An Australian driving team has broken the distance record for a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle on a single tank, Hyundai has announced.
The record-busting trip was achieved with Australian Hyundai rally driver Brendan Reeves behind the wheel of a production-spec Nexo, the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle available commercially in Australia.
The trip from Melbourne to the remote mining town of Broken Hill in far west New South Wales covered a distance of 887.5km which is more than 200km longer than the official 666km WLTP driving range of the Nexo.
The widespread use of hydrogen to power electric vehicles is not advised by experts – unless it is guaranteed to be using 100 per cent renewable fuel – becaue it is far less efficient in terms of energy usage than simply storing then discharging electricity using batteries, as outlined in this article here.
It is thought that hydrogen fuel cell technology may be better deployed for long haul transport and other applications where batteries are not suitable, such as in the aviation and maritime industry. But some car makers – notably Hyundai and Toyota – still have high hopes for hydrogen fuel cell cars to be competitive.
FCEV vehicles can also be refilled in a matter of minutes, which may be helpful for use cases where fast refuelling is paramount – although the caveat is that there are not many places yet to do that, and roll out of FCEV fuelling infrastructure is far more expensive than installing electric car fast chargers (just ask ex-Top Gear host James May, who sold his Mirai because hydrogen stations are still few and far between in the UK).
Both technologies are able to demonstrate longer ranges than official testing cycles simply by keeping an eye on the energy consumption while driving.
This was demonstrated recently by electric road-tripper and Tesla owner Phil Smith who “hypermiled” from Tennant Creek to Mataranka in the Northern Territory, eeking more than 550km out of his Tesla Model S by driving at a constant 60km/hr for the entire trip.
— Phil’s Electric Future (@filsmif) May 3, 2021
The new FCEV distance record set by Reeves was achieved by driving at an average of 66.9km/hr, and although Hyundai says the vehicle actually travelled 905km, the vehicle’s trip meter was the record’s official measure.
It exceeded the previous record, held by French aeronaut Bertrand Piccard who drove 778km, also at the wheel of a Nexo, on a journey across France from Sarreguemines to Le Bourget.
To ensure the record-breaking drive’s validity, an RACV staff member sealed the tank at the start of the journey and an NRMA staff member confirmed this remained in tact at the journey’s end.
“Being a rally driver, I’ve always wanted to achieve a world record, but I could never have guessed it would come about this way,” said Reeves via a Hyundai press release.
“As we set out from Essendon Fields in the early morning, I found Nexo immediately familiar and easy to drive – the controls are intuitive and easy to use, the driving position excellent and seats very comfortable.
“Nexo is in its element on the open road, with its long range, peaceful and refined cabin, and smooth, near-silent fuel-cell electric powertrain,” he said.
“I was constantly checking the Nexo’s efficiency readout to maximise the distance I was getting per kilogram of hydrogen. I found that by using techniques from rally driving, such as looking as far down the road as possible, as well as tips I have learned from my dad for driving a truck efficiently over long distances, it’s actually possible to go way beyond Nexo’s official range.”
The trip took a total of a little more than 13.5 hours and consumed 6.27kg of hydrogen, equalling 0.706kg/100km consumption according to Hyundai’s release.
The Nexo is currently being used in an FCEV trial in the ACT where the first commercially available hydrogen refuelling station n Australia is located. Hyundai says that another refuelling station will open in Brisbane by the end of 2021 and other stations are in the pipeline.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.