Renault has just announced its first hydrogen-electric hybrid concept car, using hydrogen to push its EV models further. As automakers continue to argue over which technology will power the future of transport – electric batteries or hydrogen fuel cells – Renault is combining the two to offer an alternative option. Unlike a traditional hybrid car, which uses fossil fuels to power the vehicle, a hydrogen-electric hybrid incorporates a hydrogen fuel cell into the design. This means the vehicle can run on electricity or hydrogen, similar to a traditional hybrid.
In the case of Renault, its Scenic Vision has a hydrogen engine, an electric motor, a battery, a fuel cell and a hydrogen tank. The tank weighs about 2.5 kg and takes about five minutes to fill. The battery component should be recyclable. The addition of a hydrogen fuel cell could significantly increase the range of the electric vehicle, to around 800 km, allowing drivers to switch to fuel on long journeys.
Gilles Vidal, design director of Renault, declared that the concept car “prefigures the exterior design of the new 100% electric Scenic model for 2024”. And that the integration of hydrogen technology is “part of a longer term vision, beyond 2030”.
Some automakers have developed hydrogen cars as an alternative to battery electric vehicles, arguing that the longer range is necessary for many utility vehicles. It is also widely considered for public transportfrom airplanes to buses and trains.
As governments around the world encourage a move away from internal combustion engines (ICEs) in favor of greener alternatives, more hydrogen fueling stations are expected to roll out by the end of the decade. . In the United States there was 48 retail hydrogen stations in 2021, with 60 more under construction. And in the UK, up to 2,000 green hydrogen refueling stations are expected for 2030.
There has been a long-running battle between hydrogen and battery electric vehicles, with big names taking sides. BMW, Hyundai and Toyota are all testing hydrogen fuel cell technology and developing electric vehicle models.
In a statement, the automaker said“BMW is convinced that hydrogen can make an important contribution to sustainable mobility alongside battery electric vehicles in the future – provided the necessary hydrogen infrastructure is in place and offers a good price for hydrogen, and the price of vehicles to drop,” And , “Under these circumstances, hydrogen fuel cell cars may be the zero-emission technology that allows users to maintain the flexible driving habits they are accustomed to.”
The biggest barrier to producing zero-carbon green hydrogen is the high cost compared to traditional fuels and electric alternatives. In fact, to mainstream fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) by the end of the decade, costs would have to drop from about $840 per kilowatt to $420 per kilowatt. But the development of large-scale green hydrogen plants around the world could help bring prices down, in the same way that solar and wind power have become more profitable due to their growing scale.
Automakers support hydrogen fuel cells because of their long range and fast fill times, making them highly competitive with electric batteries. While traditional electric vehicles are better known, some automakers such as BMW and Audi believe the market is still in its infancy. quickly switch to hydrogen if the costs can be reduced.
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Not to mention that due to supply chain disruptions, shortages and growing demand, material costs for electric vehicles have increased rapidly over the past year. Automakers have had to raise the prices of their electric vehicles due to soaring component costs, at a time when they needed to lower prices to become more competitive and make electric vehicles more widely available. Tesla, Rivian and Cadillac all have increased their prices in recent months, as the cost of batteries has increased, with mining not reaching current battery production levels.
However, not everyone thinks hydrogen is practical for electric vehicles, with Volkswagen and several automakers keeping their focus on electric Battery. VW believes traditional electric vehicles meet the needs of most consumers and can be widely expanded to meet growing demand over the next decade. In addition, their maintenance costs are much lower than those of ICE-powered vehicles, which reduces the long-term payment. In terms of hydrogen, he thinks companies would depend on hydrogen imports for FCEV production, and with limited green hydrogen production at present, this would be restrictive.
But, in the future, what if automakers could integrate both electric battery and hydrogen fuel cell technologies into a single car to produce a more durable, longer-range electric vehicle? Renault’s concept car promises a Carbon footprint reduced by 75% than a conventional EV, with zero emissions emitted during its production. It doesn’t require rare earth elements, and the smaller battery – which will be produced in France by 2024 – is lighter and cheaper to manufacture than traditional EV batteries.
As automakers continue to argue over which is better for the future of transportation, electric batteries or hydrogen fuel cells, Renault has thrown a spanner in the works by offering both in the form of a hybrid. A vehicle combining the two low-emission technologies could offer the everyday benefits of a battery-powered electric motor with the longest range of an FCEV.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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