might be expected to hold. I suspect it is in reality a junior grade that cannot make informed decisions.”

      • May 3, 2018 4:45 pm

        I did receive this today from the ASA, they agree with me but..
        “Dear Mr Nunn,

        Thank you for your email. We completely agree that, from an engineering perspective, the customer will obtain electricity that comes from a variety of non-renewable and renewable sources, but we consider that most customers would be aware of that, and understand Bulb Energy’s claims to relate to the energy the company inputs into the grid, which we have no evidence to suggest isn’t 100% renewable. As such, we consider we lack sufficient grounds to take further action at this time.”

        Just needs a few to complain.

  11. Curious George permalink
    April 30, 2018 3:47 pm

    “why should UK taxpayers be the guinea pigs?” UK has many beautiful traditions, but no tradition of defenestration.

  12. David Richardson permalink
    April 30, 2018 4:39 pm

    Having been 4 feet from the guy who was holding a small hydrogen filled balloon when static triggered an explosion – he lost his eyebrows and front of his hair – and having been inside a low pressure hydrogen generator trying to shut it down with the alarm going!! You can keep these vehicles well away from me.

    In both cases I found out that hydrogen appeared to be brown with an unpleasant smell!!!

  13. tom0mason permalink
    April 30, 2018 5:12 pm

    “Is the government leading us up an expensive blind alley?”


  14. Dave Ward permalink
    April 30, 2018 6:17 pm

    “It also means that hydrogen cars will be able to travel further around Britain than ever before”

    I was going to ask just what “Further around Britain than ever before” amounts to, but the previous comments (particularly from “HotScot”) have provided the answer! As for travelling around with 700bar of highly flammable gas under the bonnet – are the proponents of this scheme stark raving bonkers??? Jesus. H. Christ. – even a 100kWhr lithium battery seems safe in comparison – at least you’ve a reasonable chance of legging it away from the vehicle if it decides to self combust…

    But in any case, I don’t recall being asked if I would be happy sharing the roads with all this “experimental” technology. If the government and motor industry wants to conduct trials of alternatively powered vehicles, as well as varying degrees of “Self Driving” then let them do it away from the rest of us.

    • John Palmer permalink
      April 30, 2018 6:25 pm

      UK Govt Transport/energy/whatever ‘policy’…. “we’re on the road to nowhere”. Talking Heads seems all too appropriate a moniker for our current (no pun intended) ‘Leaders’.

  15. mikewaite permalink
    April 30, 2018 6:46 pm

    What were the results of the European crash tests, mandatory surely before these vehicles are allowed on public roads ?.
    What happened in the test when a Tesla collided with a Mirai.?
    How does the insurance sector assess the risks and premiums?
    Is the Police federation happy about its members sitting on a 1.8 ton pressurised H2 cylinder when chasing a drugged-out teenager at 80mph around the side streets of Basildon?

  16. April 30, 2018 7:16 pm

    This makes zero sense from both economic and climate perspectives. The situation was explored in depth by illustrated essay Hydrogen Hype in ebook Blowing Smoke.

  17. Athelstan permalink
    April 30, 2018 7:23 pm

    UK Government goes H bomb mega ton stupid, about par I’d say.

  18. April 30, 2018 8:56 pm

    The Brissle Hydrogen Ferry courtesy of the BBC = “A vanity project”.

    But Richard Rankin from Hydrogen Boats, said it would be “viable” if there was a hydrogen station “in place”.

    “We had to rent a filling station for six months at a cost of £59,000,” he said.

    “But we’re converting the ferry to run on bottled hydrogen and will be running it next year.”

    I FoI’d London’s Camden council about their purchase of two hydrogen electrical generators for upwards of £200K – they’ve “lost” one and the other is sat in a yard (likely looking greener than it should d/t algae growth) – they were apparently used for a couple of council events.

    Your taxes at work.

  19. Daz permalink
    May 3, 2018 4:17 pm

    It is not unknown that police cars get set on fire , hydrogen will make them into a fair sized bomb , check out the rules ascertaining to the transport of hydrogen .

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