Aberdeen to offer Scotland's first hydrogen cars

Drivers in Aberdeen will be the first in Europe to try out hydrogen-powered cars through a car-sharing club, the city council and operator Co-wheels announced today.

Two Hyundai ix35 SUV fuel-cell vehicles will be available for pay-as-you-go use this summer after initial testing.

They will be Scotland’s first commercially-available hydrogen cars and have a range of 326 miles - more than three times that of many electric cars.

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Their fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity for propulsion, with water vapour the only emissions.

Aberdeen already has Scotland’s only hydrogen vehicle refuelling station, with a second planned at Levenmouth in Fife. Refuelling takes about three minutes.

Experts have said hydrogen cars cost about half as much to run as petrol or diesel models.

The announcement comes four years after Aberdeen car club operator Co-wheels became the first in the world to trial hydrogen cars.

Last year, the council launched the UK’s first fuel station for hydrogen buses, with the city having Europe’s largest fleet, of ten vehicles.

Supporters of the technology said if hydrogen is generated from intermittent renewable electricity sources, such as wind turbines, it could be stored indefinitely.

The power source could then be added to the natural gas grid and generate electricity at times of peak demand - as well as powering vehicles.

Barney Crockett, the council’s lead member for hydrogen, said: “Today marks another important milestone for Aberdeen’s hydrogen strategy.

“Once again we are demonstrating that by taking the lead on developing and using innovative technologies, we can offer environmentally-friendly alternatives to traditional methods of transport which rely on fossil fuels.”

Co-wheels managing director Richard Falconer said: “Co-wheels has always pioneered cleaner and greener travel options, and these hydrogen powered cars are another step toward improving air quality and reducing CO2 emissions in the city.”

Transport minister Derek Mackay said: “The fact they will be deployed in the car club and be so accessible by the public and council staff, as well as by local businesses, means many more people will be able to experience the benefits of clean and green motoring first hand.”

A motoring group said drivers must be assured of the safety of hydrogen, and a re-fuelling network had still to be developed.

Neil Greig, policy and research director of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “Hydrogen cars must, as a minimum, meet the best crash protection standards that currently apply to traditional models.

“The key to their success, however, will be the speed with which a re-fuelling network can be run out.

“Until drivers know they can refuel locally without extra hassle, real growth will be slow.

“As this week’s Budget debate on fuel duty shows, the real power to change behaviour rests with George Osborne.

“If the Chancellor can give a long-term commitment to keeping tax on hydrogen low then car makers and fuel suppliers can invest with confidence that the tax regime will not suddenly change.”