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Volkswagen Touran HyMotion

German brand gives glimpse of fuel cell future with hydrogen powered MPV.

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Rough edges aside, VW’s fuel cell-powered Touran clearly has what it takes to succeed. Its in-gear performance is particularly strong, despite the car’s hefty kerbweight. Officially, company top brass say that hydrogen fuel cell technology is still between 10 and 15 years away from the showroom – although we feel the systems which are currently available are more than ready for the road.

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The VW Group is investing heavily in hydrogen as a fuel of tomorrow – and at the Los Angeles Motor Show, we drove the Touran HyMotion.

Developing around 100bhp, it uses a hydrogen fuel cell to power an electric motor, and is fitted with a row of batteries to help ensure performance is on tap whenever it’s needed. Plus, with around 2.5kg of hydrogen stored in the boot, it can be recharged and refuelled quickly.

With the ‘engine’ running, the whine from the various compressors makes the Touran sound like an aeroplane. It also feels heavy – no surprise given its near-1,900kg kerbweight.

Yet it’s impossible not to be impressed. The CVT box gives smooth acceleration, and while the MPV feels underpowered compared to a diesel, it’s still quick enough around town.

There are undoubtedly areas for improvement. For example, the compressor that drives the hydrogen into the fuel cell is mounted in front of the driver, and is very loud. Boot space is limited, too. But as a glimpse of the future, the HyMotion feels remarkably close to being showroom-ready.

Rival: Nissan X-Trail FCX
Another practical, versatile machine, the X-Trail FCX proves alternative fuel cars don’t need to be weird to be wonderful. A hydrogen fuel cell gives this zero-emission model similar performance to the VW.

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