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(Pocket-lint) - Jaguar Land Rover has confirmed that it is working on a Defender prototype powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

The venture, codenamed Project Zeus, is part of JLR's plan to achieve zero tailpipe emissions from its vehicles by 2036 - and developing hydrogen-powered vehicles could be part of that.

Hydrogen fuel cells take hydrogen from pressurised tanks in the vehicle and feed it into a fuel cell. The fuel cell uses the hydrogen to generate electricity to drive the car's systems like an electric vehicle. The waste product from the chemical reaction is water.

The advantage that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have is that they can be refilled more like conventional liquid-fuel vehicles, so it's a quick process - while not suffering in more extreme conditions which can affect battery electric vehicles.

The downside, of course, is that hydrogen refuelling stations are not widely available, with electric being a lot easier to source and install, which is why it's preferable for normal consumer use.

Ultimately, hydrogen might be the solution for longer range vehicles, getting around the current limitation experienced by battery electric vehicles, which is that battery size, weight and cost is a limiting factor.

Although hydrogen fuel cells have been in development for many years, there are currently only two hydrogen models currently available - the Toyota Mirai and the Hyundai Nexo - both of which we've driven. Both are good cars, but face the current barriers of high cost and lack of infrastructure for practical refuelling. 

That's inevitably going to change and cars like the hydrogen Defender might find more commercial applications where refuelling can be more practically accomdated. Hydrogen generation isn't hard, per se, and some see it as a long term replacement for fossil fuels. 

As always, research and development is a key part moving forward and that's exactly what Jaguar Land Rover is doing.

Writing by Chris Hall. Originally published on 15 June 2021.