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Paul Marchment's blog: A five star boost for hydrogen cars

Date: 08 November 2018

For more than a year now, part of my job has been to better understand hydrogen cars as part of Arval's involvement in the government-backed Hydrogen Hub project. Based around our Swindon headquarters, it exists to test and learn from all forms of hydrogen power - transport, business and domestic. 

Running a hydrogen vehicle ourselves and leasing others to local businesses has done an enormous amount for our understanding of the technology and the role it might play in the future. One of the best aspects of the trial has been our ability to let our customers try a hydrogen vehicle first-hand. They understand the current restrictions around the fuelling network but are generally enthusiastic.

However, I've noticed something else about these conversations. When we mention the word "hydrogen" someone will tend to ask if it's safe, especially if there's an accident? It's often said in jest but it does show that somewhere, buried in the back of people's minds, there is a negative connotation. Never mind that hardly anyone ever seriously considers the word 'combustion' that precedes 'engine' in a petrol or diesel car.

That's why it was small but perhaps significant to receive the news, earlier this month, that the Hyundai Nexo has become the first hydrogen fuel cell passenger vehicle to receive a five star Euro NCAP rating. Matthew Avery from Thatcham Research, which conducted the testing, said it should "dispel concerns around how hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars perform in a crash".

Of course, very few people really thought that hydrogen cars were anything but perfectly safe but it is nice to see the vehicles further normalised in this way. It's all part of an ongoing process of education.

Recently, we received a boost in Swindon with the opening of our second hydrogen fuelling station. A viable fuelling network is one of two major things that are holding back wider hydrogen adoption by fleets, the other being the availability of vehicles. 

We expect that this move will boost the numbers of hydrogen cars in our area - we hope to add 10 to the existing six - and having evidence of their safety from an official source is another factor that will help to make that expansion easier.

Paul Marchment is SME development manager at Arval