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The power of hot air! Could hydrogen solve our eco motoring troubles?

Munich marvel: BMW has just started production of its iX5 Hydrogen which uses zero-emission fuel cell technology

In recent years, the issue of hydrogen-energy has never been far from the lips of car manufacturers.

And it has been given a boost following the government’s stated goal – which now looks increasingly difficult – to ban the sale of all new pure petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

Because while battery-charged electric cars remain the main automotive growth area, some experts believe that hydrogen gas is the real longer-term solution for environmentally friendly car travel.

Munich marvel: BMW has just started production of its iX5 Hydrogen which uses zero-emission fuel cell technology

Munich marvel: BMW has just started production of its iX5 Hydrogen which uses zero-emission fuel cell technology

This is despite the huge shadow that has loomed since the disaster of the 6 May 1937 airship Hindenburg which used lighter than air gas for lift, but exploded into a ball of fire upon landing at Lakehurst Airfield, New Jersey, United States

Yet proponents of hydrogen insist that it is no more dangerous than gasoline.

How it works

With rapid refueling in seconds, there are two ways to use hydrogen tanks to power vehicles.

The first is to burn the hydrogen gas in a converted internal combustion engine – and I drove a prototype hydrogen-powered BMW 7 Series limo around Berlin that did just that.

The other, in which Korean Hyundai has been a practical pioneer, is to use fuel cell technology in which gas is used in a chemical reaction to generate electricity, which in turn powers an engine.

Fuel cells simply act as a mini on-board power plant. Hydrogen stored in a high-pressure fuel tank is used in a chemical reaction called reverse electrolysis, which takes place at a micro-thin membrane inside the compact fuel cell.

The membrane acts as a catalyst for a reaction between hydrogen (H) fuel and oxygen (O) drawn from the air. This generates electricity, which drives the electric motors and charges the battery.

The only other by-product of the chemical reaction – as you might remember from chemistry class in school – is H2O, otherwise known as water, which leaks out of the exhaust pipe and is so pure you can drink it.

Five other green machines

Move up

Earlier this month, German BMW and Japanese Toyota both announced significant advances towards hydrogen.

Toyota’s global president, Akio Toyoda, great-grandson of the company’s founder, even wondered this week if electric cars could on their own fill the void left by the ban on gasoline and fuel. diesel.

Toyota already has the pure electric bZ4X but, famous more for its hybrids, it is not yet planning a full transition to pure electric but is exploring other options, including hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Toyoda said, “Because the right answer is still unclear, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just one option.”

A “silent majority” within the auto industry was skeptical of overreliance on batteries, he said.

Toyota already produces the Mirai hydrogen passenger car.

This month the company announced that it would be developing a hydrogen fuel cell version of its Hilux pickup in the UK.

Small-scale production of the model takes place at Toyota’s Burnaston plant in Derbyshire, which builds the Corolla in both hatchback and estate form.

Toyota also unveiled the Corolla Cross H2 prototype SUV, designed to burn hydrogen as fuel in an adapted combustion engine, while producing zero emissions.

It is powered by a “re-engineered” 1.6-liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine with high-pressure hydrogen direct injection technology. Akio Toyoda even tested a motorsport version.

The company noted: “Toyota firmly believes that it is too early to focus on a single zero-emissions solution and is therefore simultaneously developing hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen combustion technology alongside electric technology at drums.”

BMW on board

BMW has just started production of its iX5 Hydrogen model, their very first sports activity vehicle to feature this technology.

BMW Development Director Frank Weber said: “Hydrogen is a versatile energy source that has a key role to play as we move towards climate neutrality.”

He noted: “Fuel cells also do not require critical raw materials such as cobalt, lithium or nickel.”

BMW is also hedging its bets to bolster its “geopolitical resilience” in the event of shortages or massive price increases of key electric vehicle components.

Other hydrogen fuel cell projects include Honda’s Clarity, a prototype Land Rover Defender, and work by Stellantis covering the Vauxhall, Peugeot and Citroen brands. The British start-up Riversimple uses hydrogen and Mercedes Benz explores the fuel.

However, not everyone is completely convinced. A new report released last week by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee says: “Hydrogen is not the panacea for achieving net-zero emissions reductions by 2050.”

But it can become a “big niche” fuel. Even the aviation industry is considering using hydrogen fuel cell technology to power future planes.

So maybe even Santa Claus will one day be able to give the reindeer a rest.

Merry Christmas.

Citroën’s e-C4 is an electric hero

Order books have opened for the new battery-electric Citroën e-C4 X, with prices starting at just under £32,000.

Powered by a 100kW electric motor paired with a 50kWh battery, Citroën’s first all-electric passenger car to be sold in the UK is available in three trim levels and offers up to 222 miles of range from from a single charge.

Citroën's new e-C4 X Electric costs around £32,000 and offers up to 222 miles of range from a single charge

Citroën’s new e-C4 X Electric costs around £32,000 and offers up to 222 miles of range from a single charge

Combining a fastback look with a higher ride height, crossover SUV styling and comfortable suspension, it comes standard with a 7.4kW on-board charger which, from a 7kW home wall box, will take about 7.5 hours to recharge.

Charging to 80% from a 100kW fast charger takes about 30 minutes.

Entry-level ‘Sense’ models cost from £31,995 and come standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, 10-inch touchscreen and a host of features , including an active safety brake and driver attention alert.

Mid-range ‘Shine’ models from £34,495 come with Citroën’s next-generation infotainment and navigation system with integrated natural voice commands.

The top-of-the-line “Shine Plus” adds heated seats and adaptive cruise control.

The first customer deliveries will arrive in the spring of 2023.

A Bentley to slip under your Christmas tree

It’s Christmas, but you’ve just missed out on that dream gift you promised yourself – the £1.8million limited edition Bentley Bacalar luxury supercar.

And given the cost of living crisis and soaring energy prices, even the £220,000 six-litre, 650bhp Bentley Continental GT Speed ​​​​​​—still 60mph in 3, 5 seconds to a top speed of 208 mph – might sound a bit forgiving.

Small is beautiful: Bentley produced 1:43 scale models of the Bentley Continental GT Speed ​​and Bacalar with exquisite details and striking colors

Small is beautiful: Bentley produced 1:43 scale models of the Bentley Continental GT Speed ​​and Bacalar with exquisite details and striking colors

But all is not lost. For a mere fraction of those prices, you can still own a brand new Bentley and give it pride of place, but on your mantel instead of in your garage.

For £100 per person, the Crewe-based British luxury carmaker produced 1:43 scale models of the Bentley Continental GT Speed ​​and Bacalar in exquisite detail and striking color.

They are available from the Bentley Motors store (shop.bentleymotors.com) and the firm notes: “At £100 they are a significant saving on the real car.

If you opt for the pair, delivery is free on UK orders over £200.

More details at: bentleymotors.com.

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