Are hydrogen cars about to be a thing?

(Photo: Popular Mechanics)

Auto giants, BMW, and Audi are already developing hydrogen fuel-cell passenger vehicle prototypes, according to a report by Reuters. These “hydrogen cars” along with fleets of battery cars are part of the preparation to leave fossil fuels behind.

Among Germany’s auto giants, BMW is so far the biggest supporter of hydrogen. The company is working to have mass-market models as early as 2030, and plan to change hydrogen policies in Europe and China.

In fact, BMW has already developed a hydrogen-based vehicle based on its x5 SUV. The company’s vice president Jurgen Guldner, who spearheads the hydrogen fuel-cell car programme, has said, “We are on the verge of getting there and we are really confident that we will see a breakthrough in this decade,” as reported by Reuters.

Why the push for hydrogen cars? It’s simple. Some carmakers consider hydrogen technology as an insurance policy. After all, the European Union intends to ban fossil-fuel cars starting in 2035.

However, the transition to hydrogen cars has its challenges. Fuel cell technology entails hydrogen passing through a catalyst that produces electricity. Not only does this sound fancy, but it is also expensive. So much so that it is impractical to apply this technology to mass-consumer cars. The cells required for this process are complex and contain expensive materials; this is despite hydrogen cars potentially offering faster refuelling, compared to the time it takes to charge the battery of an electric vehicle [EV].