Morgan shows 'light & slippery' fuel-cell car concept
Wood, leather and hydrogen - a fiery combo?
He's surely right in the case of Morgan customers, who tend to be well-off, motivated and possessed of off-street parking facilities. He could even be right in the case of ordinary motorists: Honda, the main proponents of fuel-cell motoring in the mainstream car world, are experimenting with various kinds of home hydrogen station. Originally, these were expected to use solar power to crack hydrogen cleanly from water, a method whose green credentials would have been unassailable.
However, even in sunny California this didn't seem to go well - the Japanese motor behemoth is now focusing more on the current industrial method of making hydrogen, that is by steam reforming with natural gas.
This latter concept is much less eco-friendly: in effect your Honda FCX or Morgan LifeCar has now become a carbon-emitting gas-powered vehicle, and not necessarily a very efficient one. The car itself may beat the low efficiency of internal combustion (Morgan claim 45 per cent for their fuel cell and low-nineties for the motors), but there are other losses in the reforming and compressing processes.
Morgan seem relatively unconcerned about the bigger issues, however.
"We don't know what method is best," says Parkin. With the LifeCar, Morgan are exploring ideas rather than hoping to mould the entire future of world motoring. So when might it be available to buy?
"We could be ready to sell in two to three years," says Parkin. Asked about price, he said: "I absolutely don't know... couldn't say. I've seen the figure £150,000 in the press, but that is completely made up. It would depend entirely on the level of interest."
Morgan hand builds every car, so it would be perfectly normal for them to make a hundred LifeCars or even fewer as a profit-making piece of business. The company has done such limited-edition models before, and in such cases prices have been well north of £100k. But if the LifeCar is made in larger numbers, it might well be cheaper. If this were GM talking, one might file the LifeCar under concepts-which-won't-get-built, like the Provoq: but there's really not that much difference between concept cars and production models at Morgan.
And if you'd prefer some other kind of concept, says Parkin, they might build it. The LifeCar that actually reaches the roads may be quite different from the way it seems now. Particularly when it comes to the post fossil fuel, ecological motoring world, Parkin himself suspects that there may intially be many different kinds of vehicle doing different jobs.
"After all," he says cheerfully, "everyone should have more than one car anyway, for different kinds of driving. That's just common sense."
That may be something of a niche viewpoint - but then Morgan are a niche company. ®
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