This is a report from Mortimer Schulz, the owner and founder of solutions in energy e.U., who drove a rented Hyundai Tucson ix35 FCEV on February 16th and 17, 2016 from Innsbruck to Amsterdam with a total distance of 1,099 kilometres (km). His motivation was to gain experience in pursuing a journey in a fuel cell vehicle with a limited number of hydrogen refuelling stations along the way. The four stops were Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Duesseldorf and Helmond.
Beginning with a full tank of hydrogen at Innsbruck, a total amount of 11.14 kilograms (kg) of hydrogen was refuelled in Germany and The Netherlands. The service was good at all stations. At some stations the hydrogen was reformed from natural gas and stored at the premise. At other stations the hydrogen was produced by means of electrolysis with the necessary power derived from renewable energy sources.
The 1st leg from Innsbruck to Stuttgart was mainly driven on country roads. Temperatures were mostly below the freezing point and the winding roads in the mountains were decorated with snow-covered trees; like in a fairy tale. After the Austrian-German border it was another 193 km to the hydrogen refuelling station in Stuttgart but took 3 hours to drive as again country roads were chosen over motorways and a light foot on the accelerator to make sure to reach Stuttgart at all. Driving faster, such as on the German motorway, would have meant a higher and faster consumption of the energy available. There still needed to be enough reserve to get to Karlsruhe in case refuelling would not have worked in Stuttgart. As Stuttgart has one of the oldest hydrogen refuelling stations in Germany and it being quite a frequented one, all went smoothly.
The 2nd leg from Stuttgart to Karlsruhe was a short stretch on the German motorway but gave no opportunity to drive at a faster pace since the next (at that point in time operational) hydrogen refuelling station, in Duesseldorf, was estimated to be 414 km away from Stuttgart, which however turned out to be 442 km due to a number of detours to avoid traffic en route. Less the 77 km between Stuttgart and Karlsruhe, the remaining distance from Karlsruhe to Duesseldorf was still 365 km.
The 3rd leg from Karlsruhe to Duesseldorf began at 14:30 and ended at 19:45, more than five hours. This was on the one hand due to deliberately driving at prehistorically low speeds, allowing my soul to catch up with me every once in a while, and on the other hand additional unplanned mileage because of heavy traffic and necessary diversions due to accidents causing traffic jams.
The 4th leg from Duesseldorf to Helmond was driven on the second day of the journey. Noticeably, after crossing the Dutch-German border the number of electric vehicles seen on the roads increased drastically compared to the entire rest of the journey, as well as a decent number of hybrids. Whereas from Innsbruck until the Dutch-German border I saw one Renault ZOE and one Tesla Model S, in The Netherlands there were electric or hybrid -BMW, -Mercedes, -Mitsubishi, -Nissan, -Opel, -Renault, -Tesla, -Toyota, -VW and -Volvo (compressed natural gas-cars not included here, such as for example one FIAT I saw). I mean: … fata morgana?
The final leg from Helmond to Amsterdam finished with a beautiful scenery with windmills and the sun was shining. It was 14:15 in the afternoon; just under 31 hours after having left Innsbruck, of which the net driving time was 17 hours.
In conclusion I am thankful to the friendly people at the hydrogen refuelling stations met during the journey. Two thumbs up to the manufacturers of a comfortable and reliable fuel-cell vehicle. And sure I would seek to go on another hydrogen challenge; resources permitting.
Author: Mortimer Schulz, www.solutionsinenergy.eu
Mortimer Schulz is a German national residing in Vienna, Austria where he founded his company solutions in energy e.U. working as a consultant for renewable energy and fuel cell & hydrogen technology as well as financing solutions. He has an international banking background and studied a post-graduate Master Degree in Renewable Energy at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien). He is 40 years old and tests alternative mobility on a regular basis.