Is Electricity Really The Only Alternative To Diesel?

With the UK government’s goal of being rid of diesel vehicles – including banning the production of new diesels by 2040 – manufacturers have started preparing and producing alternative fuel vehicles. Most of the alternative fuel talk has been around electric vehicles, which of course is a valid option, but what other ones are there? Well, the next big fuel type could by hydrogen, with some manufacturers already looking at this as a viable alternative to petrol, diesel and even electric cars and vans. So, could it prove to be more beneficial than electricity as a fuel for business fleets?

In this blog we’ll explore the possibility of hydrogen fuel and see if it could be part of the alternative fuel future that the UK government wants. We also compare hydrogen to electricity for business purposes to see if your business could be better off switching to hydrogen in the future rather than the much-vaunted electric fleet.

Is Electricity Really The Only Alternative To Diesel?

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Powered Vehicle Fleets – The Pros and Cons

A fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) uses hydrogen – which is cheap and abundant - and turns it into electricity by disrupting the reaction within the cell to power the vehicle. Vehicles that use hydrogen are generally more efficient than their more standard combustion engine cousins. On top of this FCEV produce no emissions as they only emit water vapor and warm air, so why are we not seeing more news around hydrogen cars? Well there are several reasons, such as;

  • Cost – currently hydrogen cars would cost more to make and run than other fuel types as the technology is not that advanced or widespread
  • Storage – because of the nature of hydrogen it can prove challenging to move and transport compared to oil, which can run through pipes easily
  • High-Risk – hydrogen is seen by some as a high-risk option. The fuel cells can be highly flammable and on top of this, a hydrogen flame can’t be seen in daylight, making it extremely dangerous to the general public
  • Nitrogen Dioxide – while a hydrogen vehicle produces less carbon than other fuel types, it does produce nitrogen dioxide which can be harmful to humans if inhaled

So, with all these disadvantages are there any advantages that would convince people to switch? Well yes, and on top of that with technology always advancing we may see solutions to the above, including cheaper technology and safer methods of using the fuel source. Below we have taken a look at some of the benefits to hydrogen as a fuel source;

  • Efficiency – hydrogen is capable of producing more energy than fuel types such as diesel and other options, making it very efficient
  • Carbon free – hydrogen fuel cells don’t emit carbon emissions that cause pollution – a key benefit going forward, especially for fleet managers who are worried about growing tax rates
  • Accessibility - hydrogen can be readily available and there is an abundant of the element. While time is needed to break down the compounds the amount of it and ease of access can make up for any time it takes to break it down and separate the compounds
  • Renewable – hydrogen is a renewable energy source, and just like solar there should be an unlimited amount of energy that won’t run out

Hydrogen For Fleets

So, could hydrogen be used as a fuel type for fleets? And will it have enough benefits to go up against traditional fuel types and alternative fuel leaders such as electricity? Well, at this stage we still don’t know, and there are a lot of unknowns to be cleared up. But, what is known is that manufacturers are starting to look at the possibility of producing hydrogen vehicles, so who has started to get involved in the hydrogen fuel race?

  • Toyota – Toyota are not just looking at production for hydrogen cars, including the Toyota Mirai – a car which Toyota claims is the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, they also have plans to have a ‘beta’ version of its hydrogen fuel cell truck this year. So, while most manufacturers are concentrating on electricity, Toyota have jumped on hydrogen and seem to already be in a position to start using the fuel source
  • Hyundai – Hyundai have so far produced two generations of hydrogen vehicles, and these could be sold in the UK as early as next year. They also have an agreement with Audi to share hydrogen technology to help spread the cost and help the fuel reach its true potential

Other manufacturers are looking into hydrogen as an option, but currently if you wanted to switch to hydrogen, Toyota and Hyundai may be your only short-term options.

As more manufacturers get involved in the hydrogen race more options will open up and this should bring with it a decrease in the cost of vehicles – which would make them much more affordable for fleets.

Hydrogen vs Electric – Who Wins?

If you own a fleet of business vehicles there will be a range of decisions involved when you purchase, including refuelling times, how many miles before you need to refill and cost. So, looking at these three key points we compare the two alternative fuel types;

  • Refuelling Times – currently even with super-fast charging points for electric vehicles, you can be looking at 20/30 minutes of charge time just for half a tank. Compare this to hydrogen which can be filled up just like a petrol or diesel but fills the tank with liquid gas which is supplied at high-pressure, hydrogen is much quicker than charging an electric vehicle at present
  • Miles Per Tank – some electric vehicles are now able to travel over 300 miles on a single charge, which is a massive improvement on some of the original electric models. Hydrogen cars can currently reach around the same distance as an electric car, of course both of these technologies may yet advance and we could see both fuel types hit over 400 miles on a single fill up
  • Cost – currently it is early days for hydrogen vehicles which does currently mean that electric vehicles are cheaper to purchase, but given hydrogen’s undoubted green credentials that could soon change…

In the current electric vs hydrogen debate there are a lot of ups and downs, but which one is currently more suitable for business fleets? Electric vehicles are easier to get hold of and are currently much cheaper to purchase, but in the long-term we still don’t know. Both fuel types are still developing and on top of this petrol and diesel looks like it isn’t going anywhere just yet but as we look to a zero-emission future, hydrogen looks like a serious contender.

Like Some More Help?

While we can’t claim to be experts in hydrogen or electric vehicles, something we do know is insurance. So, if you have any questions on your fleet, special types or commercial vehicle insurance, or would like to see if we can save you some money on your insurance, get in contact today by calling us on 01869 389 421, or if you'd like to get a cheap fleet insurance quote then please click here now.

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