For years, hydrogen has been touted as the great savior in clean fuels. In most uses, it’s used in a fuel cell to create electricity to power a vehicle. The only emission from a hydrogen fuel cell: water.
But when was the last time you saw a hydrogen filling station outside of mean, green California? Europe’s only slightly better.
That didn’t stop a team of European drivers from attempting to find them, though. Better yet, it didn’t stop them from piloting two Hyundai ix35 FCEV crossovers—hydrogen-fuel-cell powered versions of the Hyundai Tucson—on a 1404-mile trek across Europe from Oslo, Norway, to Monte Carlo without running out of fuel.
Organized by Norway’s ZERO—Zero Emissions Resource Organization—the trip’s goal was to illustrate the growing hydrogen infrastructure in Europe and show it’s possible to drive an FCEV across the continent without a support vehicle. To do so, the ZERO team needed to map out the locations of hydrogen refilling stations in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, and Monaco. But that didn’t come without its problems, as the team found some of the stations had closed. Others were private, meaning the team had to schedule appointments to fill up in advance.
“We were pretty close to running out of fuel a couple of times and had to start hypermiling to get there,” ZERO’s Bjornar Kruse said. “When we arrived at the station in Karlsruhe (Germany), both cars were running on empty. Luckily the fuel cell cars have a great flexibility in hypermiling, probably much better than a(n) [internal combustion engine] car.”
Only a handful of other trips like this one have been done before with fuel cell vehicles, but none have ever been done without a support truck hauling hydrogen. Just last year, Hyundai fielded a hydrogen-powered Tuscon across the U.S., raising money for childhood cancer awareness and also illustrating our woefully ill-equipped infrastructure for handling a hydrogen future.