How to fill up a fuel-cell car with hydrogen


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► Step-by-step guide to refuelling a fuel-cell
► How to find and operate a hydrogen pump
► We go hands-on with a Toyota Mirai

Ever wondered how hydrogen fuel-cell cars are refuelled? We tested one of only two H2 fuel-cell cars on UK sale today to discover how easy – or difficult – they are to fill up.

The Toyota Mirai is as cutting-edge as fuel-cell cars get in 2022 and is available to buy or lease in low volumes here and now, priced from £49,995. This is how we got on when we visited Cobham services on the southern reaches of the M25 London orbital motorway to top up the Mirai’s tank.

Are hydrogen fuel-cell cars the future?

1) Find a hydrogen pump!

Toyota Mirai at Shell's Cobham hydrogen fuel pump

According to UK H2 Mobility, there are only 10 hydrogen refuelling stations open to private motorists in the UK today. Others are reserved for commercial vehicles and a few more are planned, but they’re so expensive to build that they’ll remain scarce for a while yet. We visited the Shell site on the M25 service station, run in conjunction with ITM Power.

2) Swipe your card 

Our Mirai already had an account set up with ITM Power so we merely had to insert our access card, enter a PIN and we were set to refuel. Hydrogen isn’t that much cheaper than unleaded, at £12 per kilogramme at the time of writing.

3) Open fuel flap, doors to manual 

What a hydrogen fuel pump looks like

Pull a conventional fuel-filler lever in the cabin and the flap opens on the nearside of the Mirai to reveal a metal nozzle where you’d normally find a hole for petrol. Remove the rubber dust sleeve, guide the nozzle on and tug the lever to latch.

4) Watch as the pressure rises

When the pump is attached, simply press a green illuminated button and refuelling starts automatically. We used the high-pressure 700-bar pump, not the less powerful 350-bar one alongside. Three minutes of clicking and whirring later and we’re full.

5) Having a gas

We took on board 3.71kg of hydrogen at a cost of £44.52. One of the quirks of H2 refuelling is that you’ll squeeze a different amount of gas in depending on all the variables, including atmospheric pressure and temperature.

Refuelling a hydrogen fuel-cell really is as simple as that. The speed and simplicity of filling up are impressive – the big elephant in the room is just how few refuelling stations there are in the UK.

How do hydrogen fuel-cells work?

Read our full Toyota Mirai review

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