posted 4 years ago

Fuel For Thought

Explained: How Your Future Car Will be Powered

Fuel Pumps

Petrol And Diesel

We all know that petrol and diesel vehicles have a range of hundreds of miles on a single tank and can be resupplied – in a short time – throughout the country.

To be widely accepted by motorists, vehicles with an alternative fuel source must meet these standards.

Nissan Leaf


Electric cars such as the Nissan LEAF and Renault Zoe are widely available. The advantage over their petrol/diesel siblings is that there are no tailpipe carbon emissions. 

Such vehicles can be charged at home or via public ports. The problem is that the process can take hours, or at the very least far longer than pumping petrol. Furthermore, whereas there are traditional fuel stations on every corner the faster, public ports are relatively rare.

Electric cars also have a limited range compared to hydrogen, petrol and diesel vehicles. Nissan LEAF range, for example, is 124 miles but influenced by factors such as temperature and what equipment is running. Electric cars best suit drivers that stay local.

Vehicle range, charging time and national infrastructure are likely to improve in the future.

Hyundai ix35


Hyundai has brought the first, hydrogen powered, customer ready car to the United Kingdom.

Its ix35 Fuel Cell is – at the point of use – more environmentally friendly than petrol and diesel powered vehicles as there are no carbon emissions from a tailpipe.

The manufacturer claims hydrogen represents the “future of sustainable motoring” as it makes-up 75% of the universe. What a contrast to fossil fuels.

The ix35 Fuel Cell pumps hydrogen and air into a fuel stack. This causes a chemical reaction that produces electricity to power an electric motor.

The emissions are water vapour and heat. The car can be refuelled in three minutes and has a range of 369 miles, depending on road conditions.

The problem is that there are only a handful of places to refuel. However, the manufacturer is working with the Greater London Authority and the London Hydrogen Project to build an infrastructure. The government is also financially committed to this effort.

Infiniti Q50 hybrid


A hybrid blends a petrol/diesel engine with an electric motor. The motor – courtesy of a battery – powers the car (say) at low speed. The internal combustion engine contributes as required. The battery is charged via the traditional engine. In contrast, the battery in a plug-in hybrid can also be charged from a plug socket.

Our Verdict: Hydrogen And Electric To Dominate

It is likely that electric – albeit improved and supported by a national infrastructure – and hydrogen cars will dominate the future.

Petrol and diesels are on borrowed time.


It is true hydrogen is the ideal fuel for vehicles except for the fact it is a very dirty fuel to produce in the industrial quantities that would be needed to drive the almost thirty million vehicles on British roads. The only way forward would be to have a massive amount of surplus nuclear-generated electricity to produce those quantities; something that would be unacceptable by the voting public and political suicide for any government that attempted such a thing in the forseeable future. It isn't generally known there was a time when Britain led the world in hydrogen technology as the former Prime Minister Harold Wilson "saw" the future and realised we would have to end our reliance on oil and put Doctor Lucas and his team to work at Loughborough University to develop methods of ground and on-car storage for the sort of quantities of hydrogen needed. This would have been a natural extension of Britain going "nuclear". A hydrogen fuel cell isn't necessary in order to use the gas as a road fuel as conventional piston-engined vehicles can be easily modified to use it which was the other side of the work of Doctor Lucas. The development work was complete by the time Margaret Thatcher arrived in Downing Street and it took her just a couple of weeks to close down the project and give the results to America. The human race should forget about hydrogen for a while and do our planet a big favour by producing an infrastructure to generate and collect methane. Methane is a much more efficient greenhouse gas than CO2 and being lighter than air (it is mostly hydrogen)once it has escaped and dispersed it is lost forever while it helps to melt the icecaps. Liquified methane is a very good vehicle fuel and has a naturally high anti-knock rating and can be used by both petrol and diesel types of engine.

no one has mentioned the Tesla. Since Ellon Musk has relaxed his patents there is great potential. Tesla already has infrastructure in the US and planned Supercharge stations for the UK. An almost 300 mile range and faster acceleration than an Aston. If you haven't investigated it then do, it will change your perception of the electric car and 100 mile range. Ah the cost I hear you say! Well with three models made, the third is similar cost to an up market Merc and the fourth model promised to be priced similar to a Three a Series. Worth a look.

During the early 1940's MUssolinni promoted the Italian population to pursue the use of natural/methane gas to power their vehicles. He obviously succeeded because today the use of this product is very economical.....far cheaper than other methods.......and is environmentally friendly. I suspect over the years the oil industry has managed to stifle any media interest in thi s form of energy because it could effect their overall profits from petrol and diesel sales. Why is there no apparent comparisons being made with this form of energy.?.....?

I think Hydrogen is the way to go or mains gas annd fill up at home.

I agree with you Jim Bean. Environmentalists go on about alternative fuels for cars but seem to forget things like electric cars are still going to use fossil fuels albeit in an indirect way because power stations use fossil fuels to provide the electricity used to run them and as you say its just pushing CO2 emissions etc to someplace else therefore not really reducing carbon emission just shifting it.

I was lucky enough to drive the telsa in Glasgow it's the future 300 miles in the tank and 20 minutes to charge and it's free

what I would like to see are vehicles that can run on raw, unprocessed, natural fuels... e.g "petrol" cars running on raw alcohol and "diesel" cars running on oil squeezed out of rapeseed or sunflower etc with NO chemical alteration or processing.... squeeze it, fill it, run it

I'd love an electric car. I do around just over 30 miles a day as a commute so well within range (and my wife would keep a petrol car for longer journeys) however all the deals are for ~6000 miles a year. Useless to someone like me who does enough miles to make an electric car worth while. They need to sort this out if they want a sale...

Non of these options are viable. All they are doing is moving the combustion process up the chain, E.g. to the power station.