Hydrogen taxis are growing in numbers across Europe, but when can we expect the technology to reach UK shores?
The inconspicuous taxis are powered by hydrogen fuel cells that convert hydrogen gas into electricity to power an electric motor.
Hydrogen taxis are seen as a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional petrol or diesel-powered taxis because they emit only water vapor and no harmful pollutants.
Last month the first hydrogen-powered taxis were licensed in the German city of Hamburg. The Toyota Mirai taxis were funded by the “Taxi of the Future” project.
In Madrid there is an aim to replace 1,000 combustion engine taxis with hydrogen models by 2026 which is expected to cost more than €100million.
Bart Biebuyck, Clean Hydrogen Partnership CEO, said: “Hydrogen is the ideal fuel for taxis because of the long -range, intensive use and short recharging time.”
There has also been a move to introduce hydrogen in France too. Hype, which operates the largest fleet of hydrogen-powered taxis in the world, is growing rapidly with 290 vehicles, and is expanding the fleet by placing a new order with Toyota for 388 Mirai 2 vehicles in late 2022.
WHERE DOES THE UK TAXI INDUSTRY STAND WITH HYDROGEN?
Green Tomato Cars were one of the first private hire operators in the world to turn to hydrogen fuel. They currently offer a fleet of 50 hydrogen powered vehicles in the capital.
The adoption of hydrogen taxis in the UK is still limited due to factors such as high costs and limited infrastructure for refuelling hydrogen. As a result, most taxis still rely on traditional fossil fuels, although there are increasing efforts to shift towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly options.
The fuel technology has proved to be safe and reliable, but the big challenge remains with the infrastructure. Without more fuelling stations covering more of the UK, it’s hard to see any spike in growth soon.
That said, the Government are still investing in hydrogen trials and research with the aim to transition to cleaner fuels.
In December 2022, Toyota began leading a consortium to develop a prototype hydrogen fuel cell-powered version of its Hilux pick-up at the company’s UK vehicle plant in Burnaston, Derbyshire.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK (TMUK) successfully secured UK Government funding for the project through the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), an organisation supporting the development of cleaner technologies and new mobility concepts.
The concept of hydrogen fuel in the taxi industry can still take off given the opportunity, but for now it remains a slow burner.