My Car Quest

May 27, 2024

What Hydrogen Powered Autos Need is an Elon Musk…

by Wallace Wyss –

But Musk doesn’t like hydrogen. He thinks it’s the long way around getting rid of internal combustion engines. He calls them “fool cells” and a “load of rubbish”. He told Tesla shareholders at an annual meeting years ago that “success is simply not possible.”

And how can you argue with a guy who maybe is the 2nd richest man in the US behind Jeff Bezos who started Amazon? But being an entrepreneur at heart, I’d say that the news from Bloomberg that Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man ($25 billion), has announced a plan to tie in with Hyundai Motor Co. in a plan to give hydrogen fuel cell vehicles the boost they need to become mainstream is good news.

Musk, busy with space ships as well, can’t be everywhere. Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group will look into opportunities to produce and supply hydrogen to Hyundai, a South Korean automaker quietly producing fuel cell cars in low volumes since 2013.

Reading some bio notes I like that Ratcliffe is not some high sounding patrician that was born with a platinum spoon in his mouth but instead the son of a carpenter. Watching his dad work, he learned how to get things done. Born in 1952, he is at present the richest man in the UK.

A chemical engineer who became a financier and industrialist, he founded the Ineos chemicals group in 1998, which now has an annual turnover of $44 billion. He is its chairman and chief executive officer and still owns two-thirds of the company.

Other biographical notes are that he is an adventure seeker, traveling to both the North and South poles, and went on a month-long motorbike trip in South Africa in 2015. Ratcliffe himself is an about-to-be automaker, getting ready to make a car called the Grenadier, a close look alike for the Land Rover Defender sport utility vehicle.

It’s a natural that a producer of chemicals would want to tie in with makers of cars. In the UK the Prime Minister recently announced a plan to phase out new internal combustion cars by 2030 (oh and along the way de-carbonize industrial production).

Ineos makes 300,000 tons of hydrogen annually, and could be the key, setting up refueling stations all around the UK. Hyundai already has the Nexo SUV but could make many more variations by 2030.

Hyundai Nexo

Hyundai Nexo – Does It Look Like It Is Hydrogen Powered?

I myself believe in the One-Man-Can-Move-Mountains theory. Get a mover and shaker in charge, one with hundreds of millions, and you can change the course of industry. We have some great movers and shakers in American industry like Roger Penske, but he just never wanted to be a car builder, though he had the knowledge.

Ratcliffe looks upon the PM’s promise as a golden opportunity to increase his firm’s output of the gas, which is a byproduct from the electrolysis of brine to make chlorine. Currently his customers are using it for fuel and desulfurization at refineries. His firm also has underground gas-storage caverns available for hydrogen.

Most of the auto retailing world is turning to electric cars as the means to achieve a smog free era, and that’s hurt fuel-cell vehicles temporarily. But I say it’s because so far they haven’t had a man with moxie steering the ship. Hyundai and Toyota are two automakers who believe in hydrogen, because hydrogen cars can be refilled faster than batteries recharge, and fuel cells can offer greater driving range, particularly in the heavier vehicles.

According to Bloomberg “The South Korean carmaker aims to capture as much as 15% of the hydrogen-fueled truck market in Europe by 2030, targeting countries including Germany and the Netherlands. The company shipped its first batch of such trucks to Switzerland earlier this year and plans to produce 1,600 units by 2025.”

And it could all work out well for Radcliffe, because going up against long established automakers is not easy for someone who never made a car before. And the Land Rover Defender is a well accepted vehicle, it’s just he will be the first to offer a competitor powered by a fuel cell.

He had already made a deal to power his Grenadier with six-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines from BMW AG, but I think if he goes fuel cell as soon as possible he will beat the European companies who have already been slow on the uptake with electrics and slower still on fuel cells vehicles.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss reports on the auto industry for KUCR FM Riverside’s Autotalk show.

What Hydrogen Powered Autos Need is an Elon Musk...
Article Name
What Hydrogen Powered Autos Need is an Elon Musk...
Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man ($25 billion), has announced a plan to tie in with Hyundai to give hydrogen fuel cell vehicles the boost they need.


  1. lennox mcneely says

    We tried Hydrogen buses in Whistler , showcased for the Olympics –google “Whistler’s hydrogen bus boondoggle”
    Maintenance ran twice as high as diesel and our cold weather zapped the buses–increasing maintenance and cutting down on their range. It was to initiate The Hydrogen Highway from Whistler to San Diego –with Schwarzenegger
    promoting the California end. Likely private enterprise will do better. Lennox McNeely

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