Hydrogen vehicles: What you need to know

Zero-emissions green vehicles have been the centre of media attention in recent years, and for good reason. Car manufacturers are starting to create a number of exciting and innovative new vehicle concepts, many of which could soon be on the roads.

While electric vehicles are commonly noted as the 'car of the future', there's another contender that could soon be sharing the road. The time of the hydrogen vehicle is here.

What are hydrogen cars?

The concept behind these cars is quite easy to understand, as they essentially use hydrogen instead of gasoline for fuel. A technology called a fuel cell provides the power by converting hydrogen to electricity. What's more, the only by-product is water and heat - easily disposed of.

The benefits are clear: no pollutants and clean energy for vehicles.

Cars aren't the first vehicles to make use of hydrogen as a fuel source, either, as it's even used for rocket ships and other forms of transportation.

What are the issues?

Hydrogen vehicles are a true step forward from gasoline-powered cars in nearly every respect, aside from one key issue - the infrastructure.

While drivers will have no trouble filling up a car with an internal combustion engine, there are definitely issues with hydrogen cars. Currently, very few refuelling stations are located around the world, and certainly not enough to drive between cities in any country.

If fleets and consumers are going to make use of these vehicles, refuelling infrastructure is essential.

Are any vehicles currently available?

While it's not possible to purchase a hydrogen vehicle from a manufacturer today, and the infrastructure is lacking, it won't be long before they're populating roads across the globe.

Toyota recently announced the Mirai, a fuel cell vehicle (FCV) that is set to release shortly. It's an evolution of the Toyota FCV concept, which was designed to test the the viability of the technologies. It's certainly one of the more consumer-ready hydrogen vehicles.

Honda, another major Japanese automaker, has also announced plans to develop a fuel cell vehicle, a model called the Honda FCV. Honda has been working on the cars for some time, and this latest model brings a 33 per cent smaller fuel cell, a more compact power train that results in more passenger room and 60 per cent greater power density.

So, could hydrogen vehicles be a mainstay of fleets in the near future? The answer is yes, but there are definitely issues to be aware of.