Hydrogen Car Breaks Long-Distance Record

To demonstrate the long-range capability of fuel-cell vehicles, a London-based group last week drove a hydrogen-powered Hyundai ix35 FCEV more than 400 miles on a single tank of fuel that can be replenished in about five minutes. The feat was part of London’s Hydrogen Week, which featured a series of public education events to show the viability of hydrogen cars. In addition to the single-tank demonstration, the Hyundai fuel-cell SUV was piloted for six straight days covering more than 6,000 miles, revealing the technology’s suitability for long-distance highway travel.

Fuel-cell cars like the Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity Fuel Cell and Hyundai ix35 (sold as the Tucson in the U.S.) are zero-emissions—meaning the tailpipe only emits water vapor. For many years, that environmental distinction meant sacrificing the long driving distances and quick refill times provided by gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. But thanks to the use of higher-pressure hydrogen tanks, fuel-cell vehicles can now travel 300 or more miles on a single tank. Furthermore, as the number of hydrogen stations expands, fuel-cell vehicles can traverse thousands of miles on a single journey—stopping only to refuel in a matter of a few minutes.

The demonstration, conducted as part of Hydrogen Week, saw drivers of the Hyundai vehicle make 50 laps of the M25 highway that surrounds London. The vehicle used four hydrogen refueling stations to complete the continuous six-day trip. Stations are located at Heathrow airport and Sainsbury’s grocery stores in Hendon, Swindon and Rotherham. The first of those Sainsbury’s stations opened in March 2015, mostly to support fuel-cell taxis and delivery vans.

A Hyundai fuel-cell SUV refuels at a Sainsbury's grocery store.

A Hyundai fuel-cell SUV refuels at a Sainsbury’s grocery store.

“What we need now for accelerated adoption of hydrogen vehicles is for the government to work with our industry to provide the right framework for the technology to become truly accepted by the public,” said Diana Raine, European business manager for hydrogen systems for Air Products, which operates hydrogen stations.

Hydrogen Week, which ran from March 9 to 13, was organized by Hydrogen London, a trade association. The group aims to dispel myths about hydrogen cars. It held a public exhibition at London City Hall and published a list of factoids including these tidbits: the first hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine was invented in 1807 and the first fuel cell was developed in 1842. Fuel cells generate electricity in a chemical reaction by combining oxygen and hydrogen.

There are currently 250 Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell cars on European roads, including 15 in the U.K. Hyundai recently announced that it will produce second-generation hydrogen fuel-cell powered SUV with a new body design. The model, which will use the sixth-generation of Hyundai’s fuel cell technology, is expected by about 2019.

Meanwhile, in August 2015, Toyota announced that it delivered its first set of Mirai fuel-cell sedans to Europe. Sales to retail customers started in September 2015—with the U.K., Denmark and Germany as its first markets.

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