The long game: Pay today, save tomorrow


As we all know, the cost of motoring is huge. The price of petrol and diesel is pushing plenty of motorists to the brink. However, there’s also the environmental aspect of driving that car owners have to consider.

Though the car has arguably been responsible for much good over its 100 year history, there has always been one toxic mark that has hung over the industry – the pollution that cars cause.

Petrol and diesel hybrids are a step in the right direction, but they still suffer from a reliance on fossil fuels. Plug-in electric cars are all well and good but they fundamentally alter the way we use a car – if a person with a petrol or diesel car wanted to drive from Cornwall to Dundee tomorrow they could, the only constraints are the cost of fuel and our time. That’s just not possible with a plug-in. The elephant in the room with plug-ins, though, is where the electricity necessary for an electric car comes from. Power stations generate pollution.

One thing that both hybrids and plug-ins have in their favour is running costs. Yes, they’re expensive, costing considerably more than their conventional rivals, and while the green grants offered by the government offer a considerable saving, they’re still not what anyone would call cheap. When buying a hybrid or a plug-in, it’s a question of playing the long game. You’ll pay more today but you’ll be saving money in later life. For example, some owners of pure-electric cars have calculated their running costs at as little as one pence per mile.

Hybrids, meanwhile, are capable of almost astronomical mileage before refuelling. Like the diesels of old, a person would pay more in the showroom while reaping the benefits on the road. However, their reliance on fossil fuels will, ultimately, be their undoing. As we move deeper into the 21st century, there will be an increasing need for a clean, abundant fuel source.

The future is hydrogen. Hydrogen is one of the most abundant gases in the universe so there are no issues with supply and, unlike fossil fuels, you don’t need to drill for it or refine it. It also doesn’t endanger the environment like an oil slick.

With a hydrogen vehicle, the compressed gas is used to generate electricity and power the motor. All that comes out of the exhaust pipe is water. Pure water. So, while saving money on running costs, you’ll be saving the planet, too.

While other manufacturers have gone with an alternative that still relies on fossil fuels, Honda has been at the forefront of hydrogen cell technology for a good few years now. The brand have just unveiled its latest fuel-cell concept at the Los Angeles Motorshow and have high hopes for the FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle), which, they say, will arrive in the US and Japan in 2015.

“The Honda FCEV Concept demonstrates the company’s vision for the future of personal mobility and our commitment to developing advanced alternative fuel vehicles,” explains Mike Accavitti, senior vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “As we work toward the introduction of our next-generation fuel-cell vehicle in 2015, our long-term experience with fuel-cell technologies will help us pave a way towards a zero-emissions future.”

Honda has led the industry in the development and deployment of fuel-cell electric vehicles. In 2002, Honda was one of the firms to begin a retail initiative with the leasing of its fuel-cell electric vehicles to fleet customers. Honda was also the first motoring business to put a fuel-cell electric vehicle in the hands of normal, everyday drivers, back in 2005. Today, about two dozen customers are driving the FCX Clarity, enjoying the benefits of driving this advanced technology vehicle while also contributing valuable experience, helping Honda to advance fuel-cell technology for the future.

While hydrogen remains the most logical fuel for the future, it’s currently expensive: there are few fuelling stations and the big fuel companies are resistant to hydrogen since it threatens the current monopoly they have over motorists.

As with all technology, the early adopters pay the highest price. But with Honda pushing ahead with the FCEV, the possibility of everyday hydrogen cars takes another step forward.

For more information about Honda hybrids, click here.

This article was written by Adam Sloman.

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