Land Rover is to develop its first hydrogen-powered car by the end of the year, the manufacturer has announced, with the motoring giant currently working to build a prototype of its popular off-road Defender model.

However, the company said the model will be used to test the viability of the technology to power off-road vehicles.

Land Rover currently has no plans to release a consumer hydrogen model, but said it anticipates the technology will become an increasingly popular choice for drivers ahead of the Government’s 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles.

A number of manufacturers already offer hydrogen vehicles for sale in the UK, including Toyota and Hyundai.

The cars are powered by electricity charged internally through the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. The only emission from hydrogen cars is the water produced from the reactions.

However, the technology’s environmental credentials have previously been questioned as although the car itself produces no emissions, hydrogen is often manufactured with fossil fuels.

Advocates of the technology argue that green hydrogen, which uses no fossil fuels but is not yet widely produced, will make the technology more eco-friendly in the future.

The technology has not yet been adopted widely in the UK, where there are fewer than 20 petrol stations where hydrogen drivers can refuel.

Despite its low adoption, the technology has some advantages over pure electric vehicles, such as being able to drive farther from a single refuel compared to EV batteries. As such, the aviation industry is currently exploring hydrogen as a possible way to fuel future green planes.

Land Rover said it is developing its prototype as part of its Project Zeus scheme, a part Government-funded unit that explores the viability of eco-friendly motoring technologies.

As well as the technology’s off-road performance, the company is also testing the range it can give large 4x4s and how such vehicles can be towed in the event of a breakdown.

Zero carbon flight

Ralph Clague, head of hydrogen and fuel cells, Jaguar Land Rover, said: “We know hydrogen has a role to play in the future powertrain mix across the whole transport industry, and alongside battery electric vehicles, it offers another zero tailpipe emission solution for the specific capabilities and requirements of Jaguar Land Rover’s world class line-up of vehicles. 

“The work done alongside our partners in Project Zeus will help us on our journey to become a net zero carbon business by 2039, as we prepare for the next generation of zero tailpipe emissions vehicles.”