Yes – Dr Graham Cooley – CEO, ITM (hydrogen electrolysis and fuel cells)

The world is moving to two fuels: hydrogen fuel cell for long distance and rapid refuelling; electrons and lithium-ion battery for shorter ranges, both utilising the same drive train. The systems are complementary, and even the powertrain are effectively the same. FCEVs are improving all the time and range increasing. Refuelling times of three minutes, the same as petrol, and you can go 300-400 miles. It’s just a question of putting a different fuel on the forecourt. And you need less infrastructure with hydrogen, because the range is higher. With electrolysis equipment on the forecourt, there are no deliveries. You are making hydrogen from water on site using electrolysers connected to the high-voltage network, the National Grid. A key problem with EVs is that everybody plugging them in at home will overload the low-voltage distribution network. It’s difficult to operate a model where you have to stay for between half an hour and an hour in order to recharge a battery vehicle, because forecourts just don’t have the space Hydrogen is also the safest fuel you can imagine; much safer than a liquid fuel, because if there’s a leak it’s gone in seconds. It just goes straight up into the atmosphere, and very, very quickly.

No – Professor David Greenwood – Advanced propoulsion systems, University of Warwick

The edge that fuel-cell vehicles originally had on long distance and refuelling time has been significantly eroded by the rapid developments in batteries and charging infrastructure. Eight years ago development was neck and neck, but batteries now cost a fifth as much and will travel twice as far. That really starts to address the two critical issues; the consumer cost and range. Tesla ranges are rated at hundreds of miles, and charging times are coming down – 30 or 40 minutes. Interestingly we’re seeing customers buying their second EV. They have much higher torque and will comfortably outperform internal-combustion engines, particularly in cities. Acceleration is superb, they’re quiet and smooth, and consumers are starting to ask for those attributes. The EV infrastructure in the UK is already in place, and it’s growing. For hydrogen there is no infrastructure in place, and electrolysis systems still need enormous amounts of power taking to a site. But my real concern in the long term for hydrogen is the efficiency – you’re doing pretty well if 20% of the energy you started with reaches the road, whereas with a battery-electric car, that number is more like 70%. We can’t afford to be that profligate with our energy.Hyd