Hydrogen driving: We test the fuel cell Ineos Grenadier

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By Creative Media News

  • Hydrogen vs. EV Debate: Some argue hydrogen may rival EVs
  • Ineos Hydrogen Grenadier: Tested, still long-term due to infrastructure
  • Hydrogen Infrastructure Issues: Few stations hinder hydrogen vehicle adoption

Electric vehicles are the future, and everyone agrees on that. That is the mantra offered to motorists who are encouraged to convert to EVs.

However, not everyone agrees that the future of motoring will be entirely dominated by plug-in electric vehicles; some believe hydrogen fuel cells may play an essential role.

Ineos, owned by buccaneering boss Sir Jim Ratcliffe, is already developing a robust 4×4 EV called the Fusilier, but it is also considering hydrogen power.

Freda Lewis-Stempel attended the Ineos Road to Decarbonisation event at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire to test the prototype hydrogen fuel cell Grenadier on an off-road track.

What is a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle?

Most zero-emission vehicles on the road are battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). However, a lesser-known zero-emission electric car is the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCEV).

Hydrogen cars, also known as FCEVs, are powered by electric motors and are classified as electric vehicles. However, rather than being charged externally, hydrogen cars generate their electricity.

Hydrogen from the fuel tank and oxygen react in the fuel cell to produce energy, which is then transferred to the electric motor. Thus, a hydrogen car drives similarly to an electric vehicle.

Zero exhaust emissions are produced – only water and heat – and if the hydrogen is green, these vehicles are exceptionally environmentally friendly.

Hydrogen vehicles, like petrol or diesel automobiles, can be refuelled at a pump. Thus, some people prefer them to EVs because there is no range or charging anxiety. However, finding a hydrogen filling station is problematic.

Driving the hydrogen. Ineos Grenadier

Off-roading is a bumpy experience; regardless of how good your car is, you will be flung around. You feel the tracks, drips, ruts, inclines, and gravity-defying descents; it becomes a means of communication with the vehicle and your environment.

But the hydrogen Grenadier transforms the off-roading experience: you’re nearly floating. The typical on-road EV experience of utter stillness and glides along feels like a spooky sci-fi one when you expect to be pounding through the bush.

I say utter silence, but there was a faint high-pitched humming, which project engineering chief Pamela Amann emphasized would not be the case if the automobile went into production.

Surprisingly, only female drivers can currently identify this with the prototype (women can hear higher frequency noises above 2000Hz).

The hydrogen prototype sports a 115K fuel cell from BMW under the hood – the German brand is developing its hydrogen iX5 vehicle – and two 2kg hydrogen storage tanks in the ladder frame chassis. If the automobile goes into production, the hydrogen tanks will be increased to six or eight.

The battery is in the boot (which will be placed beneath the boot floor in a production vehicle), and there are three electric motors, two on the rear axle and one on the front axle.

One-pedal driving (with three recovery modes) contributes to the car’s video game or virtual reality (not in a wrong manner) sensation; it’s so controllable since electric software and hardware manage propulsion. An electric motor replaces the conventional differential locking on the petrol or diesel Grenadier, and the battery regeneration during braking serves as hill descent control.

The target FCEV will have a range of roughly 370 miles compared to the prototype’s 120 miles.

Amann stated that the production hydrogen Grenadier will have the same payload and towing capability (3.5 tonnes) as the internal combustion (ICE) Grenadiers. Wading was impossible in the prototype, but this will be remedied if the target car goes into production.

I had experienced the new Grenadier Quartermaster pick-up on its debut in Italy only a few days previously. Hence, the diesel’s feel was still fresh in my mind, and the diesel and petrol Station Wagon Grenadiers were also present to provide contrast.

As Calder promised, the hydrogen is just as capable as the Grenadiers, with no off-road compromises. Because it is so simple to drive, it would be an excellent choice for a beginner green laser.

However, whether still being determined gen infrastructure will ever be substantial enough to power this FCEV is unclear.

Will Ineos sell a hydrogen fuel cell called Grenadier?

In July last year, Ineos, the heavy-duty off-roader company owned by chemical magnate and Manchester United owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, debuted its fuel-cell Grenadier prototype at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

At the time, Ineos Automotive CEO Lynn Calder told Carsales that the brand ‘didn’t do the project to not build it, but now in all good conscience it’s hard for me to manufacture a car that I don’t think people will purchase yet’.

The prototype is ready to drive and embark on a global tour, but expect it to be offered to the public for a while.

The brand doubled down on not bringing a fuel-cell car to market anytime soon, with Calder telling us the FCEV is part of Ineos’ push to get the ‘government to look at multi-powertrain options’ for the 2035 shift to zero-emission cars, but that ‘hydrogen (an uncompromised Grenadier) is a long way off.

Calder says that the ‘range-extender is where it’s at right now’, with the focus on the 2027 debut of the brand’s electric Fusilier SUV. However, the hydrogen car will continue to tick over in the background as they view it ‘as part of the future, but don’t feel it’s this decade’.

Hydrogen cannot take off primarily because of the need for more infrastructure. “The infrastructure is not there,” Calder confirms.

There are currently just six hydrogen refuelling stations in the UK, which has decreased rather than increased in recent years; by 2022, there will be ten recharging stations.

The government recently awarded Element 2 (a British business) an £8 million grant to create four public hydrogen stations, although this is a relatively small drop in the H2O ocean.

Similar previous initiatives have failed: in 2022, Shell shut down its hydrogen filling stations at Cobham, Gatwick, and Beaconsfield, claiming the technology had reached its end of life.

In comparison, as of May 2024, the UK has 62,536 electric vehicle (EV) charging ports scattered among 32,992 charging outlets.

While Britain just celebrated 1 million EVs on the road, only two hydrogen cars are available: the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo, which cannot be ordered.

Why develop a hydrogen Grenadier when a Range Extender (REX) and Battery Electric (BEV) Fusilier will be available in 2027?

The FCEV is a long-term alternative for Ineos consumers, with Calder promising ‘no emissions and no off-road compromise’.

Ineos claims that hydrogen is better suited to Grenadier-style off-roaders than battery electric solutions since it is lighter, does not limit towing, and is not constrained in isolated places due to a lack of chargers. The brand plans future usage for ’emergency services, NGOs, and border forces’.

At the decarbonization event, Ineos reiterated its tagline from the Fusilier REx and BEV unveil: it wants ‘customers to vote with their feet’.

Second, Ineos is a significant player in the hydrogen industry, and bringing a live demonstration hydrogen car on a globe tour is an example of the multi-powertrain strategy that would benefit the entire Ineos Group, not just the automobile manufacturing arm.

Ineos Inovyn (an Ineos company) is now Europe’s largest operator of electrolysis, a method used to produce low-carbon hydrogen for transportation, industry, and electricity generation. In 2021, Ineos will invest €2 billion in zero-carbon green hydrogen projects across Europe.

“Unlock your financial potential with free Webull shares in the UK.”

As an Ineos Inovyn representative stated, ‘hydrogen isn’t new to Ineos’.

With Ineos admitting that “they’ve had conversations with Labour, but don’t know what to expect,” you could label the FCEV campaign for hydrogen.

Ineos claims it wants ‘to get all the stakeholders at the table’ for some ‘joined-up thinking’ because the existing 2035 ban and transition to EVs are a ‘pipe dream plan with no strategy around it, and no idea how we’re going to get there.

So, Ineos wants and has the capacity to produce a significant amount of hydrogen. The Ineos juggernaut pattern from the past appears to be founded on the capacity to pivot, such as developing a hospital-grade sanitiser brand during a pandemic or launching an automotive brand when Land Rover discontinued the Defender.

The FCEV Grenadier is an example of a hydrogen chicken-egg scenario.

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