Jeremy Clarkson thinks hydrogen fuel is the future of cars

Electric vehicles are getting increasingly common, but in the last year or so Toyota, Hyundai, and BMW have announced hydrogen powered cars. But Jeremy Clarkson thinks we should be seeing fuel cell cars from many, many more carmakers. In his column in The Sunday Times earlier last month, the former BBC Top Gear presenter asked why more carmakers aren’t embracing hydrogen as a sustainable fuel.

“I’m baffled by the car industry’s apparent reluctance to think more seriously about hydrogen as a replacement for petrol and diesel,” Jeremy Clarkson wrote. “Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, so we wouldn’t run out of it for about a billion years, and it’s clean too. A car powered by hydrogen fuel cells produces nothing from its tailpipe but water.”

Clarkson  mentions the Riversimple Rasa, a hydrogen car we wrote about only a few weeks ago. But, rather than praise the Welsh-built hydrogen car, Clarkson writes that its looks won’t win over many, claiming: “Any normal person would look at it and think: ‘You know what – I think I’ll stick with my Ford Fiesta’.”

Clarkson adds: “The motor industry would stop fiddling about with its pointless batteries and its hybrid-drive systems and get on the only road where there is actually a future for personal mobility. The hydrogen road.”

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Is Jeremy Clarkson right?

While Clarkson is right about the waste products of hydrogen cars, there are many other factors that he doesn’t seem to take into account. Hydrogen may be the most abundant resource in the universe, but there’s a specific type of hydrogen needed for electric cars. And making the kind that fuel cell cars run on isn’t that easy.

Also, the sheer lack of hydrogen cars means the infrastructure lags well behind when compared to that of electric cars. While electric chargers are an ever-growing site in urban areas, we can’t say the same for hydrogen stations – with only a handful available in the UK at the moment. Sure, there’s the possibility of manufacturers copying Tesla and building their own refuelling stations, but the costs involved are higher. 

While Clarkson understandably singles out the Riversimple as a car that divides opinion, cars lsuch as the Toyota Mirai prove that bespoke hydrogen cars can drive just as well as their traditional counterparts. In fact, we took one out for a drive around London, and loved it.

Musk disagrees

One person who certainly wouldn’t agree with Clarkson is the Tesla CEO Elon Musk. As well as being one of the main pioneers of electric cars, Musk has also been a quiet opponent of hydrogen-powered cars. In the video below, he makes a rare comment on what he calls a dumb technology.

The relationship between hydrogen and pure electric cars is a fascinating topic that’s only going to get more interesting, and we’ll be covering it in a much larger, in-depth feature soon.

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