Hooray for Hydrogen

Abandon wind farms and subsidise hydrogen. Sages in the Guild of Motoring Writers volunteered the view that subsidies to energy available only when the wind blew, should be redirected. They were watching a fuel cell Honda topping up at a hydrogen filling station. There were no illusions that setting up a national hydrogen network will take years, but somebody needs to calculate its benefits.

Some are self-evident. More hydrogen cars would mean less dependence on oil, and clean up the air. Fuel cell cars are as smooth and silent as any conceived by Lanchester or Royce. Spending billions encouraging them would surely gain approval from both environmentalists and left-wing subsidy junkies.

This open access hydrogen filling station was opened last September inside the Honda factory.Built and operated by industrial gases company BOC, it was a partnership of Honda, BOC and Forward Swindon the local economic development company. Open to anyone developing hydrogen-powered cars, it can fill at both the 350 bar and 700 bar pressures agreed by industry. Its aim is to encourage development of hydrogen-powered vehicles, such as the Honda FCX, and supporting infrastructure.

It still works on a ‘back-to-back’ system from a bank of hydrogen cylinders, which means filling takes place without waiting for hydrogen to be generated.

The occasion was the Guild AGM, and was a convincing demonstration that given the will, fuel cell cars must be the goal. Hybrid electrics, even good ones like the Chevrolet Volt/Vauxhall Ampera with a realistic range, are at best a stop-gap. The rest, like the Nissan Leaf, cannot be taken seriously as practical alternatives to petrol or diesel.

The Guild worthies were right. Switch to fuel cells and stop polluting the countryside with grotesque, wasteful and inefficient wind farms.