Renault is bringing Europe’s first hydrogen-powered family car to the market and promising it will travel 500 miles on a single charge.
The French car maker will relaunch its popular Scenic model as an electric vehicle in 2024 and then plans to add a hydrogen power source to it by 2030.
Electric cars can last for up to 300 miles before they need to be plugged in, but Renault estimates that by the end of the decade hydrogen will power cars for up to 500 miles.
However, the UK only has 11 hydrogen fuelling stations for cars, most of which are in the south of England. Another four are on the way, but buyers are likely to be wary of making a commitment to the fuel before more are available.
While many car makers have made hydrogen-powered prototypes, most manufacturers have abandoned plans to make them for sale, instead pouring their resources into batteries.
Hydrogen, which burns in oxygen to produce water, is seen as a good way to fuel heavy goods vehicles because of the weight of batteries needed to turn them electric. As a car fuel it has struggled to gain traction because of the current expense of making green hydrogen compared to using green electricity to charge a battery.
Mass market hydrogen-powered cars can only be bought from Japanese and Korean car makers. Korea’s Hyundai makes the Nexo, a hydrogen powered SUV, while Toyota has made the Mirai since 2014.
Backers of the fuel envisage hydrogen fueling stations using electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, manufacturing the gas at the pump.
Renault shelved the Scenic in 2019 as part of a cost cutting drive and gave its larger Grand Scenic variant the chop a year later. But it remained popular with buyers and saw the highest price growth among used cars with a 61pc gain in average asking price in the year to April, according to AutoTrader, setting buyers back £8,107.
The new version will have a 75pc smaller carbon footprint through the use of recycled materials and a smaller battery, Renault said.
It is racing to catch up with its competitors whilst also nursing heavy losses having exited its Russian business in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier this week, the French car maker agreed to hand over its 68pc share in Lada maker Avtovaz to NAMI, a state-owned car research body, while the City of Moscow will receive Renault Russia.
The assets changed hands for two roubles, or just over two pence, in an effective nationalisation of the brands in Russia. Renault has the option to buy AvtoVaz back in the next six years, which chief executive Luca de Meo has hinted is a possibility.
The deal will be a painful one for Renault, as the car maker grew to be reliant on Russia for about 18pc of global sales, making the nation its second-biggest market after France. Its Russian assets were valued at €2.2bn on its balance sheet, and it will take a charge on selling them later this year, it said.
It entered Russia in 1998, agreeing to take over a car plant in Moscow at a time when relations with the country were thawing with Europe.
It then went on to buy a stake in Avtovaz, owner of the Lada brand, in 2008, a move followed by several purchases in shares which culminated in 2018 when the Lada owner delisted from the Moscow stock exchange.
Renault has been under pressure to dispose of the businesses since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Lada production has been halted several times during the conflict because of sanctions on Russia which has deprived its factories of parts, including computer chips.