Will a summer holiday in Cornwall be a thing of the past?

4th Sep 2017


I’m from a generation that used to tinker with car engines. Some of you might also remember the “joys” of removing spark plugs then using a wire brush and emery cloth to clean them. To improve performance the feeler gauge (or fag packet) was used to set the gap. If you can remember doing this, then like me staring under the bonnet of a new car is bewildering – topping up the windscreen washer bottle is about the limit now of my “tinkering”.

The changes we have seen over the past thirty years are nothing compared to what is coming over the next twenty. With petrol and diesel being phased out for new cars, the alternatives and how they work, are coming sharply into focus.

Without doubt, electric vehicles (EVs) seem to have captured the attention of the media and the idea of simply plugging your car into a charger when you get home from work, is appealing. (Let’s forget for a moment that the electric used to charge the car will not be from carbon free sources or whether the grid can cope with meeting power demand or whether the household wiring can cope with the stress of fast-charging or how smart devices will determine when the battery is charged and not you). The concern I have is of range.

Around town, a small smart car might be the best option, but filling a car with kids, camping gear and surfboards for a week in Cornwall and facing a five-hour journey having a vehicle with suitable range and capacity is what we need. Otherwise, driving to Cornwall for a holiday will be a thing of the past for many.

But earlier in the summer I sat inside a hydrogen fuel cell car, owned by Northern Gas Networks. From what I gathered, the range allows for that holiday in Cornwall, load capacity lets you take the kids and camping gear too. Re-filling time is comparable with what we experience now for petrol and yes it dramatically reduces carbon emissions. Pollutants are a thing of the past too.

Will hydrogen fuel cells drive the cars of the future or will it be electric, that I frankly don’t know? What I do know, is that I like my time in Cornwall and I’m happy just refilling the washer bottle of my car, leaving the maintenance to others.