Back in 2006, Martin Eberhard, co-founder of Tesla Motors wrote a blog titled “The Future of Cars is Electric”. Straight off the bat, Eberhard stated that most cars will soon be electric for two reasons. He wrote: “Two reasons: because electric cars are far more efficient than any other kind of car, and because they are the ultimate multi-fuel cars.”
But is Mr Eberhard correct? Are electric cars the only future?
It is widely accepted that fuel-powered cars are the past and will be phased out progressively to be replaced by the cars of the future. The issue under discussion across the motor industry now is what that future will look like. Tesla has defined what an electric car can do and are leading that industry forward. But there is an alternative to purely electric cars in the form of hydrogen cars.
So, which one will dominate in the coming years?
The aim of future transport
The UK government has an aim that by 2050, the UK will have reached zero-emission road transportation. With this end in mind, the government has invested in both electric cars, hydrogen cars and the infrastructure that underpins the use of these vehicles across the UK.
Last year, the government announced an investment of £40 million to see UK cities roll out hundreds of new public fast and rapid charge points for plug-in electric cars with larger batteries. This money will also be used to incentivise people to consider electric vehicles including free parking and access to bus lanes.
The government has chosen to invest in the infrastructure for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to a lesser extent than electric cars. This is likely down to the popular rise of electric cars whereas hydrogen fuel cell cars are not yet ready for mainstream road use. There will, however, be £7m in investment grants for hydrogen refuelling stations and an additional £2m fund that encourage businesses to switch to hydrogen fuelled vehicles.
Qualities of both
Tesla is taking the car market by storm with their electric cars. However, whilst they proclaim that electric cars are the only future, there is another company that disagrees. Riversimple are a UK sustainable car company developing a hydrogen fuelled car.
Riversimple’s point of view is that neither electric cars or hydrogen fuelled cars are the single future, but that both are required. On their website, they have quoted American author, H.L. Mencken when he said: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
The idea that there is a single clean energy policy for the future is probably wrong. As the UK government has recognised, it is worth investing in both electric and hydrogen-fuelled cars. Obviously, in the current climate, electric cars are further ahead, but that doesn’t mean hydrogen fuelled cars should be given up on.
Riversimple’s policy is that for us to move to a successful green transport future, we need to reform our current system and build an infrastructure that allows both electric and hydrogen-fuelled cars to effectively be driven.
Efficiency of each
Electric cars and hydrogen cars both focus on improving efficiency, but different types of efficiency. Electric cars aim to improve powertrain efficiency, which delivers zero emissions and greater range. However, electric cars often struggle with vehicle efficiency because of the weight from the batteries powering the cars, which makes them excellent for short and medium range but struggle in terms of long range.
Riversimple aims to improve vehicle efficiency with their hydrogen cars. This means that the fuelling of the car will be cleaner and more efficient than it is with an electric car. Because hydrogen is a renewable source and its only waste output is water, it is deemed a cleaner source of energy that taking electric from the grid that is currently powered by coal and gas.
Over the next few decades, more and more resources will be invested in both of these technologies and infrastructures in Britain will change to match the demand. The government and those working on these new technologies are determined to see fuel-powered cars phased out and replaced by both electric cars and hydrogen-fuelled cars.