British multinational chemicals company Ineos, which last year started production of an off-road sport utility vehicle (SUV) called the Grenadier, has no plans to commercially launch a fuel-cell electric version — despite unveiling a prototype at the UK’s Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier this month.
“We didn’t do the project to not build it, but today in all good conscience it’s hard for me to build a car that I don’t think people are going to buy yet,” the CEO of Ineos’ automotive division Lynn Calder told Australian car magazine Carsales.
This raises the question of why demonstrate a prototype at all if there is no apparent market for hydrogen-powered off-roaders.
Ineos has already committed to begin selling a battery-electric off-road SUV in 2026.
“There is a place for both, [battery electric vehicles] BEV and [fuel cell electric vehicles] FCEV,” said a spokesperson for Ineos.
“BEVs are best suited to short, stop-start an urban use cases where payload and range isn’t a primary concern. The FCEV provides the answer to those that need vehicles capable of operating in remote locations, varying temperatures, across long distances and where payload remains critical.”
However, the company has confirmed to Hydrogen Insight that it does not plan to bring a fuel-cell version of the Grenadier to market based on a lack of refuelling infrastructure.
“If customers cannot refuel a zero-emissions vehicle, then they aren’t going to buy it,” a spokesperson for Ineos told Hydrogen Insight.
While “the technology to produce hydrogen is already there, as is the fuel cell technology within vehicles” and some countries in Europe such as Germany have invested in H2 transport infrastructure, “it is hugely inconsistent elsewhere”, they added.
“Until there is a viable, consistent, distribution infrastructure, which needs long-term support and commitment from policy makers, it’s not viable to commit to series production.”
While Ineos points to refuelling as the main roadblock to bringing a fuel-cell Grenadier to market, there is also some question as to how much low-carbon hydrogen by the latter half of this decade will be available to supply the transport sector.
Ineos already produces 400,000 tonnes a year of hydrogen from fossil gas, primarily for use in oil refining and petrochemicals manufacturing.
The firm also claims to be the largest operator of electrolysis capacity in Europe through its subsidiary Inovyn and is involved in multiple low-carbon hydrogen projects in the UK and northern Europe.
But its flagship blue hydrogen plant to decarbonise existing grey H2 production at Grangemouth (for which Ineos has not disclosed an estimated annual production capacity) hinges on a link-up to the Acorn carbon capture and storage cluster in Scotland, which has not been selected for fast-track development this decade by the UK government.
Updated to include comment from Ineos spokesperson.