Unleash hydrogen at ’em
There are only 300 places in the world the ZEV H2 can refuel, writes KEN GIBSON in London
FROM the outside it looks like a normal school-run Renault Scenic people-mover. But the Scenic ZEV H2 hydrogen fuel-cell model could well be the super-green and fuel-efficient family car of the future.
Its best feature is that you can sail past petrol stations and laugh at soaring fuel prices, because this Scenic runs on hydrogen and emits just water into the air.
Renault’s engineers have redesigned the car’s floor and raised the ground clearance to fit the fuel cell stacks, the high pressure hydrogen tank and the lithium-ion batteries without compromising passenger comfort.
Instead of a fuel gauge you get a much more exotic hydrogen pressure indicator, while the temperature display shows the fuel’s temperature and the rev counter displays the electric motor revolutions. And it’s relaxing to drive. It’s responsive, eerily quiet and, with no clutch or gears to worry about, is simple.
The top speed is 160km/h and it has a range of 350km.
Don’t ask me to explain the technology as it’s like a detailed science lesson.
Basically it’s fuelled by the hydrogen stacks that are converted into electricity.
So really it’s an electric car that never needs re-charging.
So if it’s here now and works so well, why don’t Renault offer us a hydrogen fuel cell Scenic and save us all from bankruptcy at the pumps? Unfortunately, it’s all about price. While the majority of the car is no more expensive to make than today’s Scenic, the hydrogen fuel cell costs a small fortune to manufacture.
The prototype cost nearly $2 million.
The other major stumbling block is we don’t have the required network of hydrogen fuel pumps to fuel it. There are only 300 filling stations worldwide.
Renault and its partner Nissan are working flat out to slash the production costs dramatically and they admit hydrogen technology is still very much the future answer to our motoring needs.
They believe that battery-powered electric vehicles are the next priority and boss Carlos Ghosn says he expects to have an electric car ready for the US fleet market by 2010 . . . and at mainstream prices.
Experts say a major battery breakthrough is imminent and it will increase the range of electric vehicles, together with the ability to recharge a battery in as little as 20 minutes.
For now Renault is pushing its current range of low-emission and high fuel economy models, fitted with the latest generation of smaller petrol and diesel engines that have the performance you’d expect in a big car. Renault now has 37 cars that fit into the 120g/km C02 emissionsor-under category.
I’ve just test driven one of the models, a Renault Grand Scenic powered by a 1.5-litre turbodiesel that has similar power to the 2.2-litre diesel that it has replaced.
The small diesel is no slouch with 0-100km/h in 12.4 seconds and a top speed of 180km/h.
But the figures that really matter are a combined fuel economy of 5.1 litres/ 100km and C02 of 130g/km.
The rest of the Grand Scenic has all the practicality we’ve come to expect from Renault as past masters of offering maximum interior space for the growing family, with the option of seven seats.
So, though we can’t hold up two fingers to the oil barons and politicians just yet, vehicles like the Grand Scenic do ease the fuel price pain slightly, while the electric and fuel cell versions are getting closer. Ken Gibson writes for The Sun
Gas attack: the Renault Scenic ZEV H2 is fuelled by a hydrogen cell and just emits water. The prototype cost nearly $2 million.