18 May 2024, 13:48

Ineos drives towards hydrogen car future

MILLBROOK, United Kingdom, May 18, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - At a sprawling vehicle
test centre in the English countryside, a hydrogen-powered Grenadier 4x4 made
by Ineos Automotive grips steep and rugged tracks, showcasing its off-road

Making the demonstrator car was "a really obvious thing" to do, the company's
chief executive Lynn Calder told journalists at the unveiling this week.

The young, fast-expanding company is part of petrochemicals giant and
hydrogen producer Ineos, run by British billionaire and Manchester United
stakeholder Jim Ratcliffe.

"When we embarked upon the demonstrator project, we saw the opportunity to
showcase... that we have a completely uncompromised Grenadier in net zero
form," she said at the event called "Road to Decarbonisation".

- 'Not this decade' -

Calder cautioned it would be some time before the car was available to buy
amid a limited offering of other hydrogen-powered vehicles that are helping
drive a path towards net zero carbon emissions.

Ineos cites the high cost of extracting the Earth's most abundant element and
a lack of hydrogen refuelling stations, especially in the UK, as obstacles to
the development of cars deemed greener than popular electric vehicles (EVs).

Is the car "for tomorrow? No because there isn't infrastructure there",
Calder said.

"We will keep it warm, we'll continue to talk about it, we will see it as
part of the future but it doesn't feel like it's this decade," she added.

Calder spoke from the UTAC vehicle test centre in Millbrook, a village north
of London, where the hydrogen-powered vehicle quietly navigated dusty sharp
bends and other obstacles.

Hydrogen cars work thanks to the cleanest form of the gas combining with
oxygen in a fuel cell to generate electricity. The only waste emitted is
water vapour.

Hydrogen-powered buses, cars, trucks and vans are all on the market, made by
a small number of companies including Hyundai, Renault, Toyota and Vauxhall.

With governments pressuring the auto sector to go green, Ineos Automotive
plans to launch an electric 4x4 in 2027, the Fusilier, to be sold alongside
current diesel and petrol versions of the Grenadier.

Speaking against the din of sports cars speeding in the distance, Calder hit
out at the UK government's goal of banning the sale of new petrol and diesel
cars from 2035.

- 'Pipe dream plan' -

"I don't think it works, I don't think it's achievable, I think we will
fail," she predicted, even after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pushed back the
original 2030 date.

The Scottish CEO called it a "pipe dream plan with no strategy around it, no
idea how we're going to get there".

Responding, the Department for Transport said a number of incentives were on
offer to enable the transition away from polluting vehicles.

It added that demand for EVs was "high", even if recent data shows evidence
of slowing sales in the UK and abroad.

Regarding infrastructure, "there are over 61,000 public chargepoints across
the UK -- an increase of 44 percent since this time last year", a department
spokesperson told AFP.

According to consultants LBST, only 921 hydrogen refuelling stations were in
operation worldwide at the end of last year.

China was out in front with around 200 stations, or about double the amount
in European leader Germany.

The UK currently has just six, even if hydrogen vehicles can offer a longer
journey range and are faster at refuelling than electric rivals.

- Election impact -

The country's road to net zero is clouded somewhat by the outcome of this
year's general election.

Polls widely suggest that Sunak's Conservatives will lose power to the main
opposition Labour Party.

Labour's plans for emissions targets have been called into question after
leader Keir Starmer ditched its flagship commitment to spend o28 billion
($35.5 billion) a year on green infrastructure if in power.

Greenpeace UK's senior transport campaigner, Paul Morozzo, called on the next
government to reinstate the 2030 ban and increase tax on polluting vehicles.

He added that it must "get on with delivering a proper network of EV charging
points all across the country and get the transition to EVs back on the

As for hydrogen, with so little infrastructure, the fuel "isn't viable or
desirable for mass transit" at the current time, he told AFP.

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