Britain Offers Massive Fuel-Cell Car Subsidies for Fleets

Policy  /   /  By Jim Motavalli

Fuel-cell cars from Honda and Toyota are now on sale in Japan, where the government is subsidizing sales with up to $20,000 each. The U.S. government, after some mixed signals, is now solidly behind hydrogen research.

The British government has previously subsidized 12 strategically located hydrogen stations with a £5 million ($7.2 million) program, but hadn’t yet done much for the cars—despite entrepreneurs like Riversimple’s Hugo Spowers proposing fleets of homegrown hydrogen cars. Now that’s changing. On May 10, the Office for Low-Emission Vehicles (OLEV) announced it will offer hydrogen car fleet owners up to 75 percent off the purchase price.

The Toyota Mirai costs £66,000 ($95,264) in Britain; the subsidy would take that down to £16,500 ($23,815). The cars have to be purchased by April of 2017. Needless to say, such big sticker relief should be a huge boost to sales. The grants will also cover some operating and/or leasing costs (including fuel).

Local governments, health trusts, police and fire stations and private companies are being asked to bid for the funding to add hydrogen cars to their fleets. Bids have to be in by July 4.

The British subsidies may not last all that long, because the fund, at least so far, is only £2 million ($2.8 million). But at least 100 cars or trucks will get on the road through the scheme, tripling the current fleet. Total British funding for fuel cells and hydrogen stations is to total £11 million, first announced in 2014.

According to Transport Minister Andrew Jones:

We are always looking at new ways to make the vehicles of the future cleaner, and hydrogen fuel cells are an important part of our vision for almost all cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2050. This funding, along with the growing network of hydrogen refueling stations opening in England, will help businesses and the public sector to get on board with this exciting technology. This is further proof that we are leading the way in making journeys cleaner and protecting the environment.

Simon Peevers of the Royal Auto Club (RAC) business office told,  “It’s welcome that the government recognizes the importance of supporting fleets to encourage the transition to zero-emission vehicles. Within the wider context of the fleet sector it remains to be seen whether £2 million is enough to make a serious impact on encouraging businesses to upgrade their vehicles, but it is a step in the right direction as long as there is the infrastructure in place to support the new technology.”

That means stations, and 12 is certainly a start for Britain. Two stations are open now, but all 12 are scheduled to go online by the end of 2016. A British government study predicted that as many as half a million hydrogen cars could be on UK roads by 2030.

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