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Hydrogen for Hire

By Julia Thomas  

This article was produced in association with Shell

Find Prospect’s full report, “The Future of Energy” here

At Greentomatocars, we are proud to be innovators. When the company was launched a decade ago, it was London’s first exclusively green and ethical private car hire operator. It’s a big claim but we think it’s justified. Why? Because we were the first to use hybrid vehicles in London, the first to put air pollution sensors in our vehicles and the first to offset all our emissions. In fact, we double offset. After every trip we estimate the job mileage and fund carbon reduction projects accordingly.

We were also the first to use hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in our fleet. We have two Toyota Mirai, operational since November 2015. In addition, we’ve been trialling battery electric vehicles, with one Tesla vehicle in our fleet. So far both options have provided us with positive results and brought us closer in our search for a zero emissions vehicle that can drive our future.

Fuel cell vehicles have a range of up to 300 miles on a full tank, the refuelling takes minutes, and from a driver point of view, it is pretty much the same as an internal combustion engine vehicle.

At Greentomatocars we’ve teamed up with Drayson Technologies, the technology firm behind the CleanSpace real-time air pollution sensor. We’ve attached a sensor to each of our vehicles so that we can help monitor and build awareness about the danger of air pollution. The sensor also allows us to create a live air pollution map of London highlighting the most polluted and congested routes.

As well as the positives, fuel cell vehicles bring some challenges, too. The refuelling infrastructure is limited. With just five stations on the periphery of London, access can be tricky. Separately, the vehicle only has four seats and luggage space is a little smaller than other cars of the same size. Finally, the price of the vehicle is £66,000. It’s not cheap. Nevertheless, our drivers and customers are generally very positive and show an interest in the vehicle and the engine.

The biggest challenge in the move towards a zero emissions fleet is finding a solution that is operationally and commercially viable as well as being ethical and green. By operationally viable we mean the vehicle range between charges. Hydrogen ticks the box with a range of 300 miles and fits our purpose for intensive fleet use (although the number of charging stations clearly needs to grow). Operationally viable also means the vehicles can be handled by our despatching and operational systems without any IT development to take account of range, range anxiety, location of the right type of charging infrastructure and the time needed to recharge. For us, hydrogen has been an amazing fit.


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