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Mike Waters' blog: 21 March 2014 - The hydrogen fuel sell

Date: 21 March 2014

Mike Waters is senior insight & consultancy manager at leasing and fleet management company Arval

Last month I got to drive a hydrogen vehicle for the first time. Hyundai lent us its ix35 so that we could give it a road test and put it through its paces. 

Not only were we able to test its performance in 'real-world' conditions (which turned out to be howling wind and driving rain), but we also got to charge it to see how refuelling a fuel-cell vehicle works.  

With the ix35, Hyundai is aiming to match or exceed the performance delivered by more traditional combustion engine vehicles. It delivers a top speed of 99mph and 0-62mph in 12.5 seconds.

My first observation is that it has met its goal. What I mean by this is if I hadn't been told that it was a hydrogen-powered vehicle, I wouldn't have known.

With a maximum operating range of 369 miles before it needs to be refuelled, I didn't feel any level of range anxiety. When we took it to be charged up, the process, once started, took minutes rather than the hours that some ultra low-emission vehicles require. 

It was a positive experience, and I can see that hydrogen vehicles have the potential to provide a practical option in the future.

Where there remain large question marks are over the charging infrastructure. Over time, I'm sure that the network of refuelling sites will grow considerably, but at the moment there are very few places in the UK where you can refuel this type of vehicle.

 What the ix35 proved to me is that the options continue to come. Of course, vehicles like this will take time to become common, the technology will evolve and improve over time, and it will be important to fit the right vehicle to the right job; but over the coming years we will have real choice. 

When selecting a new vehicle, you won't just get to choose the make, model and spec - the way the vehicle is powered will also be your decision, which is great news because of the flexibility that it provides.

The hard bit will be understanding all of the options available so that you can select the best one for your needs.