Editorial: Why We Cover Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Cars (And Other Fuel Types, Too)

Take one look at the Transport Evolved homepage, and it’s clear to see that a lot of the transportation we cover happens to have a plug. In fact, if you look quickly, you’d be forgiven for thinking Transport Evolved is exclusively dedicated to electric cars and plug-in hybrids. That’s because we did originally start that way: as an informal podcast devoted to plug-in cars.

We've upset some of our readers by covering hydrogen fuel cell cars -- but here's why we cover them.

We’ve upset some of our readers by covering hydrogen fuel cell cars — but here’s why we cover them.

Lately however, we’ve been covering more than just plug-in cars. We’re covering everything from autonomous drive technology through to safety technology, improvements in fuel efficiency and other alternative fuel technologies like hydrogen fuel cell cars.  And it’s something which hasn’t gone unnoticed by some of our regular readers, podcast fans and supporters, some of which have expressed open bemusement about our recent editorial decisions.

So, we’ve decided to write a post explaining why we cover hydrogen fuel cell electric cars, as well as other fuel types on a site which was once just a plug-in car site.

A quick history lesson

As those who have followed us since the early days know, Transport Evolved was originally a podcast devoted to green car technology, with a heavy emphasis on plug-in cars. With a weekly, fairly low-tech show, we aimed to cover the news from the world of green transport every week in a fun and informal way, reaching a small but devoted core audience.

While our background is in plug-in cars, we'll drive anything.

While our background is in plug-in cars, we’ll drive anything.

Then, as our audience numbers grew, we decided to offer more than just a weekly show. We relaunched our site, adding in daily content consisting of news, reviews and buying advice, as well as several new YouTube shows, the most prominent of which was our ten-minute Transport Evolved News — T.E.N. — show.

When we chose the name Transport Evolved back in 2010, we sought to capture the essence of the entire green car marketplace. And while there really wasn’t much other than hybrid and electric car technology to cover, we hoped one day to become the go-to place for news on personal transport that was cleaner, greener, smarter and safer than your everyday gasoline car.

Where we are today

Since our site expanded back in October 2013 to include weekly news and more than one weekly show, our site has experienced massive growth. We’re reaching more readers and viewers than ever before, and we love interacting and talking to you all. While many of our core fans are already driving green, environmentally-friendly vehicles, we’re noticing more people than ever before contacting us for buying advice.

Unlike the early days of greener transport, may of the people talking to us today are everyday car buyers and consumers, people who are experiencing future car technology for the very first time and are looking for a place to go where new car technology — evolved car technology, if you will — is explained in everyday, tangible terms. This quest for knowledge is something we aim to help with, by providing honest, experience-based advice, reviews and background.

We want to help our readers — old and new — to understand the differences between the different types of alternative fuelled vehicles out there. We want to highlight the challenges that face some of the technologies as they head towards mass-adoption. And we have to be honest and open about them all.

We want to explain the weird and wonderful, as well as the everyday, in terms everyone can understand.

We want to explain the weird and wonderful, as well as the everyday, in terms everyone can understand.

And that’s why you’ll find our tag line for the site now reads “Transport Evolved: Cleaner, Greener, Safer, Smarter.” Just like the early days of computers, where there were a myriad of different operating systems, manufacturers and languages for consumers to try and understand, today’s future car marketplace is a minefield for would-be buyers.

Like the early computer magazines of the 1980s and 1990s, we seek to explain future car technology in ways that everyone will understand, while providing more in-depth analysis for those who want or need it. Unlike mainstream automotive sites — many of which are coming to future car technology for the first time with little or no technical background — we’ve got the technical expertise and valuable experience needed to make our advice informed and relevant.

What we’re not

This brings us nicely to explaining what we’re not at Transport Evolved. We’re often mistaken for an advocacy site at first glance, or perhaps worse, a fanboy site. While our entire, regular editorial team drive some form of plug-in car — something we believe no other news site on line can boast — we’re open to exploring any form of technology that is cleaner, greener, safer and smarter than the cars of yesteryear. Occasionally, we’ll even cover things that don’t drive on the roads, like airplanes or boats.

If it’s cleaner, greener, safer and smarter — and it represents a possible future of  transport — we want to cover it.

We want more people driving cleaner, safer, smarter vehicles.

We want more people driving cleaner, safer, smarter vehicles, so we’re here to give you the information you need to make that happen.

Rather than being a purely plug-in advocacy site, we view ourselves as an information portal, one where considered opinion rather than knee-jerk reaction is given a home. As writers, we try to put our personal preferences and opinions to one side in order to ensure a technology or innovation is given as balanced a coverage as possible. And sometimes, on our Transport Evolved Panel Talk Show, you’ll find our guests and hosts airing controversial views, simply to engage a healthy, whole discussion.

It’s that goal — to be a site where readers can find information and then make their own minds up — which drives us to cover everything from plug-in vehicles through to hydrogen fuel cell cars, compressed natural gas and even internal-combustion-engined autonomous driving race cars.

“But you are advocates!”

Those who know the editorial team well will know that we are in some way, plug-in car advocates in the ‘real world,’ helping organise various electric car events, driving plug-in cars on a daily basis, and generally enjoying the joys of not filling up with gasoline.

You’ve got us. As individuals, each of the editorial team plays a role in some way as a future car advocate. I used to be on the board of various plug-in car groups and one of our editorial team is on the board of Plug In America. But when we’re writing for Transport Evolved, we try to listen to views that we may personally not hold true in order to offer a balanced counterpoint that we hope enriches our site.

The hydrogen question

Which brings us to the question of hydrogen fuel cell cars. In a recent post, we asked What is it like to drive a hydrogen fuel cell car?followed a few days later by coverage of the U.S. DoE’s new $1 million H2 Refuel H-Prize. In both situations, we were attacked for giving hydrogen fuel cell cars a voice, of promoting a technology which as may of our readers feel, ‘has no real chance of surviving in the world today’.

Yet here at Transport Evolved, we have a duty to cover all future fuel technologies, especially ones that are being given widespread, national coverage by mainstream media outlets. Mainstream media outlets which often lack the necessary background and context to properly express what these technologies mean for the everyday car buyer.

Ultimately, we want to help consumers make informed choices, and let the market decide.

Ultimately, we want to help consumers make informed choices, and let the market decide.

Just as the world of autonomous drive technology is scattered with minefields of legal complications, hypothetical what-ifs and technological dead ends, the world of plug-in cars and the world of hydrogen fuel cell cars both face tough challenges in order to be accepted and adopted by mainstream buyers. As journalists, we seek the pure facts and aim to distil the essence of our personal experiences for others to judge themselves. This sometimes means we have to ask tough questions and promote healthy, informed debate.

Even if a technology has massive challenges that lay ahead of it, we would be negligent for not covering it. At the moment, hydrogen fuel cell technology isn’t emissions free, isn’t scalable, and is extremely expensive. Yet the industry — pushed by some large names in the automotive world — is determined to see it succeed.

We can’t say if hydrogen will ultimately be a fuel of the future any more than we can predict the rise of the self-driving car. Yet covering it is part of our remit, despite our personal views.

At the end of the day, we would rather people come to a site with a background in clean fuels and future car technology than a mainstream site with little technical expertise. And we hope you do too .

So, if we post something you disagree with, remember: we want healthy discussion. Have at it, in the Comments below.

Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

Editor-in-chief, 

Transport Evolved.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.

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