I’m sure like many of you, I was quite excited to see BMW presenting some very exciting prospects for the future with their i3 and i8 models a few years back. Here was a carmaker taking some evidently big strides to answer the question of what happens when the oil finally runs out and we have to decide what we wish to fill our tanks with.
Now, as an avid driver who undertakes a few thousand kilometers each year, this is an important question to think about. Granted, personally I don’t think the oil is going to run out in my lifetime (despite BP doing its best to convince us that it will never run out), but if we were to undergo a change in propulsion, the comfort of and ease of filling our cars with the black stuff needs to be replicated if we are to accept that change.
This is where the current problem of electric cars come in. No doubt BMW, and to a similar extent Nissan with their LEAF (I would include Elon Musk’s Tesla as well, but I have yet to research that cult following), have made great strides with the technology, but it is still too expensive, the infrastructure is not there to support it, and not mentioning the biggest problem it has, range and subsequent charging. The range of BMW’s i3 should be good enough for one’s commute, but for someone like me who travels between Grahamstown and the Mother City, having to stop every 200km and spending four and a half hours charging the batteries? It would be quicker to cycle.
Despite this, BMW’s models have exploded in Europe, and continue to make inroads into the South African market. But that being said, the problems remain. So what other options are there?
Well, Honda seems to think its hydrogen, and in the state of California, they very quietly proved that it can work.
Eight years ago (I did say they were quiet about it).
I must confess that the idea for this article came about after I received a press release from the Japanese automaker a few days ago, stating that with the addition of some new and improved batteries, the range for their FCX Clarity hydrogen vehicle had been increased to 589 kilometers on a single tank. In visual terms, that’s enough to get you from Grahamstown to Bloemfontein.
Now, this may not mean much for city dwellers, but for me (and fellow Rhodents from across the country, for instance), my goodness!
Aside from the fact that the bill for a hydrogen fill-up could be lower than a petrol one (let’s just say we’d have a surplus supply on our hands, what the stuff being abundant), here is a car that ultimately presents the environmental alternative and the potential for future motoring.
Alas, there are many barriers. Honda isn’t the only carmaker playing around with the prospects of hydrogen, but their giving’s are only currently available in the United States and Europe. And considering those inroads that BMW is making in South Africa, electric cars continue to grab the local spotlight (a point further demonstrated when Elon Musk finally brings his creations back home). At the same time, it will take the South African a while to accept an alternative to petrol, and it better be something just as good and practical.
Let’s just continue to keep hydrogen at the back of our minds, shall we?
Images: Honda FCX Clarity at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show
By Sam Spiller
Images source: newspress.co.uk